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S: “Wang Xiaoqu’s painting” is highly recognisable even in the present when new artists are constantly emerging. We realise that such recognition is probably due to your selection of the figures and your treatment of the composition. I am curious about the way you pick materials among the massive online pictures.
W: I started out with the intention of painting portrait. Portrait itself is interesting to me. I had been practicing on portrait since the training course for the National Art College Entrance Examination. Such practice is also a required practice in foundational course at university. So that I started to avoid painting figures during my creative practice course. It may be an after-effect of making too many portraits. But when I started my own artistic career after graduating, I felt it was time to face this issue. So I collected photos of different kinds of people. However, the figures on the photos appear in a rather extroverted state whether I shoot them in a public space or find them online. They appear to be in a different posture and demeanour from when they are alone in an intimate space. In addition, I would choose images that are suitable to process as flat images and that have certain structure and dynamics of their own.
S: There are a lot of body deformation in your works, such as Spin (2018), Wonderland (2021), etc., some of which are combined with form of architecture or urban sculpture as a way to deconstruct and re-construct the body. What kind of relationship do you think there is among architecture, sculpture and the body?
W: Speaking of the state of the figure in public space, it is reflected in the way people react in group photos, they often actively blend into the background of the photo. I would associate the physique of the figure with public sculpture, which might be a kind of guilty pleasure. When I look at the environment, I think of it as a giant body, and such associations would evoke feelings of interest or closeness.
S: We noticed the linkage between your work and the theatre. For example, the characters in your works seem to be endowed with a certain social identity and cultural background, and you connected them with a readable narrative in a playwriting way. Your works are often like a complete theatre set, incorporating the characters and narrative into it. Do you agree with this interpretation? Is the constant advancing between character and narrative an aspect that you value?
W: On one hand, I see all information as visual elements. I disrupt and reorganise these information in order to obtain a completely new image. It is a bit like writing with visual elements. Previously I had confined my writing to a context of realistic symbols, it is a self-limiting exercise. In my recent works, I would deconstruct an image through constant imagining, so I consider that the act of painting itself is also a psychological theatre which is developed from the images.
S: According to some reviews that your works would remind people of the 1990s, including “greasy middle-aged man”, “conference group photos”, “middle-aged woman taking photos at tourist attractions”, etc. Do you intend to look back and reset the collectivist culture of the last century as deliberately creating the atmosphere of that era?
W: I am more concerned with the repetitive structure and layered dynamic relationships that are embodied in this cultural representation, such as the greenbelt plants and the lace in the exhibition, just like a decoration.
S: What do you think of the so-called “kitsch” and “cliché” visual elements?
W: Following the previous question, what meaning a painting can bring to life? In some terms, it can be easy. It might just for decorating walls in a living room. I just want to present the very surface part of all the figurative meaning, which might be the visual element you are talking about. For me, kitsch, cliché, elegance or refinement are the same, I just paint what I see.
S: You have mentioned that your work was inseparable from the portrait. No matter figures or still lives, you tend to turn them into abstract “faces”. Is this a way of treating images planned from the beginning? How do you embody the characteristics of a portrait through non-human objects, such as Allergy (2021) .
W: I look at water stains on the wall and instinctively imagine it as a face. During the process of the painting Allergy (2021), I gave the stamens a dripping effect and it created a dynamic that immediately made me think the flower was sneezing.
S: Some reviews compare your work to Wang Xingwei, and you also mentioned in our “Artist Profile” that you pay attention to Duan Jianyu’s work. Do their works have influences on you?
W: I felt my secret from the bottom of my heart exposed in the air when i saw their creations at the first time. These works present a kind of “retardation” which responding to the environment and history. It was enlightening to me.
S: Any other artists have influenced your work and your artistic thoughts?
W: Too many. The process of understanding each artist will evoke my desire of performing. I cannot wait to play every individual character of them.
S: In the exhibition “Welcome”, we noticed that the work Diamond (2021) is quite different from your previous works. In terms of titling, composing and colour processing, it no longer aims to presenting a scene, but more like to coordinate the squeezed structure between figures and the space. Is that the direction for your next phase? If so, where would you like to go?
W: Whereas in the previous stage I tried to put together an abstract image using visual elements, in this stage I turn back to observe objects. I try to get infinitely close to a tangible object, to get more details, and to turn my observation into imagination. Perhaps the next stage I should present deeper feelings of the object. The assistance of photographic images may be abandoned at a certain point of development.
S: How do you see your work within the framework of contemporary painting?
W: I am not sure that there is a logical framework for contemporary painting. I can only start from what I have seen and what I have encountered, which may be an exhibition or a work. In fact, painting is also much like writing a certain kind of sentimental criticism; for example, a sort of work that makes you uncomfortable will lead you to do different kind of work. It’s not just about the pleasure of painting anymore, it is about the attitudes and opinions that the form provokes, and my creations are somehow made up of such ramblings.