Huang Du’s Interviews with Wang Xiaosong
Huang Du

Huang Du (abbv. Huang): Wang Xiaosong is an artist who returned to China from Germany several years ago. With the recommendation of my classmate and also a teacher at China's Zhejiang University, I made acquaintance with Wang and later got to know him. However, most art lovers do not know much about his background in art. Here, we would like him to introduce himself.
Wang Xiaosong (abbv. Wang): Thanks for Mr. Huang's introduction. My biography would be as simple as this: In 1983, I enrolled at China's Central Academy of Arts and Design to study book design courses under Prof. Liu Jude. Upon my graduation in 1987, I went to Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong Province, and worked temporarily there for two years. After 1989, I returned to Beijing and learned German for half a year. In 1990, I was admitted into the Art University of Berlin, Germany to study in its department of modeling design, where I studied for nine years under the guidance of two professors Mr. Spohn and Mr. Bose. At the end of 2002, I was invited by Zhejiang University to serve as dean and professor in the department of art design.

Huang:  Your experiences may validate a speculation that you began abstract painting in Germany?
Wang: You may think so. Why? Because the last painting you saw in my album was completed in 1986. It was very small. A teacher named Yao Qingzhang from the US taught us the surrealist painting course. That small painting was the result of that period. Later I became infatuated with surrealist works. Although I did not work on such topics, I always racked my brains to look for new subjects. When I magnified my works, suddenly, I realized the realist is actually an integration of abstract elements. I think it is more meaningful to smash a remaining image of the realist than to describe a concrete image. Perhaps, that is my initial understanding of abstract art.

Huang: One of your earliest paintings was said to have a photorealist style, with the influence of the New York School of Prof. Yao Qingzhang's period. But why did you turn from photorealism to abstract painting?
Wang: Because my way of thinking changed. I discovered that the remaining pieces in memory (abstract) left by breaking away from realism gives more space for imagination. It is an unexpected inspiration on the spiritual level and has greater vitality. Retrospectively speaking, the realist produces tiredness and boredom, possibly because it is the result of simulation of various technologies, and viewers are first overwhelmed or disappointed by technology, thus neglecting their own subjective consciousness.

Huang: Actually, photorealism has its own concepts, not merely technologized on the surface.
Wang: The key point is that the New York School thirty years ago embraced an innovative way of thinking. But if I, as an artist, repeated this technique thirty years later, it would be meaningless: neither innovative nor conceptually new, only a repetition, which is horrible to me. When there are no innovative ideas, you are only repeating technology. Of course, I don't oppose technology. On the contrary, I advocate the slogan "new concepts, new technology," for I have benefited from technology and have been active in promoting it.

Huang: I think there is a fundamental difference between Germans and Americans. That's not in technology, but humanist or aesthetic thinking. In terms of US painting, the so-called "bad paintings" such as those by Eric Fischl were reflections of a secular society, while at the same time, in the 1980s, new expressionist painters like Jorg Immendorff showed another kind of trait, an innate spirit of German rational traditions, and a critique of society. If we compare between Germans and Americans, we can find differences concerning traditions and aesthetic views. Of course, these differences have much to do with history and culture, as well as national character. Germans possess the spirit of both rationalism and romanticism, while Americans, unlike Europeans, comprise a nation of immigrants, being more open, all-embracing and popular. That's the fundamental difference between Germans and Americans. 
Wang: I had wished to go to the US, but I did not pass TOEFL, so I chose to go to Europe. Today, I oppose American culture in that it's totally different from its German counterpart in terms of cultural base or starting points. I don't negate the traits of American culture, such as being all-embracing, open and multicultural. But I must point out that hidden under such traits is a danger that gives rise to a despotic culture. With monopolized capital and commercial promotion, American-style symbols became a new despotic culture, exporting its ideology and values to other countries and gaining a firm ground in these countries. Since a national ideology weighs heavier than natural attributes of art, the new despotic culture undoubtedly serves a certain political purpose. That's why Chinese-style bandit commodities are recognized by the West despite its growth contradicting the historical development of art.
Let's look at German culture, which is an inheritance and a continuance. A new cultural carrier is inevitably the result of humanist thinking that combats against the old in a new era. The new carrier contains political purpose, which, however, do not play a dominant role. Especially after World War II, the German people felt oppressed, twisted and painful. Such high pressure gave rise to New Expressionism. Free spreading and singularity of cultural thoughts constitute particularity and exclusiveness of German culture, which grows along with criticism. When we examine artworks, either new expressionist or new realist of the New Leipzig School, we find that German thoughts in artistic creation, many yet not chaotic, derive actually from critiques of cultural thoughts.

