王劲松会阶段性地回归这一绘画模式。1998年他创作了一部重要的八幅作品，题为《大繁荣》。截至此时，他的绘画尝试已经发展、成熟，虽然依然包括了群像中出现空白断裂的手法，但它们服务于一个更为艺术化的意旨。这里一个值得玩味的要点是，空白暗指了一个政治化的时代，这个时代到90年代末已经在慢慢地退回到过去的历史中：至少，已经开始让人感觉越来越和当下的情形无关，一个空气成长的时代成为了所有注意力的焦点。在《大繁荣》中，全部的创作以形象的密集为核心，王劲松把他们置于一起来展现新社会类型的陈列，并且突出现代性渴求的冲击和正在出现的社会主义的价值。非常重要地，《大繁荣》实现了对90年代末社会氛围的精确的、观察敏锐的并且是幽默的勾勒，而这一时刻是中国社会在为一个新世纪而准备，同时虽然还未实现，但也准备迎接为世界贸易组织接纳后的一个全新的时代。虽然，王劲松在这里在描绘形象中构建的风格可以轻易地归结为讽刺漫画，他用种种微妙的细节保存了整体的现实主义的观感，用于平衡作品中充盈的讽刺的氛围。这些细节保持了他的群像的介于Stanley Spencer 和 Martin Kippenberger之间的人的本质。
Wang Jinsong Introduction
From Chinese ink paintings to performance and installation works, it may seem that Wang Jinsong makes radical digressions. Yet, although the exterior form, the materials and the methodology in his work are interchanged as required, the fundamental concerns that this artist seeks to express have remained constant. People, as observed in his immediate environs, remain the core of his imagery. But Wang Jinsong is neither a portrait artist, nor a member of the life-class lovers of human form per se. The people in his paintings are simply the optimal conduit for presenting personal reflections of the experience of social phenomena and daily life.
The primary subject of Wang Jinsong's work is social change, and the impact this has upon both the physical world and the mindset of the people who inhabit it. It also seeks to explore the cultural characteristics that underscore this new society and the modern ideals to which it aspires. In the experimental paintings Wang Jinsong created in the early 1990s, the compositions suggest a re-examining and rewriting of history, suggested by the blanks in the groups of figures portrayed where individual people have been cut out. This is, of course, a reference to a similar form of erasure within paintings and photographs that occurred from the early-1950s to the late-1970s, and that was directed by political motives. Thus, fully aware of the implications of creating but not concealing these alterations in the group, Wang Jinsong gives emphasis to the absence of a figure, whilst pretending to the notion of the role played by “white”—empty—space in Chinese ink painting. Here, he gives us blank silhouettes where individuals once stood. That the people immediately next to these blank spaces appear oblivious to their comrade’s unexplained disappearance, points to the pragmatic nature of the people.
The paintings were an interesting approach to describing the mood of the times, and whilst, with hindsight, there is an air of innocence about their form and content, and suggest a somewhat elementary interpretation, they remain emblematic of the artistic styles of the early 1990s. As a recent graduate, taking his first steps as an independent artist, the oil paintings created in this period, laid an important foundation for Wang Jinsong’s career. Both the style and the content encouraged comparisons with the school of Cynical Realism that was gathering momentum in Beijing. This drew Wang Jinsong into the circle of what was even then a respected elite—of critics as well as artists. Examples of his oil paintings would also be included in two major events in China—New Generation, History Museum (1991), and the First Guangzhou Biennial: Oil Painting in the 1990s (1992)—which set the tone for the era, and the first surveys of new Chinese art abroad, beginning in 1993 with China / Avant Garde in Germany, and China’s New Art, Post-1989, that began its long world tour in Hong Kong in February that year.
