Wang Haiyang was born in Shandong in 1984. He graduated from the Printmaking Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2008 and he is now a freelance artist. Different from other guests that have been interviewed, Wang Haiyang’s graduation work seem to have “no connection” with his current works. When he graduated from the Printmaking Department, he chose a set of figurative creations, a playful picture with rich hues and strong expression of figures, which are completely different from the extremely abstract, experimental and absurd animation and installation works he has created in recent years! This growth path “separated” from his graduation work provides a unique example for observation during the graduation season, just as Wang Haiyang himself said: “Graduation creation is just a summary of a stage, and in the future one has a variety of methods to play with in art” …
Interviewee: Wang Haiyang
Interview time: June 10, 2018
Location: The Central Academy of Fine Arts
Interview Editor: Zhang Yizhi
Translated and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
CAFA ART INFO: Mr. Wang Haiyang, after you strolled around the graduation exhibition, having been confronted with so many abundant exhibits, I feel you have a lot to say, would you first of all share your feelings with us?
Wang Haiyang: There are three particular feelings. First, judging from the current graduation exhibition, the boundaries among the disciplines become gradually blurred and disappear. After visiting the galleries at the CAFA Art Museum, I found that any form can exist. I remember that ten years ago, we still had a certain degree of discipline in the orientation, but now students from any department can do whatever they want. Students from the Oil Painting Department can also make visual images, while students from the Printmaking Department can also paint oil paintings. So from the perspective of my own observation, I feel that when I look back at this graduation show again today, I feel that gradually various media emerge from each department. This is a change.
Another change is the upgrading of the galleries. In the past, the graduation exhibition of the Printmaking Department was in the Multifunctional Hall. we were creating a graduation exhibition with only two exhibition halls, a multifunctional hall and an underground exhibition hall. About 10 or 11 years ago, including the previous sessions, we had just these two large exhibition halls. The Sculpture Department placed some sculptures in the outside yard. In my opinion, the multifunctional hall was actually difficult to present an exhibition in. As it was not a gallery for exhibitions, it was more like a meeting place. My impression at the time was that it seemed that all the departments could not exhibit at the same time because there was limited venue space and there was no way to make comparisons with the current situation. Now it is very spacious. So I think the students are happier now because the conditions of the exhibition halls of the CAFA Art Museum are very good. There is a very high degree of realization, and each department cannot only have space to hang paintings, but also has small rooms that present visual images. As the space was limited in size at the Multifunctional Hall, if you wanted to make a big installation for video presentation, your room would occupy so much space that other students might not have enough space to present theirs. This was impossible to achieve. In the current exhibition, I saw a lot of “grand manufacturing”, some produced houses, three-dimensional devices, and so on.
For example, Xie Qiyun from the Sculpture Department, created the work of “Tuo Yue Motivation”. Her things have a sense of alienation from reality, in a proud and indifferent state. The work is like a “collecting skeleton”. It does not talk about the current topic or popular “anxiety.” She has her own small world and her own context. Surely it’s easy to say that such works with mysticism are affected by certain types of culture, but Xie Qiyun did it in a more extreme and more durable way. Another example is the sculpture of Wang Songxin’s “Wares”, and his works have their own clear tendency and interest. It’s hard to understand what he’s doing at first glance, but this kind of work is very effective. It seems that there are many ways to interpret it.
Another big feeling is that it was very crowded! In fact, the size of the audience reflects the expansion of influence. This influence has spread to ordinary people because I found most of them come from the surrounding area, they are just ordinary people or some young people. No matter who they are, the whole graduation show is very popular. I think this is a surprise to me and it impresses me the most. We had experienced limited exhibition time and a limited audience at our graduation. So I think it’s still good to see this spectacular scene. This is the influence of an exhibition and it is a very good thing to have such a powerful influence. The entire exhibition has an effect. The effect is that if so many people come to visit it, the graduates must grasp every opportunity from the graduation show. If the work is really good, it is possible to harvest some possibilities.