Huang: I feel this is another issue. In terms of art from the United States, we may see things only on the surface. In fact, American art has been greatly influenced by German Art in its sources. In the early 1930s when the Bauhaus school was shut down by Hitler, the US admitted some professors, including the couple Josef and Anni Albers, who brought Bauhaus teaching theories to Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Bauhaus theories interacted with American pragmatism, giving rise to such arts as US abstract art and action painting, because the couple did not fully apply the Bauhaus theories when first bringing them to Black Mountain College, and combined them with John Dewey's pragmatism and aesthetics. That's a point where American art differs from its European counterpart. The US art went through an accumulation stage during the 1930s and a fast growth after World War II. The rise of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg were credited to their basic education from the 1930's. If we mention the influence of art, we cannot exclude Bauhaus' influence on American art education. In addition to this direct influence, US higher education system has also been influenced by German universities. For example, the education system advocated by Wilhelm von Humboldt affected such universities as Harvard and Yale. Humboldt's education concepts opposed national intervention in education, advocating independence, stressing individual freedom and qualities. These traits can still be seen in the US higher education system. In this sense, it is not hard to grasp the essence of American art. Of course, when we talk about the relations between modern art and art education, we may understand the development of art from another perspective. This is an issue related to art's genealogy. We may as well return to your works. I know your artworks in Germany were all painted prior to 2002. Your abstract painting, though absorbing certain German new expressionist methods, is very different. In your paintings there is an aesthetic core, namely a kind of Chinese aesthetic view. You adopt a very simple form language, which, unlike heavy and strong colors and lines used by German artists to create tension, reflects that you have applied in many more cases a static, simple and concise language. What's the reason?
Wang: Actually, the man who exerted the greatest influence on me is Paul Klee. He should not be considered an abstract artist. He was a surrealist painter. For Chinese people, his works are very abstract. I have been thinking about a question: many teachers in the Bauhaus school were not designers but they trained a great number of top designers. From the perspective of education, this is worthy of research. My understanding is that they all spoke of the most basic language and constituent elements with respect to modelling. In other words, they all condensed the abstract from the realistic and developed such abstractions within the spirit of science. The focus is put on constituent elements rather than on the analysis of traditional design and technique on the superficial level of the realistic. They sought for methods of form construction that underlie model designing.
You asked about my feeling for my art. I think an artist's works should be a reflection of his surging heart, which is very important. I have a clear and firm stand on art: art is the manifestation of the artist's spirit. Art's complexity and singularity do not contradict themselves. The point is that viewers can understand what you mean, and your works should be very pure. I often say I can speak the German and English languages. But when it comes to speaking a language, I can only choose one to express myself. Even if I were a superman, I could speak two languages at the same time, but nobody would understand me. So the consciousness of art could only be expressed by one's own behaviour. Although I have numerous consciousnesses, I can merely use the most concise way of expression to affect viewers. The confusion in an artist's mind would directly lead to disorder in his works. The result would make the painting seemingly rich in content, but in fact it is an accumulation of rubbish, and embraces no thoughts whatever.

