Among the first artists in China to make use of video installation, Wang Gongxin belongs to the generation of students who emerged from the Cultural Revolution and were formally trained to paint in the style of Social Realism.Read More
Born in Beijing, Wang attended the Capital Normal University in China before being selected as a visiting scholar by the State University of New York, where he encountered video and multimedia works by artists like Bruce Nauman and Nam June Paik.
New York was formative for Wang and opened his eyes to the parameters of the contemporary art scene. When Wang returned to Beijing in the 1990s, his practice drastically shifted to video art, which represented freedom and liberation from regulated expression.
'It was a rediscovery of myself,' the artist tells Ocula Magazine. Despite experimenting across sculpture and installation, video remained the medium that resonated most with the artist.
Two years after his return to Beijing, Wang turned his family home into an open studio, establishing one of the country's first venues for video art. There, artists could meet and discuss their works, driving the development of the Chinese avantgarde movement.
Wang Gongxin's works reflect the artist's experience with duality and integration, bringing together organic materials, simple objects, and places across site-specific works, brought to life through moving images and mechanically engineered installations.
Wang's first video project, The Sky of Brooklyn—digging a hole in Beijing (1995), featured footage of the Brooklyn sky shot from the artist's Williamsburg apartment and was projected from a 3.5-metre hole the artist dug in the gallery floor in Beijing.
At once a hole into 'another world' and an allusion to the expression 'digging a hole to China', The Sky to Brooklyn set the tone for works to come, with an emphasis on the artist's interest in cultural gaps and physical dislocation.
In Wang's installation works, simple, everyday objects are recovered and ordered in repetitive sequences and brought into contact with liquids that threaten to overflow.
Wang's early works experimented with objects and materials like light bulbs, water, and metal made into mobile installations. Marked by their careful treatment of light and motion, they formed balanced compositions that evoke the treatment of painterly space.
Wang's installation Dialogue (1995) showed two suspended bulbs descending into a pool of black ink, casting ripples along the surface—breaking the illusion of rigidity and stasis, balanced along dancing shadows cast on the walls.
The same tension can be found in Unseatable (1995), which features four metal chairs whose seats are filled with milk or black ink below moving light bulbs. Rotating in a rhythmic repetition, the lightbulbs cast light that is reflected on the monochromatic surfaces with calculated precision.
Horizontal (2017), a wooden Ming-dynasty table with one leg propped up on a golden stone, betrays a harmonious composition despite the tray of black liquid atop its surface, whose surface is made to ripple intermittently by a hidden motor.
Wang Gongxin is the recipient of the Martell Extraordinary Artists Award, Beijing (2007) and a nominee for the Olivier Award for Best Set Design for Wild Swans, London (2013).
Wang Gongxin's work has been shown in major galleries and institutions worldwide since 1994.
Wang Gongxin has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2019); White Cube, Hong Kong (2017); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); Tate Liverpool (2007); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2007); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2005); De Balie, Amsterdam (2005); Museum Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005); Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide (2003); First Guangzhou Triennial (2002); Hamburg Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin (2001); and 49th Venice Biennial (2001).
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021
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