CAFA ART INFO: In looking at today’s graduation exhibition, the venue is larger, the space is also more spacious, and visitors are increasing, I am afraid that will remind you of the year when you graduated, would you talk to us about your graduation work and your state upon graduation?
Wang Haiyang: This is the case. In fact, I personally rarely made prints in the Printmaking Department. The instructors at that time were Li Fan and Su Xinping. They did not force students to do anything, but instead encouraged everyone to develop in diversity. So with these possibilities, I spent most of my time thinking about what I wanted most and what I liked to do. I found that I was interested in the pure painted language or the painting itself.
Therefore, the style of my graduation work actually was formed quite early. It took shape in my junior grade and I took a gap year. Actually, it took me two or three years to think about it. In 2007, as a junior student, there was one gallery that was interested in me because my own family conditions were not so good. I had some economic pressures and I had to earn the funds for tuition myself. At the time, I was young and I didn’t think much about it. I just felt that it was an opportunity. I was envious that the professional artists could sell paintings and cooperate with galleries. So during the third year there was a gallery looking for me. I didn’t even think about it but I signed a contract.
When I look back, I think, my cooperation with the gallery in my third year at college was both a good thing and a bad thing. In fact, it is not necessary for students to be restricted by contracts so early. Unless your financial situation is really problematic, cooperation with galleries can also be taken as an economic compensation. At the same time, I think this is also a good thing, because after all, putting yourself out there is an exercise, to see everyone’s reaction to your work. We get a bigger platform rather than just the campus and when your work is compared with other artists, you can get a better understanding of your position.
CAFA ART INFO: I heard that you did not choose printmaking as a graduation project at that time. Instead, you chose a special theme and way to express. How did you create when you were approaching graduation?
Wang Haiyang: Now if I look back at this style, I personally think it represents a period. Judging from the present, in fact, there is no discussion about painting in the picture. In itself it does not mention the matter of how you draw. Regardless of academics or the language of the painting itself, I think it is a simple expression: realistic, I want to paint people very realistically, very strong, and then the body is very accurate. What I want to paint is under the creative state of someone doing something, and there is a certain sense of narrative in it. This period is an immature period, and of course, to some extent, it is also a foreshadow, in the exploration of the subject matter which will form some of your own expression and reflect your own comprehension of the world.
Thinking of my age at that time, I didn’t have much experience and I didn’t know much about art. I felt that I was asking myself only one thing: treat everything with as much sincerity as possible, this is what I want to do. Mostly I think there was little contradiction and inner contradiction of “self” at that time. This contradiction is that in the student age, especially when you were young, after you jumped from an ordinary high school in a small city to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, this trajectory would not allow you to do something profound because of limitations on your experience and understanding of art. Art needs accumulation. But I think that the most important thing for students in this period is to maintain a very pure state, and that kind of innocent feeling is quite touching.
CAFA ART INFO: Are you aware of this “pure” status at this graduation show? Do you think that the status of those graduating students have anything in common with yours?
Wang Haiyang: When I was watching the graduation show this time, I saw that many of the students’ discussions were actually related to his childhood memories or to some of the experiences of his own life. The experience is very emotional. It’s all right to create around the family, friends, or some of the works that around one’s life. People should talk about those things at that stage. Graduation works are the things of that period. Let’s look at it as a phenomenon. It is boring to look at the work. It is a stage. It integrates time, works, and psychology. It is a flowing state. It contains a concept of time.
In fact, these graduates did not change much from the topics we discussed at the time. To tell the truth, this is a relatively clear feeling that I have a sense of passing through time and it seems to be like the feeling that we graduated that year. However, I have more obviously felt that the current students are more affected by the Internet’s influence on their works, especially the source of the information in the works and their way of handling them.