Huang: Please talk about your art in detail. If I'm an ordinary visitor, I may have trouble in understanding abstract works. For example, what is the core of abstract art? What is its aesthetic essence?
Wang: What is abstract art? What is its purpose? For me, the meaning of abstract art must be mentioned in terms of space and time. There is a relatively big difference in understanding abstract art in the East and West. I do not want to illustrate it in detail. But they all produce a feeling on the spiritual level. We cannot illustrate each artist's difference in thought. I never regard my works as Western abstract art. I should be called an advocate of symbolism with a hue of Eastern humanism or even an artist embodying the realist and abstract. My artworks combine the realist and abstract elements, which seem to be an oppositional unity. The pure abstract, in my understanding, has gone, along with its representatives such as Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky. My view of art is that we should condense various elements under contemporary material culture to create new spatial and visual impressions through repetition of continuity and variation. This visual impression is absolute spiritual stimulation, including instinctive physical reflexes. My works are realist manifestations of the abstract. This is a new concept and sounds seemingly contradictory, but it is clear. Every minute touch in my work embodies a formless image. Look at my works at a distance, they seem to be a mass of colors. Take a closer look at them, and you will find they are new images. My artistic creation is derived from my spiritual experiences of daily life. The garbled-codes painting series is my critique of current computer era because computer culture has encroached upon our independent thinking and forced us to accept things passively. We must admit the reading mode after the variation in data storage has changed our past living experiences. In essence, I'm a researcher and constructor of signs, as well as their deconstructor. Construction and deconstruction aim to criticize contemporary society. Abstract signs, a unity of contradictions, possess realist and abstract attributes. These signs do not represent the abstract, so my works are not the continuity of abstract painting. But my works seem to have certain traits of the abstract. I think my psychological status or spiritual way of thinking differs from that of Piet Mondrian or Wassily Kandinsky. That may be attributed to the influence of the Chinese culture upon me. The Eastern culture is a highly condensed culture of symbolism. China's culture almost has no abstract, but the Eastern culture has more humanist symbolism. Metaphor, personification, inoculation, conversion and resetting are all major methods for art creation. This is a philosophy of the East rather than the West. The West emphasizes more of the material level. Take the colour yellow as an example. What is the ontological thing about yellow? It can be studied scientifically through data and reports from the physical to the spiritual level. This practice would be a major component of the development of culture. I did not continue the painting style of Mondrian or Kandinsky, for such continuity would be meaningless. This is not my practice in art. I want to find myself, either the realist in the abstract or surpassing the abstract and realist. I do not admit myself as abstract or realist. My purpose is to depict a person's psychological status, actually to paint my own status, the status in the twinkle of a moment. The realist and abstract are not that important, but they are a dilemma an artist would have to confront during the process of creation. If he solves this dilemma, he shall find a space for himself. 

Huang: What is this status?
Wang: Me at various stages: childhood, youth, in the university, or at work. When the concept of me is put into a group category, all the concepts related to me and my ways of existence are contradictory. My feelings, gained through feelings or experiences, are either annihilated or abandoned. I could only exist on the spiritual level.

Huang: Are those feelings abstract or real?
Wang: These feelings are extracted from real materials at the spiritual level, and never come to an end.

Huang: What do you want in the end? What exactly is that?
Wang: Do you mean the form of art? If it is, I want to establish a unique view of art in terms of thoughts on art, and to create and deconstruct symbols in terms of visual forms. For instance, my empty-layer painting series. This dual-layer or multi-layer way of expression as well as unique deconstructive symbols break normal consciousness of art and anti-visual effects, thus aiming to surpass myself in terms of expression of art, and analyzes coexistence.

Huang: Then, since your innovation has been established on the basis of the history of art, it does not mean that you have not conducted research on previous artists. Without such research, how have you made your innovation?
Wang: Yes, you're right.

Huang: If you have not done research on Mondrian or Kandinsky, how do you know what his core view is? How do you know you want to go beyond them?
Wang: I don't mean I would not do research on them. On the contrary, I'm their pious supporter. Their theories on abstract model art have exerted great influence on me. Especially with respect to modelling, I have been confronted with various problems almost every day. Except painting, my second art is studying architecture and relevant works. Speaking of basic theories of abstract art, I think these two artists have reached a peak. Later generations could hardly surpass them.

Huang: Then how did Pollock surpass others? There are no absolute things in the history of art. Anything could become outdated.
Wang: But I think Pollock went back to become a realist in his later years. Why? Because he was not that firm in terms of abstract art. In addition, I believe we cannot interpret artworks in the way an artist transcends the history of art. Making a hierarchical comparison would actually put art into the category of scientific logic.

