Frantic Metamorphoses

“The Metamorphosis,” solo exhibition by Wang Haiyang.

White Space (No.255, Caochangdi Airport Service Road Chaoyang District, Beijing). Dec 15 – Feb 24, 2013.

When asked if he had considered that the title “The Metamorphosis” had already been used a number of times by other artists, Wang Haiyang answered, “It’s true it has been used many times, but there are only so many words in the lexicon.” A similar methodology can be found in his painting: Wang does not try to force his work into any additional conceptual framework based on trendy philosophies or cultural constructs, yet nevertheless his work manages to move the imagination of its audience.

In the beginning, Wang affixed two sheets of sandpaper on a gallery wall, and then set up a camera a few meters from the paper; thus began a journey of imagination. Over and over, Wang drew on these sheets of mounted paper; over and over, he erased his drawings. When each painting was completed, he paused to photograph the result, and then removed all traces of it (this process of creation and erasure was repeated over 1200 times). Wang then edited these still-life pictures into an unbroken reel, distilling them into two short films composed purely of hand illustrations. The susurration of his eraser moving over the sandpaper acts as a soundtrack, rustling continuously in the background of his film. The two still-life images hanging on the wall at his exhibition only capture the destination of his journey. Wang does not believe the focus of his work is film, because he finds the free flow of pure creativity to be more vital. Perhaps he documents the process in order to better capture and exhibit the mind’s transition from one fragment of thought to another during the creative process.

In the piece “Double Fikret” (2012), a few short minutes encapsulate countless “vignettes.” A human head lies sideways inside the body of a transparent fish, which suddenly spouts a fountain of crimson pigment; the color then bubbles up into the air and transforms into a cathedral-like structure. The façade of the cathedral fragments into pieces of a puzzle, a few of which begin to rotate on their own, spinning and reshaping themselves into the image of an egg; this egg suddenly acquires solidity and “drops” out of the building, bouncing into the top left corner of the painting, the frame of the image abruptly losing its neutrality and becoming part of the painting itself. This bounces the egg back toward the center and everything pauses. Wang tears out the top left corner of his drawing paper and uses it to squash the image of the egg; the egg lies smashed and its yolk broken, while from the ruins of the eggshell rises a pair of hands folded in prayer, slowly parting and transforming into a pair of lovers kissing. In a flash they become a set of rapidly shrinking genitalia while the owner of these jewels suddenly finds his neck lengthening and his face moving toward the squashed remnants of the egg still lingering on the top left corner of the paper. He licks away the last of the egg and then shoves a finger down his throat, but his entire body disappears into his mouth, and the autophagy proceeds to swallow his entire head, leaving behind nothing but a pair of teeth…. These frantic metamorphoses happen at such a maddening pace that the viewer’s imagination is caught up in a frenzy of crushing enjoyment.

The two pieces (the other is entitled “Freud, Fish and Butterfly”) are rendered through movement but have a strong painterly effect. They convey an extreme sense of the absurd, continuously astonish, and illustrate an exaggerated stream of consciousness. The pieces are a whirlwind of elements: some are political, like the drawings of German officers in uniform; others are surrealist, and yet others are barren and sublime. After the fact, they are nearly indescribable and leave us reeling — unable to understand or comprehend the sensory onslaught we have experienced. In truth, Wang did not choose a unifying theme for his two works; his goal was to summon the imagination through transformation, to pull taut the link between the intellect and the psyche and send shockwaves throughout. So in the brief instants spent viewing these two short films, the mind may run unfettered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *