Beetles+Huxley, one of Europe’s leading and most innovative photography galleries, is delighted to present the UK’s first retrospective of Beijing artist Wang Qingsong, who represented China in the Venice Biennale 2013. The show, comprising of 11 large-format photographic works, explores the role of spectacle in shaping reality in contemporary China and marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in London for almost 10 years.
Born at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Wang’s provocative, and often humorous works comment on the overwhelming social and visual changes which have taken place in his native country over the last four and a half decades. Working predominantly in the mediums of photography and film, his pieces are known for their massive scale, deep symbolism and careful staging, which can sometimes take several weeks and involve up to 300 extras. Many of the artist’s large-format photographs, which have been shown in galleries and museums across the globe, including the International Centre of Photography (NY) and the V&A (London), also attract significant attention at auction.
The globalisation of China and the explosion of consumerism are key topics in Wang’s oeuvre. His interest in Western art history is also a recurrent theme which blends into Chinese aesthetic motives and literary traditions contributing to this feel of staged documentary. While the staging of his photographs involves meticulous preparation, often taking place in cinema studios and requiring hundreds of extras, he considers his work to be a photojournalistic endeavour.
Requesting Buddha No.1, 1999 represents the narrative beginning of this exhibition and depicts Wang posing as a Buddhist deity, holding several consumer goods instead of godly attributes, presenting himself as a commentator of the changes in China today.
MOMA, 2005 expands on Wang’s interest in Western iconography by reflecting on the Chinese new taste for masterpieces of any time and epoch and their undiscriminated consumption of these works. In a rather raw construction, the image stages a classical western painting (Matisse’s dance) but the piece includes the public crowd that is painting and photographing the scene, Wang in this way becomes the spectator of the spectators.
Among the retrospective exhibition, the most subtle images in their commentary are the artist’s still lifes, such as Red Peony, White Peony and Frosted Peony, 2003, where Wang changes the subject matter from human models to flowers made with meat, imitating Chinese ink drawing and creating a sort of Vanitas. It is in these works that the artist feels he is being most true to himself and to his more reflective and spiritual side. As Wang expresses, ‘These meat flower pieces are straight from my own heart’ .
About Wang Qingsong
Wang Qingsong (Chinese, b.1966) graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and currently lives and works in Beijing.
After starting his career as an oil painter engaged in the Gaudi movement, he began taking highly staged photographs that explore the influence of Western consumer culture in China. In more recent works he has explored political and social themes including the struggles of the migrant population and Chinese diplomacy.
His photographs are known for their massive scale, deep symbolism and careful staging, which can sometimes take several weeks and involve up to 300 extras. Although photography is his main medium, he has explored performance and video art in more recent years.
Wang’s work has been presented at prestigious galleries, museums and art fairs across the globe including the 55th Venice Biennale China Pavillion (Venice), the International Centre of Photography (NY), the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the 42nd Recontres de la Photographie (Arles), the Daegu Art Museum (Seoul), MOCA (Taipei), the Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai) and the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo).