“Overflow, Mystify, Introvert”
Wang studied her BFA at Rhode Island School of Design class of 2017, and her MFA Pratt Institute class of 2020 .
In our exclusive interview online now, we discuss Tomma Abts #tommaabts , Lauren Owens #lauraowens , Brooklyn, memorable responses, staying creative, the importance of social media and more…
“The visual language of my paintings emphasizes indirectness. Instead of trying to overthrow the system, I obediently follow the regulations but deliberately hide the true intentions behind my paintings, in the hope that the frustration of audiences who fail to decipher my paintings will someday unveil to them the absurdity of the curated reality.”
You live and work in Brooklyn! Do you feel the city has influenced your work? And how?
As an artist, rather than capture the exact object that I see, I try to capture the overall perception: the chirping of morning birds, the smell of coffee on a crowded morning rush hour subway, even the small tingling underneath my skin. The city has definitely influenced my creative practice. I moved from Providence, Rhode Island upon my undergraduate graduation. NYC is pumped with all the colors, beaming lights and various sound that never seems to stop. With so many things happening in NYC, it definitely makes my paintings look chaotic and overwhelming, with everything happen at the same time.
You say that your paintings depict the transitory stage of modifications.’ Can you explain this a little more?
Growing up in China, I gradually learned about the Chinese activist coded language. Chinese activists developed an almost poetic way of talking about politics on Chinese social media using metaphor, and similar sounding words to replace sensitive words in order to avoid censorship. For example, In Mandarin Chinese, the word “River Crab” sounds similar to the word “To harmonize”. Thus, “River Crab” became the internet slang for Chinese internet censorship. If one’s post has been censored on the internet, he or she will say “my post has been River Crabbed” instead of “my post has been harmonized”. The coded language not only prevent the activist’s potential danger of “Drinking tea” (interrogation) with policemen, but also creates a secret community that allows members to recognize each other by speaking the coded language on the online forum and social media.
These linguistic modifications greatly inspired the visual language in my painting. I start to doubt about the direct “mind to body to canvas” traditional response from abstract expressionism and start to adapt a new approach which is about the indirectness of modification, hiding true intention, and making the painting absurdly hard to decipher.
What do you mean to say with your references and symbols from pop culture in your work?
The references and pop culture symbols are deliberately chosen to be misleading. By intentionally distracting audiences’ attention to the fragmented subject matter which is derived from source material that was originally commonly relatable, I avoid the dialogue of representation and narrative. The audiences are given a painting to decipher, and the painting is open for any interpretation, but the painting itself is like a book with several important chapters missing: the treatment of every form is consistent, and there is no clear entry point for the audience to have a full understanding of the image since every bit of information is isolated, some even deliberately chosen to be misleading.
What effect do you think instagram and other social media platforms have had on the art world?
Personally, these social media platforms bring a lot of unexpected exposure to my works. I definitely think they bring democracy to the hierarchical art world. The virtual shows that have been mounted online also help people who are uncomfortable going to a gallery physically, to have the opportunity to see the arts through their own devices.
What 3 words would you use to describe your artwork?
Overflow, mystify, introvert
What was your earliest memory surrounding art?
My father is an artist who paint huge abstract expressionism paintings, and he taught at a local university, so I have grown up running around his solvent scented studio filled with skylight, knocking over paint buckets, and snacking on apples and bananas from his classroom still-life setups.
You are so multi-disciplinary! Digital, painting and more. Tell us about your process? How does each work come to fruition? Do you plan, or are you spontaneous?
My plan always come from a spontaneous response to certain events, and then I will make some really quick digital sketches as well as physical cutouts and collage trying to get a sense of the whole picture.
What do you hope your works say?
The visual language of my paintings emphasizes indirectness. Instead of trying to overthrow the system, I obediently follow the regulations but deliberately hide the true intentions behind my paintings, in the hope that the frustration of audiences who fail to decipher my paintings will someday unveil to them the absurdity of the curated reality.
What has been your most memorable response to your work?
I have good painting days and bad painting days. I remember the summer right after I finish my undergraduate degree, my roommate went back to his parent house, so I was alone in the studio, and everyone I know were moving out of town. The studio was extremely quiet, and I was in a mad spree of creating, I barely eat or rest, I paint and sleep and when I wake up, I keep painting. I really miss those days, because I feel so much closer to my paintings.
What are your ideal conditions to paint? What is your studio like? And what are your artist essentials to work?
The table in my studio is always facing the corner of a room, so that I have two walls to pin drawings and sketches to the wall. The corner makes me feel really safe and focused. My easel is usually next to the table with one painting on there. I don’t really do multiple painting at the same time; I prefer to tackle them one by one. My artist essentials are planners (I really need to physically keep track with everything: deadlines, emails, etc.), synthetic hair paint brushes (they are the best of their price), and some clay to play with.
Which work would you like to be remembered for?
I don’t think I have a best work to be remembered for so far, there is always something I can working on.
How do you stay creative?
I think finding a creative spot in your studio/home is very important, especially I am currently working at home with the coronavirus situation. If I feel like I am stuck in the middle of a painting, I will put it next to the side of my bed before I sleep, so that when I wake up tomorrow morning, that problematic painting will be the first thing I see with a fresh mind and a pair of sharper eyes. It sounds pretty eccentric but works for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on some small-scale paintings and ceramic sculptures, and I am considering apply for research and practice led fine art doctoral program in England.
What is your ultimate dream project?
I am always fantasized about having my exhibition on Palazzo Grassi in Venice. I went to see Sigmar Polke’s exhibition at Palazzo Grassi several years ago, I was blown away by the beautiful classic architecture element and the curatorial decision of the exhibition.
Who is your favourite historical female artist?
And your favourite current practicing female artist?
Tomma Abts and Laura Owens
Who should She Curates interview next?
My fellow artist friend Chaewon Moon, she comes from South Korea, and she is a visual artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York City. Her paintings focus on the frustration of failures behind order and rules. She took fragments from manuals and instruction books and make those into intriguing paintings!
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Thank you so much for the opportunities, and I have so much fun reading other people’s interviews!