Huang: Let's talk about Pollock's action painting. He was surpassed by minimal abstraction, wasn't he?
Wang: It is hard to make a comparison because they represent different ideas. In my understanding, Pollock was not an absolute supporter of abstract art. 

Huang: Yes.
Wang: I feel Pollock's lines are …

Huang: You mean his lines are very realist.
Wang: The lines are very sentimental, with a hue of romanticism. Abstract art should be characterized by having no subject matters, symbolism, logic or politics.

Huang: According to this interpretation, anybody could draw a line, which may be of the realist.
Wang: The key is a linear combination.

Huang: If I follow you correctly, anyone could draw a line, which is realist.
Wang: No, it depends, because research methods may differ.

Huang: This is only my understanding.
Wang: This is merely my personal understanding. I think Pollock represents abstract romanticism. When I was in Germany, I saw many artworks. They gave me a pure singular visual feeling, hard to express in any certain atmosphere. They are almost inscrutable.

Huang: In this way, parallel lines Lee Ufan painted from the Zen perspective are also realist. 
Wang: Zen is a status and style of existence, which is hard to explain plainly.

Huang: If I say Mono-ha artists' works also represent realist art, all of our art would then become realist.
Wang: Mondrian attributed all existence in the world to geometry, while Kandinsky wrote Point and Line to Plane in which he studied the relationship between points, lines and planes and their characters. For example, a horizontal line breaks suddenly and the emotion it arouses changes. But what Pollock studied is linear repetition and feelings, a kind of multi-layer visual logic…

Huang: This is my understanding.
Wang: Also my understanding.

Huang: We share a common view of this. 
Wang: Common things actually have differences. One difference is to leave a space for others to develop. Moving between the gaps is thrilling as well as dangerous. In addition, many artists do not admit but always argue about their identity. The defiance of an identity shows inner conflicts and antagonism with the external world. Those who dare to negate themselves deserve to be called artists.

Huang: Since you said your works are realist, you also mentioned that your soul defies an external world. My question is, how do you manifest the realist in your works?
Wang: My works presents a two-layer concept, both the inner and the external. Two-layer or multi-layer concepts oppose each other and cannot be unified. The concept empty-layer is called empty when the framework is made. A layer in such paintings becomes a carrier for cultural thoughts and spiritual consciousness. I compare my painting's first-layer space to a criticism of deconstructive symbols, while the second layer, a layer of organic existence, is believed to be a collection of realist constituent elements. For example, I say I live on the seventh floor of a building, but the inside is almost empty, only me there, and in fact, I am floating. How do we understand this? There is everything on the seventh floor or we may say there is nothing there. Because cultural thoughts are floating, even though they need carriers, they never stall or anchor in one place, always moving around in space. As a result, the carrier conflicts, contradicts and breaks with the framework of the building. Or they depend on each other while remaining independent. My realist paintings strive to create contradictions and conflicts in the same space.

Huang: What do you refer to this?
Wang: This is my view of art.

Huang: For example, being or emptiness, empty-layer and … You just said empty-layer and what?
Wang: The inner and external of the empty layer.
Huang: Inner and outer.
Wang: That means there appears two or many different forms of expression under the same framework. They are oppositional.

Huang: Then there is a result in the end. You cannot say there is no result in this dual opposition. What purpose do you want to achieve in terms of aesthetics?
Wang: Speaking of dual opposition, I think the result should be left for viewers to think.

Huang: You eventually get a form, don't you? You just said your works are realist, then what's the meaning of the form of the realist?
Wang: In my understanding, it is a formless image. Mondrian's abstractions can be summarized as a study in geometrical forms, while I attempt to smash the concepts of the abstract and realist. The existence of any object should be both realist and abstract or involve many aspects. First, human beings are typical of possessing realist and abstract ways of thinking. The society I portrayed in my paintings is finally to express human thoughts. My feelings and the things I expressed in the end may not match anything visual. But they are inevitably interrelated. Ants could be small moving humans or maggots, or a group of abstract colour points. The realist representation is an important means to reach an abstract way of thinking. I want to reflect a carrier, but it doesn't mean I have to imbue this carrier with a realist meaning, and at the same time, I cannot deny the existence of the carrier.