There is a typical work that I like. Hu Shuai from the School of Design presents “The Internet of Everything: All Connections” which talks about the use of modern science and technology to imagine transformation of biological energy into different materials. The logic of the processing of forms and information is very contemporary. It is not only his high degree of integrity that impressed me. More importantly, the ideas behind him have given me ideas for my imagination.
CAFA ART INFO: From the graduation creation to the current art creation, the developing path of your work is quite rich, what kind of process is this, would you talk in detail about how you developed from the graduation show to the present state?
Wang Haiyang: After cooperating with the gallery in 2007 to develop this toner style, I did not think I was able to draw it until 2009. This is because I never directly discussed the question of “how to draw”. When only discussing the issue of painting, the subject matter would be exhausted, that is, after your adolescent repression and venting was finished, after the novel was finished, the page would be turned over and there would be no repression. This kind of painting is too familiar to me. It is a bit like repeating myself. This kind of repetition is meaningless because the most horrible thing you do in art is repetition. If you repeat, it means the end of your art. Because the core of art itself is your imagination and creativity, creativity can never be repeated.
In 2009, I made an attempt for the first time: the visual image “Floyd, Fish and Butterfly”. My animation developed from my early toner paintings. Because in the process of painting with pastels, I by coincidence discovered a technical possibility. That is, when you paint with sandpaper, you can completely clean this trace with an eraser. So the logic is to draw at anything, rub at anything, but you may wipe and paint more than 700 times. I painted more than 700 times in my first work, with cameras behind me, which turned into a video. I think that is more interesting. It seems that the entire process and structure of your paintings have been dramatized.
In 2012, I did a “Double-sided Ficklet.” The logic is exactly the same. The method is exactly the same. It’s just that one painting becomes two paintings. The original 700 times has become the last 1200 times. Later, during the period between 2014 and 2016, I made the third “WALL DUST.” Because I feel that I had not enjoyed playing in the first two, I always feel that I have not yet done my best, I just want to see what I can do and what I can present it.
I also painted a lot of abstract acrylic paintings between these three animations. At this time, I actually started become stirred up, because I didn’t know how to paint as I actually reached a bottleneck with the early toner, and I didn’t paint for two years. Suddenly, by animating, I feel that the original space discussed in my paintings is another matter. The space of painting language is relatively an abstract space. It is a space that is somewhat similar to philosophy. It is an illusion. It is not three-dimensional, but the matter of language in which the ontology of painting is discussed. After I finished the three videos and a lot of acrylic practices, my recent videos have also changed. For example, in the three installations presented by White Space Beijing in March, the three installations of the paintings “Ravage” and “Mirror” and “Mosquito” started with the language of the image itself, which slowly attracted me, I feel as if I have groped for some kind of new energy in production, which is a reflection of my current stage.
CAFA ART INFO: From the graduation creation to the later animation and painting works, your style has always been changing. Is there anything that has not changed for you?
Wang Haiyang: I think this topic should be raised, the more standard answer is that you are still using your work to speak for yourself, so I still have to express myself clearly. This is a standard answer, but I think this answer is a bit too boring and I should be more specific. I feel that it is one of the changes in your form, the topics you are talking about are changing, the content is changing, the thinking of your entire person is changing, and your world outlook is changing, but I think with this one change, there is one clue that has always existed. I think this clue is a bit like vitality or more specifically, personal temperament. Your temperament is your temperament. Even if you become something else, even if it is transmuted, it is still your temperament. So I think that for me, I like changes. I like to seek stimuli in the freshness. It is a conservative state for me. So I think this is my personal statement. It can only be said to be my personal journey.
CAFA ART INFO: As a senior graduate, you have done so many trials since you graduated in 2008 and have provided us with many ideas. What do you want to say to the new graduates?
Wang Haiyang: Graduation is a summary of one stage. The future is full of possibilities. It can be discussed using my own example. Regardless of the positive and negative situations, even if it has little influence on you, it is also good. This is also my hope.