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Issues about Art

Author: Wang Guangyi 2004

The Materialist series of sculptures I created in 2001 can be said to have grown out of the work I had been doing previously with site-specific installations. The experience of using every type of material and format in these works was a freeing experience. My artistic horizons were widened, and I began to feel that there were no limits to the forms of expression possible for me. From a theoretical standpoint, it could be said that the Materialist sculpture represent a movement away from the kind of visual dichotomies that characterized my earlier works. There was no longer any question of introducing western brand names into the images. Rather, I left a strong urge to return to the basic forms of Socialist expression. The process of creating the sculptures in fact gradually helped me t formulate a conceptual framework for my work: that is, the concept of a Socialist visuality. This is an idea that had been in my mind for some time, but it was not until I created the sculptures that I was really able to articulate it. This was a watershed for me. In my sculptures I attempt to return to the simplest, purest state of fundamental faith. Form the standpoint of present society, I am not trying to criticize anything; rather, my hope is to create signifiers of cultural memory for future generations.

Conceptually speaking, this process of returning to the original expression has meant for me a return to the original ideological worldview that guided my earliest educational; experience, and, by extension, to the earliest views on the questions of form that were imparted to me. In fact, it could be said that all the work I am now doing is related to this idea of going back to the original, and of reducing things to there essentials. In the past, I never thought this way, but now I am following the trajectory of my own growth development. I realize that is very important for an artist.

The Eternal Halo series also represents this idea of a return to the original state or condition. The impetus behind these works is actually the artistic language of the 'blackboard newspaper'. In the past my thinking was very unclear: I thought this was all distant history. But in reality this history has cast a huge shadow – whether for better or worse – not only over China, but over the world in general. It is a shadow that will not lift for a very long time, and in this lays its significance.

My feeling now is that when you look at an artist's work, you are seeing a view of his personal history; but it also represents a whole generation. This is one value of the artist in the overall structure of society. At the same time that an artist criticizes society, he also acts to alert it, to awaken it to the awareness that there may be many things spreading forever through one's consciousness. This awareness may perhaps be the starting point for the revival of a nation and a people.

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