“I have discovered that painting’s principle space of exploration is not in imitating an actual 3D world, but rather in autonomously creating an illusory two-dimensional space. This illusory space is extremely abstract, with a completely unique artistic language. The spatiality within painting possesses its own linguistics. The language of painting itself is strongly conceptual, and the core of this language is the most difficult to approach.”
Chinese emerging artist Wang Haiyang was born in 1984 and graduated from the Printmaking Department of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2008. Since graduation he has been engaged primarily in painting and hand-drawn animation, and his refined intellect is reflected in his works. The animation Freud, Fish, and Butterfly (2009) and Double Fikret (2012) are both fairly representative. Before a narrative-free background, random animals, people, and plants gather and undergo strange transformations. At times suggestive, at times peaceful, at times intriguing, and at times bitingly provocative, the essence of assemblage became the most important element in his work. These wholly unrelated episodes are fragments of Wang Haiyang’s thinking, the result of an exploration through the scattered images and ideas in his mind.
Untitled is a large-scale acrylic on canvas. Adhering to the creative drafting methods that he employed while working on his pastel animations, Wang preserves a balance between rich changes in color and prominent smudges of pigment. The overall color composition is resplendently diverse, but the depth of the image is in its layered construction. There are three fundamental layers: one abstract, a second that falls between recognizable and unrecognizable, and finally, the physical image.
A sunny yellow, a water-hued blue, and black brushstrokes are interwoven with pink line fragments, and in many places the pressure of the brushstroke leaves its mark. The strokes are sprinkled across the work without a single orientation, producing an effect akin to rubbing. The Y-shaped gray area at the bottom of the work is a smeared mix of many colors. The work’s strong visual expressiveness derives from these completely abstract elements. The areas that are between recognizable and unrecognizable contain vague forms, and the artist has provided enough hints to connect them to the signified. The orange gourd on the left side appears as a cooked zucchini and as a male reproductive organ. The Y-shaped area connotes a uterus. A skin-colored area on the very right of the canvas appears to be the side of a man’s face… In cases where the signifier is unclear, this layer of the image is assimilated, becoming a mosaic that gives the viewer an atmospheric experience of “blurred vision.” In areas of leftover white, we can see a bear, the rear view of a man, and two fingers being inserted into a water pipe. On the gray area to the right there is a fluttering rainbow banner. The third layer of the physical image is easily identifiable.
As one layer transforms into the next, in the gap between two images, each scene is mundane when viewed independently. Yet when they are arranged together, they form an illogical language. Wang Haiyang has said that these paintings of dreamlike imagery are connected to the creative work he is accustomed to doing in the night, and that if they were not expressed through painting, he may fall into madness. This work, built from fragmented, difficult to distinguish “sources,” appears to drift away, becoming disassociated from actual events, but it also precisely corresponds to the particularities of psychological activity. Whether derived from the artist’s dreamscapes or from imagery that appears in his waking life, we are ensnared on a sensory level and led towards visual delights.
The dreamscape and waking world are based on the ideas of dream hermeneutics put forward by Heidegger and Medard Boss, who believed that the difference between these two realms was the difference between “seeing” and “experiencing.” In the waking world, humans have two separate methods of “looking.” First, in Untitled, is the physical world that is visible to the naked eye. This indicates the third layer in the painting, the physical image. The second method is looking at the various images within the “spiritual world” which encompasses fantasy and perception. This corresponds to the second layer, which exists between recognizable and unrecognizable. In dreams, humans have only a method of “pure” spiritual looking in which persons, environments, circumstances, and atmospheric changes all appear in the image-based landscape of the dream. It is an immersive and deeply moving realm, a random condition capable of upending logic. As such, it rationalizes the details of Untitled. Wang Haiyang fuses this dreamscape with the waking world, breaking down and muddling the cause and effect relationships that bind events. Using internal forces such as impressions, the subconscious, and perception, he establishes a new order.
When the imagination exists in the implemented realm of the canvas, when the artist finds reality to be insufficient, each person becomes an instrument and surrogate for the expression of emotional content. As such, the pictorial space becomes much more expansive. To Wang Haiyang, this space is not a simulation but a woven integration of energy, time, and dimension. Each color and line possesses its own spatiality. Untitled carries out a thorough relational investigation of these, generating a peculiar yet “reasonable” result. For him, creation is a process of doing exactly what one is thinking, and this makes it possible for him to draw closer to the essence of human life. This is what makes the work reasonable and not at all difficult to interpret. It is able to contain the different personalities and situations that the artist has collected and declared, integrating them into a dramatic pictorial composition. While it draws one’s gaze, the work’s refined intent and sensory stimulation push one’s thinking to new horizons.