Wang Jinsong would periodically return to this mode of painting. In 1998, he produced a major eight-panel work titled Modern Crowds. By this time, his approach to painting had evolved—matured—so although pockets of white space punctuate the crowds here too, they serve a more artistic purpose. The point here is interesting: the white space alluded to a politicised era, which, by the late 1990s, was very slowly receding into past history: at least, had begun to feel was less and less relevant to the situation of the present and an era of unprecedented growth that was becoming the focus of all attention. In Modern Crowds, the entire composition pivots on the dense multitude of figures, which Wang Jinsong brings together to represent the array of new social types and highlight the clash of modern aspirations and socialist values that were emerging. Importantly, Modern Crowds achieves an accurate, perceptive and humorous portrayal of the social climate of the moment in the late 1990s, as Chinese society prepared for a new millennium, and though they did not yet realise it, a whole new age courtesy of the nation’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. Although, the style Wang Jinsong employs here in describing the figures could easily have drifted into caricature, he balances the aura of satire that infused the work with myriad subtle details that preserve the overall impression of realism, and that retains the human quality of his crowd that is halfway between Stanley Spencer and Martin Kippenberger.
Again, although Wang Jinsong has since become better known in some quarters for his photographic works, he still comes back to painting. In 2005, he embarked upon an even more ambitious crowd scene. This time on paper not canvas, and comprising ten panels at last count, containing more than three hundred people. It remains a work in progress.
Wang Jinsong’s use of photography as a medium of expression began in 1996 with Standard Family, which comprises two hundred photographs of one child families and was conceived as a succinct comment on a somewhat regrettable attribute of modern family life in China—the family planning policy / one-child policy. The children are all pupils of a primary school, who all brought their parents along on the appointed day to have their portrait taken. Standard Family is not intended to be read as a negative comment on the policy; in fact, the mood is distinctly buoyant. The inspiration for the work was born of a quiet lament that these children will grow up brother- and sister-less, aunt- and uncle-less, without cousins…without any extended family at all. Having grown up in the company of brothers and sisters, Wang Jinsong was keenly aware of the joys and comforts of belonging to a big family. It is normal to hope that one’s own children would share the same experience of sibling relations. Ultimately, Standard Family is a simple statement of fact: a look at what is a "no-other-solution solution" to minimising the kind of social problems that would accompany an unchecked expansion of the already enormous population. The work, meanwhile, is as humorous, as happy, as melancholy, as pragmatic as the society it describes.
Continuing with the theme of the modern Chinese family, in 1998, Wang Jinsong produced a second series of portraits titled Parents. This group of twenty photographs focuses on couples of Wang Jinsong’s parents’ generation, and begins with a portrait of his own mother and father. The other nineteen feature elderly, retired couples, most of whom lived in Wang Jinsong’s neighbourhood. The process of modernisation was already having a significant impact on the structure of family life. Similar to the situation in western societies, but not at all usual in China, young people were increasingly inclined to establish their own home. The rise in standards of living, particularly in the cities, was accompanied by a new world of real estate and property development. The government’s policy of encouraging home ownership, even to the point of selling off State housing provided further impetus. In the face of economic development, this was as inevitable as it was necessary. Whilst the family remains central to the values and social mores of Chinese people, in this respect the modern world sets up a challenge to traditional practices. Independent, career-minded urbanites have schedules, life-styles, and personalities that cannot bow to the conventions dictated by Confucian tenets. As seen in the photographs, the expressions of the couples, as well as the atmosphere of their homes, deftly captures the diverse and complex attitudes towards this new phenomenon.
Wang Jinsong himself clearly possessed a spirit of independence in common with contemporary artists of his generation, although few elected to maintain quite such an individual hairstyle as Wang Jinsong. In between creating Standard Family and Parents he made Clock/Observer, in which he appears, looking something like a rock star, in each of twelve frames, each one taken at one of Beijing’s major tourist sites. As indicated by the title, the twelve shots each represent a different hour of the day, which is shown by the hands of a clock placed on top of each photograph. The observer in the title is Wang Jinsong himself, who, by analogy, is understood to be a firsthand witness to the changes unfolding across the city, the speed of which is again referenced by the twelve hours that make up the work. The use of black and white photography is a deliberate ploy to confuse the viewers’ reading of the moment—the background scenes might almost belong to a previous decade—but the image of Wang Jinsong, his distinctive haircut, leather jacket, and trendy sunglasses, is definitely contemporary. And being a contemporary, we suspect that Wang Jinsong presents himself a little like the idiot savant who dares to question what others would have us believe. So it seems that what this work ultimately advises is that we ought to learn to look more for ourselves.