Huang: Then it becomes abstract again?
Wang: Abstract on the spiritual level.

Huang: Aren't you painting the realist? You just said that...
Wang: The abstract can be manifested by the realist, which is a carrier. For example, cultural inheritance of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism is carried out and felt through the existence of nature or human activities, including mountains, rivers, cities, ancient historical sites or temples. Materials' fragmented images in memory direct our feeling and thinking on the spiritual level or in our minds, which brings about mass spreading of culture that cannot be described in visual languages.
Huang: Let's move back to concrete topics, rather than pursue abstract ones. You may as well talk about your own works.
Wang: I mean I do my paintings between the two, namely the abstract and realist. I think I combine them together, sometimes I don't, so I'm always in this contradiction. Only in a contradiction can artists maintain their wisdom. This contradiction gives rise to a pursuit of knowledge and keeping a vanguard and pioneering spirit.

Huang: Are you saying your thinking is abstract while what you painted is realist?
Wang: Abstract thinking is to solve the problem concerning the essence of art. My painting contains realist elements, which are not realist images or objects. My painting carries a critical and implied reference. Realist criticism of the abstract is a view of art I advocated. The paintings I did recently are mostly of two layers. The background is a jumble of realist images while the foreground is characterized by a mass of colours and planes composed of twisted points and lines. Both layers strive to express and deconstruct subjects in their respective way. So artworks in a space have a certain distance. This distance is left for viewers to think.

Huang: In speaking of the distance between your works and others' works in terms of space, do you think yours have a different space from others, and do others think so too? This comprises two questions.
Wang: Do I reach the degree that my thinking differs from what I actually painted? I don't know. If my art gives viewers a certain spiritual thinking, and has a certain social attribute in space, then I have achieved my purpose. 

Huang: I presume your painting has not achieved a result? You have made it clear that the result is realist. But for a viewer, he thinks it is abstract, and cannot understand that your painting is realist.
Wang: The problem is that when my instant moment and soul are released, the results mean to me only in the visual sense and I will be tortured again spiritually.

Huang: But you mentioned this.
Wang: Yes, that gives viewers a visual and heart feeling.

Huang: That only lures viewers.
Wang: I don't. I only offer them empty layers to discharge their feelings.

Huang: I think there are two types of painting. One type is to illustrate the painting yourself; the other is giving viewers a freedom to interpret. Which type do you choose?
Wang: I do not need viewers to interpret painting for me. Rather, I choose to do it myself. Art is produced from the heart and is done by meditation. Art is an experience of the five senses, of which the heart is the most important for thinking. Thinking in one's mind means he is giving his own explanation. Only by reaching this situation, can a person's creation go smooth, without distractions. The integration of an innovative way of thinking with new technology is my belief in creation. I would spend ten hours each day to think of how to do my painting, and how to make a breakthrough in the existing style of art.

Huang: What's the target you want to break through? I would like to know it. You mentioned breaking through something earlier. I think there should be a target. For example, we break through pop art, conceptual art, action art, abstract art, land art or a certain art in language and words. We need a target. We cannot talk about it in an abstract way.
Wang: The target is there but it blocks my vision. In other words, I cannot create any duplicates of targets that have already existed. Surpassing myself is hard for me, because the process of growing up has already burdened my shoulders, back and mind. That is to say, the targets of art are suppressing my body. I shouted loudly, I would annihilate them all, wishing for my own existence. But this is a paranoid or crazy idea for an artist. Since you are a member of an existing framework, you must obey the regulation within the framework. I'm a loner and loser because surpassing itself needs sacrifice. I only wish I would not die so bitterly, so I could at least be a solemn and heroic loser.

Huang: Because in terms of the history of art, I do not mean every artist should know the history of art to make a breakthrough.
Wang: Right.

