Artwork’s Title: PS
Materials Used: Ink on stretchy cloth, aluminum alloy frame
Studio Based: Beijing, China
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
My work is process-oriented, I start with images stored on computer and phone, some of which come from browsing on the web, some are discovered on my social media, all of which are screen images. I take the screenshots, send them to a workshop. Using the most “economical” printing method in garment processing – digital thermal pressing – to print these images onto white stretchy fabrics, giving the original screen image some materiality before I stretch them onto the frames. The elasticity of the fabric and the different dimensions of the screenshots and the frames force me to pull and tug the fabric while straining the frame. This results in unpredictable shape and spatial transformation of the image. Tugging on the fabric implies a kind of touch, adjustment, and empowerment – through direct physical engagement and marks to ascertain a general sense. And this kind of “tangible visuality” becomes the construct and primary element of the printed surface. Moreover, stretching implies a sort of tension in one’s suspended perceptual consciousness. Afterward, I take the framed works out of the studio and engage them with specific site of the city in a realistic way, then photograph the scene. This process is similar to being on a “hunt” or perceived as a “gesture.” Then, repeat the first steps of printing mobile phone images onto blank fabrics and then stretching them on different frames. By repeating such a generative logic, my practice forms a crystal with a dynamic structure.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Disrupted, floating and dynamic narrative, sensibility.
Speaking about your new artworks, is there any particular story behind the “PS” that you could share with us?
This work is entitled “PS,” which is the abbreviation for Photoshop, and the Latin term Post scriptum, meaning “an afterthought,” which is generally attached to the content of a letter. The image at the center of the screen is taken from the screenshot of my desktop when I open the Photoshop software on my computer. Its backdrop is a rough wooden shelf found in an abandoned Children’s Art Museum that closed down in 2020 due to the pandemic. Obviously, the stand was where the screens are fixed in the museum and were left behind once the screens were removed because the electric wires are left exposed. I put up my frames as “replacements” and photographed the site. Right then, I realized the “art museum” had transformed into a “theater,” generating a contrast between the scale of its former screen size and my canvas. In the end, the visual effects of the pulled images in a physical space and the commonplace Photoshopped image overlap, and the relationship between the real and the virtual deceives and confuses the viewer.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio, or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?
I would like to place my work in the truthful “present.” They are constantly “in transit” during the creative process, the images had to be sent out for printing and then sent back to me, like receiving a package from online shopping; although you know what to expect, there is still a degree of surprise. Half of the work is done in my studio; the other half requires me to take them out of the studio – to really put them in the real world and photograph them again. Taking them out and back is like breathing; the work is happening in this in and out process. And my creative process has always been “Confusing”, “imperfect,” which I believe is quite critical, even though my projects are outcomes of long periods of reflection and reading, etc.. Still, I’ve retained intuition, emotion, and personal state of mind that influence my practice and search, for example, the act of “pulling and tugging” or finding the next “background” for the stretched image. It is important to me to continue to have an authentic and intuitive relationship with the world.
It looks evident that you are very keen on the figurative field. Is it like a current painting series that you aim to concentrate on this period or more abstract images and motifs interest you as well?
I don’t see figuration and abstraction as two opposing styles. They are both heterogeneous and interpenetrating. I am more concerned with is the “intermediate state” of the image. In other words, I intentionally allow the images to retain a certain figurative quality, which is a way of manipulating emotions; they are more “viewer- friendly” and accessible. The actual self-reflexive quality of the work is inherently embedded in the world of games and the internet. Different “places” and information are intertwined, replete with ambiguity and paradox between the real and the imaginary.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
That you’re going to somewhere specific and that doesn’t seem like a very interesting map for me, i don’t want to feel like I’m going anywhere very specific.I have a bewildering wish, while I sense that reality has lost its sense of history and depth. Everything likes a stacked browser window on a computer and put on the same plane. What makes the familiar strange? What makes the unfamiliar familiar? This naturally leads to the communication of one’s feelings through consumer culture, and the bodily and quotidian life, spectacle performance, and other cultural phenomena enter my vision. I also try to find the poetic in the contemporary life scene.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
I hope the works embody a logic of suspension, a state of equilibrium that properly belongs to the present, which corresponds to the pulling and tugging of the canvas, generating an intense state of perceptual suspension. It implies a state of intense concentration, which describes and symbolizes the transient instability associated with stillness. The works aim to reconstitute a “scene” that generates a counterbalance to themselves, making the objects of the work that intervene in the “place” and mutate in the performance.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
My favorite artists are not limited to the visual realm. When I am working, I sometimes play electronic music by Wolfgang Tillmans. However, I must confess that my recent work has brought me closer to and reacquainted with Francis Bacon, as well as Shi Tao and Qi Baishi.
Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed when an artwork’s making process is finished?
I intentionally keep my works in an “open-ended” state.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
Currently, my art studio is in the Chaoyang District in Beijing, which is also the Central Business District of the city. I change the workspace quite regularly. I don’t expect to have a permanent and steady studio. I hope that the studio is constantly migrating, and usually, when I move to a new place, I don’t make too many changes to space and try to keep its previous “identity” as much as possible. The décor of my current studio is left from the last tenant, which is what a typical Chinese middle-class family prefers. It looks very homey, and I create and hang these pieces of mine. It is also important to me and my work to be genuinely engaged with the city.
What do your mum and dad think about your art?
They were both business people, and I have followed them since I was a childand our family members often headed to different places for business reasons. So, they don’t necessarily know what Art I’m doing, but they can understand why I do it.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
A couple of days ago, I watched an exhibition on my friend’s phone. He took a video with his phone in a group exhibition that included Miriam Cahn’s works. I took his perspective and watched the presentation with music playing faintly in the video in the next hall.
Which are your plans for the near future?
I am conceiving and preparing for a performance, which can be considered an extension of previous work. I am also working on preparing for future exhibitions.
All images courtesy of the artist