Art in Restrictions
Liu Jude

While most people think that the creation of artistic work is a free process without any restriction, Mr. Wang Xiaosong argues that art is born in restrictions. As he once said, you are given a cup of water and you have to make artistic works out of it. Such a cup of water is the restriction for your artistic creation, and that's it, nothing more. This could be called a challenge to the restriction. In the face of this challenge, you have to think, imagine and put forward ideas within those limitations. This is called surviving the critical time. It is also a process where you tap your artistic potential within the limitation. This defines the style of Wang Xiaosong's artistic creation.

From the perspective of the arts, the process of creation will meet with restrictions in such aspects as materials, techniques, tools and styles which often present contradictions to the imagination of the artist. The creativity of artists depends on their capacity for transcending reality, natural images, social values, as well as tools, materials and techniques. Wang Xiaosong not only welcomes restrictions, he indeed creates restrictions for himself in which he finds pleasure rather than confinement. It makes a big difference if you actively respond to restrictions or otherwise. By being active, you can transform limitation or restriction into freedom, from impossibility to possibility, from commonness to excellence. Restrictions would motivate more freedom from within thus bringing out a higher quality. Therefore restrictions have not reduced but enhanced the artistic quality of  Wang Xiasong's works.

At first glance, his works are crowded with small points and circles, representing garbled codes, symbols, ants, and miniature human beings. All these symbols are pressed out from the back of a special steel plate, both artificial and natural, accidental and inevitable, exhibiting fine technique and cultural concepts. All his works were born out of calculated restrictions, including the concave and convex that influenced the choice of symbol, colour and form; the positions and orders that restrict the arrangements of different forms; the numbers that limit the image of the picture, etc. All are situated within extreme restrictions, struggling to expand from boundary to boundlessness, from subtlety to infinity. Looking from a distance, Xiaosong's works borders the chaotic. Upon closer investigation, one finds irregularity in regularity, similarities in differences. As one focuses on the details, one finds deep micro-holes  of a marvellous imagination which invites one into a more thorough exploration. It can be said that Xiaosong's paintings has gone beyond the traditional mode  and shaken off the limitations of the two-dimensional plane. Xiaosong takes advantage of restrictions and makes creation out of them. By so doing, his style of art is simple, abstract, pure and mysterious. According to Xiaosong, being abstract is more important than being concrete. This is his understanding of the philosophy of the ancient Chinese thinkers. Xiaosong was born in Hubei Province Where he was nurtured by the local culture. He was born to be a romantic. When in college, he used to be called the young Qu Yuan who was a very famous patriotic poet during the Warring States Period. 

Xiaosong once said he already had a good understanding of two adjectives before studying abroad, that is the romantic and illusory. When returning from Germany, he brought back another two adjectives, the tragic-heroic and the tense. Now he is trying to integrate the four concepts. He believes that if it is too romantic, it would look weak and powerless, while tragic heroic ideas and tension would be powerful and robust. Indeed, Chinese art is super tragic romantic infused with the beauty of natural expression instead of being utilitarian. That is  why Chinese poetic works are not as tragic heroic as western dramas. Xiaosong is trying to integrate this natural and harmonious Chinese poetic beauty with the Western tragic heroic concept. Such attempt brings out works like The Square, where there are crowds of miniature human beings, like pouring rain or raging flames. This is a metaphor of the integration of joy and sadness which may express his attempt to combine the tragic heroic and romantic styles. 

In my Class of Imagination while he was studying in China, I found him a man who enjoys taking risks. It so happened that a visiting professor named Spohn from Germany also noticed his pioneering talents and accepted Xiaosong as his student to study Imaginary Illustrations at the Hochschule der Künste (University of Art) in Berlin. During his stay in Germany, Xiaosong often sent me letters with some of his illustration works. Thanks to his own planning and production, he produced a lot of illustrations about children which are full of imagination. Flying Fish, The Rope-skipping Girl and many other works are among the best expression of his romantic, gentle and subtle emotions. When working on an artistic piece, he would pay undivided attention to knitting mountains and human beings through the arrangement of lines as thin as hair resulting in his emotions being presented in the lines made with the tracks of a knife like the network of his nerves. Similarly, later he sculpts on steel plates with crazy ecstasy and the beauty of throe. He would also use some thick lines, which tells a lot about his wild, romantic and implicit poetic ideas.

Before his graduation from the Hochschule der Künste (University of Art), Xiaosong sent me some of his works for oral exam, most of which were spherical installations. In the works, he was covered with blankets all over, including his eyes, rolling from one ball to another. He looks like a sculpture growing up from the earth, or a blind man seeking for the way out in the spherical universe. All the professors of the panel were absorbedly watching him who was like a ghost, or even a game. That's why I call him an adventurer who is not restricted by any set rules. After his return to China, he bought all the plastic basins in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. And then tens of thousands of those basins in different colours were thrown onto the Suzhou River. This is also a release of his crazy artistic pursuit and his romantic sentiments. 

Xiaosong is a courageous man who seeks for freedom and puts it in the restrictions. This is his understanding and appreciation of the inherent paradox of art.

Though with a big forehead, he is never a quiet person. His little mouth keeps talking like a roaring ocean. However, his eyes are always narrowed, blinking with excitement. I am a witness of his development from a student to an artist, from studying abroad to returning. Now, I can just look at him from behind, for he has far surpassed me on the road of artistic pursuit. 

I extend to him my warmest congratulations on his progress.