Artist interview: Jingyi Wang by Harriet Abbott
HA: How did you come to choose the exhibition’s title?
JW: The title of the exhibition is Natural Social Distancing. I thought this is a suitable title for my current subject(recent works). When we started to conceive this exhibition, the whole world was in a very difficult period. Since last year, our lives have changed a lot. Keeping so-cially distant is a frequently used phrase now. My works have always been about the relation-ship between humans and nature. There is a beautiful strangeness in both nature and human nature, we are natural beings, and I think this is a topic we need to think about right now.
HA: Which artists influence you? From what do you draw inspiration?
JW: René Magritte is the artist who influenced me the most in recent years. His works often use nature as object; sky, clouds and the sea always appear in his paintings. He not only rec-orded nature as we know it, but also added elements that look weird and full of humor. I am attracted to Magritte’s work before I know what artistic concept I would like to express, when I look at his works, I almost don’t need to interpret the meaning behind them to know what he wants to convey. The works touch my heart.
In addition, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe are also artists who have a great influence on me. What I learnt from them is expressing my attitudes and views on the world from a female perspective. Now the female angle plays a key role in my artwork.
HA: Within which art historical context would you situate your paintings?
JW: I think my artworks align with surrealism and realism. Yet they cannot to be completely assigned to either movement. My creative concept is coming from surrealism, Why Surreal-ism? What I can empathize with is that the current environment we live in is also full of di-lemmas, the same as 100 years ago. Although it is not a direct war, in fact, the invisible soft warfare in the new era and the unique anxiety of people, are no less than that during the war. My method of observation and painting skill is influenced by realism. My inspiration often comes from what I meet and feel from every daily life, such as comedy movies.
HA: What do you intend to convey to your audience?
JW: What I hope to convey is my emotions and my attitude towards the world. I hope my paint-ings resonate with the audience. Loneliness, struggle, desire, strength, and restlessness are all possible feelings. The most important thing is that although we are in a very depressed envi-ronment, we still have hopeful feelings towards the world. How can I find a piece of pure land in my heart in this anxious reality? I wish some people could see the future and hope through my works. I hope to express my concepts and ideas in a humorous way.
HA: What techniques do you use? Can you talk a little more about your process?
JW: My medium is oil paint. The main technique I use is direct painting. When necessary, I will use a glazing technique. For example, when portraying the dense stings of a cactus, I paint it layer by layer, to make it look more dimensional. Sometimes I also create textures on the can-vas. Before the formal painting, I will draw make sketches to determine the composition and tone with watercolor.
HA: How has your work developed and changed over time?
JW: In this series, I chose cacti as the subject for my artworks. My inspiration comes from the lines of the film ‘Ashes of Time’, ‘the best way to avoid rejection is to reject others first.’ Cacti symbolise my own feelings and attitude towards life, for me they signify a helpless state and nervous emotions. We all can recognize the traits that cacti represent within ourselves, tough-ened on the outside and fragile within. The sadly washed-out heart grows up against the wind in boundless loneliness.
It has been almost 5 years since I started using this subject. Naturally, there have been changes at each stage of development. My ‘silent desire’ series describes the growth of cacti in the room; the shade depicts a surreal natural scene. Following this, I created the cactus and bal-loon series; the wandering earth ball in this exhibition is a part of this series. To express the sharp and fragile relationship, I transplanted the thorn of cactus into the balloon.
In the past two years, I have created a new series of cactus portraits, combining human and cactus. They have a dialogue, and there is a dialogue between cactus-human and nature. This series make up the majority of this exhibition.
HA: How would you describe your relationship with nature? What do the cacti symbolise for you?
JW: For me, nature has brought unlimited creative inspiration and artists who also use natural elements to create ideas have brought me a lot of inspiration. We are all natural beings, the pandemic of the past year reminds humans that respecting nature is respecting ourselves. The cacti in my paintings represent a part of me. Now the cacti in my paintings are more like us who have to keep social distancing every single day. They are presented in anthropomorphic forms, as carriers expressing my concept.