Wang MengSha: Ripples
“My works have always been pursuing light and ambiguous ripples.”
Wang MengSha in her studio in Beijing
Wang Mengsha’s elegant and colorful paintings have become one of Chinese Contemporary Art’s most distinctive works. As one of the few female artists represented in contemporary Chinese ink painting, Wang juxtaposes a sense for trends pulled from present popular culture with that of the classical in portraits of Ming and Qing court ladies, all the while developing a unique style without merely worshiping the past. They are images full of whimsical ideas, glowing with lightness and ambiguity. In this manner, Wang has been exploring and developing her craft for nearly ten years.“My works have always been pursuing light and ambiguous ripples.”
Compared to her earlier works, Wang’s ideas range from the contemporary court lady, the fantasy of surrealistic novels, to complete integration and liberation. Perhaps she has grown tired of the nostalgic focus of contemporary ink painting and its male-dominated circles. In recent years, Wang has given up the pursuit of dainty high elegance. On the contrary, she has become obsessed with more personal emotions and more contemporary ideas.
“A large number of naughty letters and words appear in my works. These are the artist’s inner monologues and word codes. There are 10,000 Mona Lisas in the eyes of 10,000 people. For an artist, these codes may represent her past stories or her beliefs.”
“Love” depicts many fascinating female portraits, from ancient times to the present, from the East to the West, simultaneously depicting two extremes: the lady of the court and the erotic, the wise matron and the licentious lush, innocence and sex, suggestive of the female independence in confronting oneself. “Love” is a representative work reflecting Wang’s attempts to break away from the established traditions of ink painting, transforming this practice through stream of consciousness, collage, and feministic sensibility into a contemporary work.
In fact, feminist collage possess a long history. After World War II, feminist collage was directly tied to performance art; but it can also be trace its roots back to the surrealism and photomontage of Germany’s Weimar period. Regardless of the time and the methods used, these collages always emerged in times of political and social fluctuation. How do women cut-out the idealized individual from a broken world, from history, from memory and then restore them into a utopian spaces through recontextualization? Wang’s paintings also represent a tenderness of practice in the context of female Chinese artists.
“Emotions are real, but reality is illusory.”
Wang MengSha in her studio in Beijing
In one interview, Wang mentioned “what I want to control is the ‘emotions between people’, not the form.” Since 2017, the personality of her paintings have gradually thrown off the shackles of the past. Her vocabulary and use of space have transformed into infinite fragments, freely arranged into incoherent precious pieces of knitting poems. The series “Events in My Universe”, published in 2020, confirms the beginning of Wang’s new era; “Gown”, “Rippling”, and “Fortune” also show the atmosphere expressed by this new painting structure. The connection proposed by each fragment and phrase on paper deciphers more clues of personal emotions.
Objects, people, and animals account for artist’s personal charm. The beautiful artifacts come from calligraphy, but also from Wang’s love for martial arts (wuxia) novels; Erotica is not a desire for lust, rather a feeling for its charm—the beauty of “spring”, the privacy of “palaces”; kittens and birds are the petite darlings in calligraphy and painting, but humor has become a gigantic, wonderful and humane part of its existence; the big gray cat in “Rippling” is dressed like Chibi Maruko with a Hello Kitty’s bow and squinting eyes, just like the artist’s own expression. She resonates the emotions of various aspects, completely separating and alienating them from reality, “I hope that the viewer will find what they are looking for in front of this batch of works, and that sparkling ripples will appear.”
“It’s like a time travel drama, from ancient to modern times; through yesterday, today to tomorrow, as if experiencing the whole of life in one picture.”
Wang Mengsha(born in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China, 1982) comes from a family of calligraphers and painters. She currently works and lives in Beijing, China. Wang graduated from Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts in 2006. Later, she studied at Griffith University in Australia and the University of Southampton in the UK. Her recent shows include “The Revival of Tradition- Another Clue of Chinese Contemporary Art” at SONG ART MUSEUM in 2020; “Annual Review of Chinese Contemporary Ink-wash Paintings” at Ucity Art Museum Of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2017; “She – The Era” at Times Art Museum, Beijing in 2015, etc. Wang is granted with “Nominated artist of YISHU 8”(2018); “Golden Star Prize – Most Valuable Artwork”(2013) by National Arts Magazine; “The Top100 Most Favorite Artworks of the Year”(2011) by Bazaar Art Magazine; “Awards of the Top 10 Chinese Young Artists with Most Media Attention”(2009) by Chinese Painting Magazine. One of her work “Shade of Blossoms” is permanently collected by the University of Cambridge.