Huang: I feel there are several kinds of artists. One is an intuitive artist who relies on senses and experiences to judge art. The other is a rational artist who does art creation through accumulation of various knowledge, including knowledge of the history of art, as well as experiences. This is the basis  we say of those who are capable of making a breakthrough. Whatever kind he belongs to, he has to build his work on a certain experience. The so-called experience means you must know something about problems, of which you make an analysis. What are problems composed of? We can observe problems through the phenomena of art, culture or society. Is it right? Of course, this is not just for China's art. It is the same for Western art. Speaking of a breakthrough in art, I think it actually refers to one made in art's genealogy.
Wang: Dialectically speaking, it is like a high-speed train that has no reference; its speed cannot be identified. Even if the meters can prove the train is moving, the authenticity of meters cannot be verified. When you are standing on the train, your instinct tells you it is moving. The same applies to a breakthrough in hypothesis. The key is what serves as a reference. Artists do not have to worry there are no references. In fact, there are too many. Especially when the reference is set at the centre of a circle, the train of art has to revolve round it. You think the train is moving itself, but it makes a circular movement, a worthless movement. The centripetal force makes you unable to get ride to get rid ?? of references. As you said, experience, accumulation and judgment restrict the artist's advancement. So grasping the history of art is very important. Only by grasping it can a person find a certain gap in the genealogy of art. The gap in space predicts success. My breakthrough may lie in this tiny gap, though it is very hard to find. 

Huang: I think there is a problem. In your idea of art, if in an international framework of art, you'll have to make a comparison or use a reference. What do you think of your works in this international situation and how to do it?
Wang: Whatever it is, modern Western art or China's contemporary art, I have been concerned about it. Perhaps I stayed in Germany for a long time. I find it easier to repel than accept it. I cannot explain the international framework of art. I stand at the door of the framework to get a mere look, fearing to step inside. In my heart, I want to transcend the framework rather than break the siege of it. Breaking the siege and transcending are different in that the former may be annihilated in case of a failure while the latter can achieve a compromise in that case. But artworks cannot be compromised; they represent the souls of artists. We are living in various frameworks after all; sometimes I cannot escape from these frameworks, being trapped there to become a member or accomplice. If I have a reference, I would say it is Anish Kapoor, who I think is an artist with great wisdom, being unfathomable, changeable and formless. He doesn't belong to any framework of art.

Huang: Your recent works contain words, formed by squeezing colours, and some holes. Why did you have such considerations?
Wang: This is due to the effects of expression. Lucio Fontana solved an entangled problem between two and three dimensions after making three cuts in the canvas. He made an innovation in time and space, a subversive innovation. But to me, I did not strive to pursue such a spatial effect. The space I desire is in fact a necessity of methods for visual expression. I need a kind of empty layer and dialysis. What's that? I just mentioned this is spiritual emptiness. The empty can represent the concrete. My emptiness differs from Fontana's concept of three dimensions. My void stands for the real, not the other way round. It is an integration of spiritual soul and natural attributes of a human's gender.

Huang: Lucio Fontana's works involve an issue concerning a painting's border. Before making a cut at his canvas, he published the White Manifesto in 1946, in which he discussed the time and speed in painting materials. So it is not hard to understand his motivation when he cut canvas in 1948. Of course, Fontana's works reflect a kind of change in space. To me, when Fontana was applying a knife to his canvas, this is not just a change in space, but subverts the painting's border. In some sense, he made a painting into a sculpture. This is a big leap for Fontana in art. When his cut was being made, the painting became a sculpture, and no longer a two-dimensional thing. So I think Fontana's works embrace a revolutionary spirit in terms of art's concepts.
Wang: This I just feel ... 

Huang: What distinguishes your works and Fontana's? If Fontana emphasized the occasional use of knife in his creation, you put a stress on natural things, which are the core of Chinese aesthetic. For example, you put a few holes in the painting, which are not left on purpose. Things projecting on your painting look like a kind of texture, or fossilized things, or ant-like things... When looking at your painting, we can feel we see a miniature world in this universe-like world. It is like we regard the earth as a miniature world, everything appears knaggy. This is perhaps the core concept in your painting.
Wang: Thanks for your penetrating explanation. For example, Fontana's art you mentioned created a revolutionary milestone in art — action space and painting, an art of spirit and space. In terms of time and space you talked about, we can put the whole history of art as a ruler of time and space. We use this ruler to define artists of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. We may say these artists are impressionist, while those are of Pop art. The rest of them are marked as Fluxus. I think all these defined artists must be sad, because the meaning of their existence is not reflected, and the aesthetic concepts labelling them are defined by others. The self-asserted artists become duplicates, like printers. The difference may be good or bad on the technological level at the most. So I feel the cruellest thing for art is to create rubbish if there is no innovation. Time serves as a ruthless ruler. When thinking of this ruler, I shiver. I must strive forward. The best result would be a solemn and heroic end.

