Wang Qingsong’s Photography are Pieces of Marvel
Wang Qingsong Specializes In Digitally Enhanced Photographs And Oil Paintings That Address Universal Social Conflicts. Widely Considered The Reigning Master Of Photographic Mise-en-scene (and High Quality Printing) In China Today, Wang, Born In 1966, Lives And Works In Beijing.
Wang Spent A Stint In The Oil Fields, Graduated From The Sichuan Academy Of Fine Arts And Moved To Beijing In 1993. Originally A Painter, Wang Hung Out In Several Low-rent Beijing Districts, Including Yuanmingyuan, And Participated In Shows Like The First-ever Gaudy Art Exhibition Of 1996, Where He Displayed Paintings On Velvet. Also In 1996, He Began To Experiment With Photography–initially Making Collages, Then Generating His Own Stylized, Parodic Images.
The Digitally Manipulated Requesting Buddha Series (1999) Pictures The Artist Himself As A Nude, Multi-armed (and Sometimes Androgynous) Religious Figure With Each Hand Grasping Some Token Of China’s New Consumerist Culture: Cell Phone, CD, Marlboro Pack, Cash. In A Similar Spirit, The 2001 Suite Another Battle Portrays Wang, His Head Bound With Bloody Bandages, Leading Camouflaged Soldiers In An Infantry Attack On A Rural McDonald’s Franchise.
The Shooting Session, Wang’s First On This Ambitious Scale, Was A Seat-of-the-pants Operation: The Film Was Put In The Camera Backward; Everything Had To Be Reshot At The Last Minute; And The Subjects Therefore Had To Wear The Same Costumes Throughout Rather Than Changing Into Appropriate Attire For Each Segment Of The “scroll,” (Wang Himself Appears In The Picture, Sometimes As The Artist, Sometimes As The Fool.) Ironically, Too, Wang’s Models Have None Of The Grace And Allure Of Actual Salon Girls, Then Or Now—although This May Well Reflect The Day-rate He Could Afford To Pay Early In His Career. Dumpy, Garishly Dressed And Made Up, Shot On Smiles, These Women Plod Through The Give Scenes Without Discernible Charm. Maybe It’s Part Of Wang’s Joke That In The New China Of Inside Connections, This Is The Best A Poor, Ineffectual Egghead Can Do.
The Monumental Triptych Past, Present, And Future Of 2001, Takes Off On The Heroic Statuary That Stands Outside Mao Zedong Memorial Hall (where The Embalmed Great Leader Lies In State, Wrapped In A Red Communist Party Flag, Inside A Crystal Coffin). Taken Aback To See Tourists, Both Foreign And Domestic, Mimicking The Poses Of The Monuments Revolutionary Figures, Wang Used Live Models To Duplicate The Two Statue Groups And Invent A Third. In Past, Soldiers Covered With Mud And Brandishing 1940s Era Weapons Mount Upward Behind A Streaming Flag, While A Battered, Disproportionately Small Civilian Looks On. Present, On A Similarly Tiered Base, Offers Upward-striving Workers In Head-to-toe Silver, With A Leisure-capped Spectator And His Pet Dog Below. The Dreamed Up Future, Circular And Golden, Is Populated By Oddly Less-than-happy-looking Folks Bearing Flowers, Fruit Baskets, Pot-lid Cymbals (the Artist), A Book And—just In Case—a Rifle. No One, Contemplating These Course-of-empire Tableaux, Would Accuse Wang Of Excessive Optimism.
Despite The Satire Of Art Express (2002)—two Buses, So Labeled, Stranded And Billowing Smoke At A Country Intersection—Wang Seems To Be Most At Ease In The Domain Of Pure Art And Nude Girls. Witness The Cluster Of Works He Shot In 2003. One Is An Asian Version Of Ingres’ Fountain, Another Of The Anonymous Sixteenth-century School Of Fontainebleau Image Of One Woman Squeezing Another’s Nipple In The Bath. The Enormous Photo-scrolls Romantique (over Twenty-one Feet Long) And China Mansion (over Thirty-nine Feet) Replicate Multiple Classics Of Western Art History—Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus, Manet’s Olympia, Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque, And Others—in Horizontal, Multi-scene Panoramas With All Chinese Models.
Wang Holds The Auction Record, $864,943, In Contemporary Chinese Photography, For Follow Me, Which Depicts A Teacher In Front Of A Giant Blackboard Scribbled With Slogans And Brand Names In English And Chinese. His Works Have Been Sold At Sotheby’s (New York And London Locations) And Christie’s (London).