Wang Jinsong would revisit the idea of urban change and redevelopment in two further photographic works. The first, Chai, was produced in the course of 1999, at the height of a carefully co-ordinated programme of citywide demolition in the capital. Chai highlights the volume of properties that were to be fodder for the bulldozers as they cleared inefficient tracts of low-rise buildings to make way for space-efficient high-rise developments. Condemned buildings were marked by the character chai, and it is the myriad manifestations of this character that Wang Jinsong chose to photograph. Travelling the length and breadth of the capital, he photographed the character as it appeared daubed on an enormous variety of walls and surfaces. The variations of its written form, as well as the multitude of the different surfaces upon which it appeared serve as a subtle but succinct metaphor for the extent to which Beijing has been redeveloped.
The second work, titled City Walls, was produced in 2001, and comprises a thousand small photographs joined together like an enormous puzzle. The images are both black and white and colour and most were taken entirely at random as Wang Jinsong passed through the city, usually by car. These frames therefore are often taken at speed, and are at times blurred. But that seems less important that the reinforcing of the sheer volume of construction sites throughout the city, here evidenced by the countless cranes silhouetted against the sky.
As indicated above, through the 1990s, Wang Jinsong became widely known for oil paintings and conceptual works pivoted on photography, yet trained as an ink painter, he never stopped making brush painting using traditional rice paper and black ink. Wang Jinsong only began working in oils when he graduated from the ink painting department of Zhejiang Academy, bringing his dexterity with a brush and facility with line to compositions to the experiment with the viscosity and opacity of oil pigments. His transposing of traditional ink painting techniques and composition onto canvas meant the retention of large areas of white, unpainted ground, and a fluid use of the line, without recourse to the classical perspective and chiaroscuro of traditional western academic painting. It was Wang Jinsong’s opinion that tradition inhibited individual expression amongst his generation. Not being schooled in the oil painting tradition either, he was free of the confines of conventional concepts towards composition. Retaining the inked approach to rendering the figure, he sought to achieve the dynamics of colour and visual relations found in western approaches. It was his way of expressing what he experienced as the mood of modern Chinese society.
To date, the subject matter brought to the ink works largely explores the same observed reactions to the new phenomena of contemporary culture as found in all works of other media. One difference though is how, in Wang Jinsong’s hands, ink lends itself to depicting the growing interest in sporting events: first world title boxing matches, the nation-wide passion for football, and in the early 2000s, Olympic sports such as hurdles, sprinting etc. On one hand, these are eulogies to the artist’s own fascination with the topic, but he still incorporates elements that root the theme in social issues—gang fighting, factionalism, hooliganism, and, to a certain extent, the struggle to maintain individualism in a fiercely materialist world. Early explorations include a sequence of very modern figures captured with all the resonance of a photojournalist’s freeze-frame. We see images that suggest domestic violence, of thieves making a get-away, and an argument that becomes a brawl. Equally, he uses his skills to express postures of exhilaration and confusion encountered by a new generation of young people experiencing the first thrill of freedom.
These approaches—both the sensibilities brought to the compositions and the content—have been further developed in richly coloured compositions that combine acrylic paint and Chinese mineral pigments, and that result in a seductive array of surface textures. The colour is bright, at times almost neon in its degree of luminescence, whilst the delicate washes across the surface are responsible for a surprising depth of sensation and pictorial space. Ultimately, it is these blends of materials and combinations of conventional and contemporary technique that makes these paintings so unusual, and underscores his entire body of work.