Huang: If your painting has a certain internal association while Western abstract painting has some tension, there should be no question which one is better. If your painting is poetic, Western painting is more poetic. If your painting shows natural things, Western works emphasize unnatural things, more individual and subjective. Through interpretation of the differences, we can know the core of art. For example, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye used tattooing on pigs, and even adopted tattoos on a certain person. Of course, it is a design tattooed on that person. Then the person was sold and collected. This work reflects a certain contract relationship underlying capitalism. Of course, this work has its subversive character, subverting capitalist issues such as morality, ethics and law. This is an interesting topic. The man with tattooed designs doesn't belong to himself, but that collector. The tattooed person and the collector have formed a contract, in which his tattooed skin becomes a commodity.
Wang: I saw that. 

Huang: Wim's ideas have directly touched the essence of Western system. This is a difficult question to discuss. 
Wang: A certain Chinese painter is working on a similar theme. For example, with land contract as a theme, the painter exposes the loss of peasants' rights in land reforms.

Huang: This is dangerous. I think it is a challenge posed to this system. But what the artist did accords with the Western system. Interestingly, the three sides, namely the artist, the tattooed person and the collector formed a contract. Particularly, this tattooed person cannot be exhibited without agreement. When considering this problem. I think of Chinese artists. When facing their relationship with society, what do they think of their art? Whether we should borrow the Western system of art to build our own is certainly a very complicated issue.
Wang: I thought you have talked very well. It's also difficult to expose art's self institution and system. In fact, you have talked a lot. I believe many viewers have put everything in Wim's works, including forms and materials, into their minds and created far greater imagination than what Wim did in his works. The existence of works is only a way of memory. All that you described about his works have resulted in a resonance in viewers, artists and related participants. That piece of work, at least to me, was seen by me. I have a greater desire for such an idea to oppose systems. Certainly, I don't think art can settle everything. Neither can it become a puppet of politics. Painting is a "self" form, a bag that contains things. The key is how to criticize and interpret the psychology under the bag.

Huang: Sometimes I think the core of artists like Wim is the expansion of art's border and involves some entangled problems. It can be said that he used a kind of body language to intervene in and criticize political, social and cultural systems. In fact, he introduced the body as a commodity into the social system. This is the artist's challenge to current social values. Wim did not do this product occasionally. Before this, he did another interesting work, changing a person's body into an installation. This machine contains the whole body's digestive system. That is to say, our whole digestive system is made into a machine. You see what is eaten, how it is digested and turns into excrement. The whole process is completed with a large installation. When we see this machine, we can only see the machine itself. In fact, the whole machine hides many problems. Some are related to technology, while others involve an analysis of the body and the history of art, especially art's integration since Dadaism. For instance, from Marcel Duchamp's Spring to Piero Manzoni's cans sealed with the text Artist's Shit, Wim proposed a subversion to a large system of art since Dadaism. So when I mentioned Wim just now, he was not an artist who appeared occasionally in history. He was actually the one with rational thinking.
Wang: When you mentioned his works, I thought of Susan Lange, a writer and art critic. I read a lot of her books. The phenomenon you mentioned just now made me think of her, who advocated art should have no relationship with current society.

Huang: That's a formalist criticism.
Wang: How do you understand this sentence? Until today, I have been thinking these issues. Whether art can transcend one or two worlds, and whether art is an example you just mentioned: contract is a phenomenon of capitalist society. Artists such as Duchamp, Klee, Mondrian and Pollock do not reflect politics and systems of contemporary society in their paintings' contents and styles. These artists actually manifest their psychology, which hasn't much to do with social phenomena.   

