The Space Station presents Detached Abstract: Wang Yigang Solo Exhibition which is held during May 21 – June 18, 2017. The exhibition displays the abstract works created in recent years by Wang Yigang, who is a professor at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, and the curator of the affiliated art museum.
By Guo Fang
Expressionism, emphasizing the individuality and subjective perspective of artists, and opposing objective representation in modernist movement, was an art movement originated in Germany at the beginning of 20th Century. Expressionist artists, applying bold colors, and strong brushstrokes, relinquishing the harmony of the pictures, seeking for exaggeration, deformation, and destruction etc., expressed their emotions in any suitable language, which reflected the social and political crises of Germany and Europe before and after the First World War. After the breaking of World War II, abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School, action painting), as the first American art movement, which combined expressionism with abstract, and which, by emphasizing self-expression and pure conception in art, opposed illusions made by figurative painting, and the traditional aesthetics and logic, found an echo in surrealism and abstract art school (such as Cubism, Futurism and the Bauhaus). Abstract expressionism is divided into expressive abstract (Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning) and color-field painting (Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman). The former, strongly and directly expressing emotions, works by applying the concept of surrealism unconsciousness, contingency, and automatism, while the latter inherited the mantle of cubism and abstractionism, using simple and uniform color to show the sympathy of inner feelings.
Wang’s creation springs from the study of abstract expressionism, but it is not a redevelopment of appropriation, for western abstract expressionism, influenced by western philosophy, and the progress of science and technology at the time, has its profound historical origin; and human instinct was recalled after the two World Wars’ devastation of civilization, abstract expressionism, therefore, was also influenced by Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, which explained how this unconsciousness, implying the collective human memory, arouses a motive power to construct myth, philosophy, and science.
However, in the 1980s, the development of abstract expressionism in China lost those backgrounds. While Wang’s artistic creation began in that period, the abstract art in the West had its development by means of learning from oriental cultures, such as the “Japanese calligraphy.” At that time China just navigated its way through the Cultural Revolution, entering a new historical period of reform and opening-up. The introduction of abstract expressionism into China, maintained an alienated relationship to oriental culture, lost its historical heritage in the West. It might be said that those references are merely references in terms of the form of the language, painting style etc., for there are distinct differences between Chinese artists and western ones in qualities, humanity backgrounds, and characters of civilization. There must be a loss of information in the sprout and development of Chinese abstract expressionism — incomplete literature, even some misunderstandings — but this kind of “incompleteness” might bring new possibilities for the development of abstract expressionism in China.
Abstract art, whose main concern is to use visual images to show the spirit, music, strength, relations, laws of nature and other things invisible, has now become an international language of painting. It has always been a challenge for artists to perform things unseen. As to the solution, people have been inclined to use abstract techniques before the formation of abstract art, such as telling fairy tales and spreading religious beliefs… Interestingly, most of these unrepresentable ideas will cross national boundaries and language barriers, allowing some artists to become masters of mixing the materials of business science and pseudo-science in their creations.
Wang was immersed in two entirely different aesthetic worlds: the abstract expressionism spirit of Western art and the Zen spirit of Oriental art. He tried to create an abstract art form based on his own experiences, and adhered to the absolute independence in creation methods, and with “the hope to find orders in destruction” continued to face challenges from “negative” to “positive” and then to “negative.” Establishing or regenerating in criticism, the course of painting, for him, has actually become a part of the work. The artist must seek after more accurate expressions of technology and language of the inner world, meeting the necessity in accidental, criticizing the given order, and seek for a fitting point linking his spiritual world in the dialogue with the material world.
Academic artists in China are often apt to get into a rut of the systematic study of western classical aesthetics. Wang, instead, at the beginning of creation, realized that the utmost achievement his works might reach is to become an extra story, a Sinicized pattern of Western abstract expressionism, sprung from the Western abstract art if only to simply repeat the form, media, language and so on in western abstract expressionism. How China’s abstract art can base itself on the local cultural standpoint? How it can return to its own logic of the development of art history, and defend its own cultural identity? Wang, at the very beginning, chose the inherent aesthetic logic that rebels against the academic, and even sought new breakthroughs in some uncomfortable places, rather than fallen into the vortex of classical visual experience. Influenced by modern science and technology, expressionists have long ceased to believe that objective things persist in a fixed and complete state; and they wish to express the purely spiritual world in purely abstract artistic language.
There, in Wang’s recent works, can be found an intense energy tumbling in the strokes’ movement, surging poetically, or carrying a fierce turbulence, or suddenly self-sustained. He poured a lot of paints on the canvas, and savored the pain and pleasure of life and death in the struggle with the canvas, and experienced the creation and the meaning of life in the numerous smearing. His daily alterations would prove that life is still going on. These paintings evoke from one’s personal memory some special and strong fragments, the fragments of angry, cruelty, searching, and frustration, which brings us into a kind of being indifferent beside frank, real, and direct experiences. His paintings are sometimes aggressive, compelling, sometimes naughty and frank, revealed the nature of emotions. Art, for him, has been perceived in a process; and the instant feelings are filled with certain eternal meanings, which are the evidence of the existence of the individual and spirit. The contest of art goes beyond national boundaries, styles, and languages. The problems that can the artworks immediately impress people, and infect people, making a deep impression, and bringing about innovations in aesthetic conceptions and techniques are problems artists have to face every day. Like Kazuo Shiraga’s understanding of abstract art in the spirit of Zen, Wang’s Detached Abstract paintings had fled from the narrative language and positivism world, which the logic of art history rarely mentioned: grand vision has no set design. His art is his life; and every minute of his feelings is engraved on his work, which is a real release and everlasting intoxication. The feeling of presence may be the ultimate motif that abstract expressionism art is to express.
About the exhibition
Venue: Space Station
Courtesy of the artist and Space Station, for further information please visit www.space-station-art.com.