There is something in Wang Ning’s work which follows you a bit after you walk on and leave it behind. It lingers but it is not a sweet stickiness. It starts off feeling familiar and welcoming but then it permeates to a disturbing disquiet ..dare I say it…it might be something of the human condition.
I first met Wang Ning 4 or 5 years ago visiting Patty Hudak’s studio in Huantie. ‘You’ve got to come and see this artist‘ she told me and off we went down the road to visit his studio. And there it was, the human form in very condensed formats: small partially rendered portraits, some were of spines wrapped in plastic and there were also a number of paintings from his ‘Kiss’ series.
Wang Ning participated in several of the projects Fion Gunn and myself were running at the time such as ‘Intimate Transgressions’ at Inter gallery 798 Oct 2015 ( I was local curator for the Beijing exhibition). This project dealt with the challenging subject of sexual violence during times of conflict and the narrative began with the comfort women issue. And so the work Wang Ning submitted was an exploration of ‘the other’. He joined us again with the Irish Wave project in 2016 which had different exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai. His solo show is called Paradise Lost which continues till December 2nd .
I am going to simply type a few things Wang Ning says in his catalogue essay
Are you happy?
..as if you are placed in front of a mirror and the one you see is no longer yourself.
We have never obsessed over the joy in ‘Paradise Lost’
I am hostile towards today’s human spectacle ….can’t cater to the vast aesthetic tastes of today.
I have chosen – pencils ….not about seeking an embodiment of life among specks of chaos
In another catalogue essay Ding Xing writes of the Three Paradises Lost : the film where the fragility of life greatly impacted Wang Ning’s work and “vigilance about the violence behind every type of relationship”, there is of course Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost written in the seventeenth century and thirdly the Gothic aesthetic merging from the late middle ages , this reawakening after a long dark process, when people began to rethink about the world, heavy with awareness of history but hopeful.
The curator for this exhibition Cang Xin (renowned performance artist) spoke of knowing Wang Ning from his university years doing performance art. This was a side unknown to me about Wang Ning, I had only known him as a painter. (His MA is in Oil Painting) Cang Xin wrote of when he sent him the documentation of his performance how he was impressed by his unhinged and sanguine mode of expression. He writes of Wang Ning’s monchromatic tones blatantly reveal and satirizes the dark side of the human condition. Here he says we confront a solitary soul who introspectively questions ‘Are we Happy?’
Wang Ning’s solo
Curated by Cang Xin
Showing till Dec 2nd at Rainbow Wall Art Gallery , Ceramic 2nd street , 798.