Huang: This actually involves two kinds of art: one is of society, concerning the content; the other is of concepts or body language. The revolution we say in art is actually one in form, or in concept. It is not just in content, isn't it?
Wang: Yes.

Huang: So the art bequeathed in the modern history of art depends on the revolution either in form, or in language or in concept. This is the case. Whatever it is, land art, action art, conceptual art, Arte Povera, Mono-ha, Minimalism, Beuys's concept of social sculpture, and video art, they are not just an issue concerning content, they are more of concept or form language.
Wang: You just asked my view of China's contemporary artworks. In fact you answered and commented on them for me. I think you know what I meant.

Huang: Why did you choose a method like squeezing or embossing to handle your painting?
Wang: The methods of squeezing a painting are many. For example, Richter spread his color onto a big steel plate, and pressed it with a roller. I may say I'm a researcher on painting materials. Squeezing and pressing aren't revolutionary methods. The key is the extent in squeezing and pressing. That's meant to create a visual method of expression and consider whether to put one's spirit. For example, I just said that painting is a "self" form and a bag. The key is how to criticize and interpret a psychology under the bag. So there must be a process of design and fabrication for my painting before it is actually made. 

Huang: In other words, there is a process of design at an early stage for your painting.
Wang: Right.

Huang: You don't mean the process is a casual one.
Wang: I'm precise at work. For each painting, it took me two months to reach my standard. I rack my brains to think how to accomplish my concepts. Look at these colours. The feeling one gets from this colour differs from that from another colour. Quantity control in colours and subsidiary materials for mixing colours directly affect the shrinking texture of colours. More oil is added for this colour, and then its efflorescence is made more prominent. Look at that black one, whose efflorescence is obvious. That can only be done well when oil is fully employed. At the same time, I need to study technological methods in production as well as technological feasibility. I just mentioned Anish Kapoor. His works are the results of mathematics, physics and high-technology. What is fantastic is that his works result in a spiritual manifestation on the non-material level. He has an intelligent and scientific mind, and possesses an artist's acumen. In front of his work, the one with a tornado installation, I lingered for an hour in appreciation. 

Huang: Your paintings contain many, like this word. But they aren't like any of today's words. They resemble garbled codes. Are these garbled codes inspired by those on computer screen?
Wang: Yes. I feel they are very interesting. When you open a picture, software incompatibility makes the picture turn into garbled codes. What you see contradicts what you expect. At this moment, you will think. Why is that? You may think for a few seconds, and then you continue trying to open it. You download some software and try to open it again. Even if the picture is opened and restored, your expectation has fully changed. This is very interesting. It is a post-humanist virus produced in the computer era. I said this virus is also a displacement of scientific research, and worthy of further research. At the same time I'm also attempting a semantic conversion.

Huang: Will your painting last long in terms of language or style?
Wang: I feel it should be understood like this: symbolizing my works and making a quantitative analysis, but that does not match my character. I'm in a constant pursuit of things. I just said the result is not important. What I seek is an attitude of looking forward. Maybe when I die one day, my works will also certainly change. I'm in constant change. If I were ill – or dead , all will be history to me. I should  then go on, without any chance to go back. Nor is there an end. For example, I have been studying a new work.

Huang: What's it?
Wang: I want to re-deconstruct human nature under the condition of a projecting texture. The painting is simple yet complicated. I'm always in contradiction. Yesterday, it should be the evening two days ago. I painted a painting and felt good. I need a process of thinking again and again. If the process is painful, the result would be delightful.

Huang: Yes. Painting certainly is a process of constant negation and subversion because it cannot become a fixed thing. Even if it is fixed, it is still relative: a form at some stage. Take Picasso as an example. Although he was a painter of traditional modernism, he still moved forward in subversion.
Wang: Negating oneself.

Huang: This is also a major law for painting.
Wang: Your question has returned to contemporary China's art. Many people fear to negate themselves. Why? Actually, self-negation can make people blaze a new path. If an artist is unwilling or afraid to do so, I think he is a coward, and thus his space becomes narrower until he is suffocated to death.

Huang: All right. We have exchanged many views for a long time, so let's call it a day.