2022 art recap: reimagining the future of arts
by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Manu SharmaPublished on : Apr 29, 2023
DE SARTHE gallery in Hong Kong recently presented A/S/L, for its second solo exhibition featuring the fascinating work of Beijing-based artist Wang Jiajia. The work on display is an entirely new body from what audiences have experienced in previous exhibitions, and, as implied by the show’s name (Age/Sex/Location), it focuses on the newfound ability we now possess, thanks to the advent of the internet age, that allows us to perceive each other without the need of our physical presence. “A/S/L?”, as many will remember, was a phrase that embedded itself into online message board and chat room lexicons in the early 2000s, which allowed users to develop an understanding of each other in the absence of a profile picture. While it is no longer in vogue, its usage did mark a watershed moment in human connectivity, when we became able to acquire key details of each other’s identities without ever having to actually meet.
Jiajia has had an interesting journey leading up to his focus on digital connectivity. “I have always been drawing and painting but my formal training did not start until I was around 13 or 14. I actually started life with a very traditional Chinese-style education, although at that point we had already moved to London as a family. My parents started teaching me Chinese painting techniques, starting with line painting, and then the foundations to flower and landscape painting. Although we were in London at the time, as soon as you stepped into our house, it seemed as though you had stepped through a portal into China. From the decor to all the works in the studio, my father was a landscape painter, and so even though I had a very limited memory of my first few years, I saw his mountains as a window back to my heritage in a way,” he tells STIR.
Over time, Jiajia developed different creative preoccupations, and this caused a great deal of strife in his personal life. However, regardless of where his work is today, he still connects it back to his parents. He continues to explain, “Even though my practice now is far away from my initial forays into painting, I think that they have always informed my work. There were always tense arguments growing up with my parents as I pushed towards a more contemporary approach whilst they wanted me to progress with a traditional mindset and values. Trying to find a balance was a big part of my earlier years studying with my family, and then going to St Martins in London. Within my paintings, I always try to incorporate the lessons of traditional Chinese art. Even if the image is going to be on a completely different spectrum, it does seem important to me to have that connection in my work, despite it sometimes being obscured to the viewer.”
The artist’s current practice has several points of reference. It has been informed by so many different factors that he has come to enjoy combining elements that juxtapose or clash. He admits, “To some it can be jarring, but for me it’s comfortable as that’s how my life has been; trying to make sense of different ways of living and working.” Strangely, he does not mention an overexposure to digital technology, and tells STIR that he feels he is lucky that this was not the case. Jiajia did not have access to the internet till he was around 14 or 15 and looked back fondly to the days before when time seemed to move much slower and an afternoon could be spent reading a book.
The artist’s current series of works is also a direct representation of how the internet has affected the ways in which we see a painting. “It is so hard to take your time,” he says, “when there are a million different things vying for your attention, all at once. When we want to look at paintings now, most of the time the information is readily available online, so we don’t really go to an art gallery or museum.” The artist looks at Instagram or WeChat to see shows and find artists who pique his interest, but when he tries to look and take it all in, he finds that he is already so programmed; so used to scrolling through images, that he just keeps going; wanting to see “what’s next?”, “what else is there?” He explains, saying “With this series, I really wanted to create paintings that were a reaction to this and also works that crave your attention. Paintings that are loud and draw your interest, with unnaturally bright neon colours covered in resin to mimic our super shiny phone screens. The eyes are an integral part of the works, they challenge you as you look at them. I wanted the paintings to have a presence. Normally, when you go to an exhibition, you are free to come and go as you please and there’s nothing at stake, but when you see these works as you view them they stare back at you.” The artist’s aim with some of his visual motifs and presentation seems to be the manifestation of an instant connection between work and viewer.
Since he started using the internet, Jiajia has always kept folders where he saves images that caught his fancy, it is a practice he continues to date. Now he is using digital software to create collages from his large catalogue of saved pictures, cropping and pasting them in order to create new images. He then adds colour and forms to these slowly, building them up bit by bit till they are ready to be printed. Upon printing them, however, he rolls back a bit and begins painting over them; “ruining” them, as he puts it humorously. The result is a very distinct and striking body of pieces that are sure to catch and hold the attention of the artist’s audience. Jiajia’s work will no doubt become ever the more relevant as digital connectivity proliferates further and further.
by Rosalyn D`Mello Jun 02, 2023
Viewing the exhibition Niki De Saint Phalle in the company of a sea of random visitors contributed to the visceral gush the fleshy works innately evoke.
by Dilpreet Bhullar Jun 01, 2023
The documentary photographer Ciril Jazbec has embraced the value of nature to talk about the rising adversity around climate change in his photographic art practice.
by Dilpreet Bhullar May 29, 2023
Norwegian contemporary artist Hanne Friis responds to changing the way of life with the pandemic, specifically around the use of material in our urban lives.
by Manu Sharma May 26, 2023
Russian artist Maxim Zhestkov discusses his virtual reality project that blurs various creative disciplines.
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