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Zhan Wang:The Past and the Present

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2017-09-07 10:24

When walking on the exhibit floor of Forms in Flux, audiences are greeted by Wang’s artworks of recent years. This video installation uses six high-definition video cameras to capture the explosion of a huge rock suspended in the air - the scene instantly sparks audiences’ imagination of the spectacular moments described in the universe’s Big Bang Theory. My Universe, on the other hand, recreates the world right after the Big Bang: Stainless steel replicas of the stone blasts are suspended throughout the exhibition space. While walking through the gleaming-surfaced stones, one can get a glimpse of the strong conceptuality of Wang’s art. Two other pieces of Wang’s artwork in the exhibit hall are The Invisible and The Invisible Mass. They were created either by decomposing or fusing the production materials used - the goal is to capture the underlying changes and possibilities within nature; they can also be viewed as a form of demonstration as if they were the artist’s “invisible” inner world. 


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GettingRid of Traditional boundaries 


Among Chinese contemporary artists, Wang is perhaps one of the pioneer artists who first thought deeply about the relationship between sculpture and contemporary art. Apparently, his art does not fit the traditional understanding audiences have for sculpture - it is a result of his experience of making both traditional and contemporary sculptures. 


At the age of 16, Wang became a student of special craftsmanship with a focus on sculpting. It was the first time that Wang was exposed to sculpting and he demonstrated exceptional talent in class - he became the favorite student of Professor Zhang Da Sheng, Wang’s sculpting mentor. Wang was even promoted to be the representative of his class. Since then, Wang fell in love with sculpting. However, at the time, the teaching materials and techniques used in school were very rigid: the materials lacked diversity and were used repeatedly; the teaching even restricted sculpting procedure by requiring shelves to be built prior to making sculptures. 


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Collective of “Forms in Flux” 


Later, Wang was successfully admitted to the Sculpting Department of China Central Academy of Fine Arts where he started to systematically study Realism Sculpting techniques from Europe and the former Soviet Union. After the Sculpting Department adopted the art studio program, Wang chose to practice in the “Contemporary National Art Studio” led by Professor Si Tu Jie who at the time just returned to China following his study in Canada. It was right in that studio where Wang started to experience the kind of freedom that he never felt before - he started to learn comprehensively the sculpting history of both the West and the East, and since then he has been engaged in researching and conducting comparisons between contemporary sculpting and traditional Chinese sculpting. 


In 1983, Wang volunteered to work at the college’s research center of the Sculpting Department. At the research center, he devoted himself to making sculptures, installations, and performing arts; he had in-depth study of the contemporary and post contemporary art of the West, through gradual practices, he slowly got rid of the boundaries set by the traditional Chinese sculpting. 


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 Forms in Flux 


In 1993, Wang created a series of super realism human body sculptures called Moments, the series depicted the postures and actions of a group of people when they were arrested. Wang placed the sculptures outdoor in a wasteland thereby creating a scene of distortion and absurdity. Since then, Wang’s personal creation style that combines sculpture, action, and conceptuality started to take shape. 


Conceptual Sculpting


In 1994, Wang created Temptation, a disruptive series - he used hardener to fix ZhongShan suits into a variety of twisted forms, then he placed them in wastelands or half-walled ruins as backgrounds. The struggling outside and empty inside of the suits make them look like shedding cicadas - through these artworks, Wang expressed the dilemmas that the modern society and culture are in. It was from this series, Wang’s ways of creation shifted to installation and conceptual art. 


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Shell of Mao Suit 


In 1998, Wang officially proposed his own idea of “Conceptual Sculptures.” He thinks that sculpting can only have many possibilities when it breaks free from the limitations of traditional sculpting concept, and only when sculpting material and narrative style avoid traditional pursuit of symbolism and illustration - the so called “Beauty and Unity” - can sculpting embrace modernism and vitality. 


Later, supported by this brave concept and following his own thoughts about contemporary conceptual sculpture, Wang created Across Twelve Nautical Miles·A Floating Rock Drifting In The Open Sea. This piece combined many art forms including installation, action, and video. During the Forms in Flux exhibit in June, this art piece presented audiences with a simple and clean image; the reappearance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the gradual closing-in of the floating meteorite are also particularly conspicuous. This installation occurred in a space that is real but hard to reach, it touched upon legal issues involving current international sensitive topics in the public domain and in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 


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Beyond Twelve Nautical Miles: Floating Rock Drifts on the Open Sea 


For many years, Wang has always maintained his independent thinking about “conceptuality “when it comes art creation. Such independent way of thinking also allowed him to continuously make changes to his own art language and the materials for art creation throughout his career. “In the modern world, I am an information receiver, I am both the past and the present, but can I also represent the future? “Wang questioned himself. 


It is also during the self-questioning and discovering process of “transformation”, Wang constantly branched out from his old creation methods and concepts to see if new types of artistic fruits could be harvested. 



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