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【2014】Painting's Stammer — Wang Minan

Wang Yin’s paintings always intentionally depart from the directions of an era. This departure has two aspects: firstly, he would never place any elements of ‘today’ within the painting. In other words, the traces of an era in his painting have been completely cleansed. History in this way is also thoroughly erased to the extent that there is not even a shimmer of ideology from the painting surface. In regards to the lofty ideology of contemporary Chinese artists, there is also a clear departure from this trajectory. He discreetly eludes the vastness of history, whilst at the same time discreetly removing himself away from the sheer weight of art movements. The other kind of departure are forms of distancing himself from the dominant methods of art making of today and also those methods that specifically dominate painting. As a matter of fact, most of the dominant painting styles, without exception, signify a fashion in painting or an overwhelming trend. But with Wang Yin he idiosyncratically returns to old-fashioned methods of painting, those which seemingly have been cast away–it is from the past where he finds his inspiration.


So what does this notion of old-fashioned painting signify for Wang Yin? It appears like a form of ‘immature’ painting that exudes the air of the traditional–they are the ‘ancestors’ of painting. In regards to the present, it even appears to be an evolved form of immature painting, and also like a painting brimming with local feeling. Wang Yin has never abandoned a type of ‘soil’ to formulate a style of painting - he even goes as far to intentionally increase the intensity of this taste for ‘soil’ oil painting. To this end, he employs a lot of muddy hues of pigment to infuse his work to the full with this local ‘air’, even becoming a specialist of painting: he gets a child to scoop the ground out of a grass lawn to reveal the soil covered under the grass, making the soil bloom in the shape of a flower.



Wang Yin uses many different ways to turn his works into ‘soil’: he paints many settings, but there are never any cities included; he paints interiors (even a train interior), but there are never any modern furniture; he has painted many figures, but this is frequently reserved to the cultural characteristics of an ethnic community. He has also painted plenty of self-portraits, but they are either masked or they are in the manner of a peasant. He has also painted many nudes, but they are never according to the taste of today’s nude. Then there are also many paintings of flowers, but they are always in the style of folk painting, even going as far as inviting a folk painter to directly paint on his own canvas. Not only that, but he also frequently employs the painting techniques popular in the Soviet-era during 1950 to 1970. Thus, Wang Yin’s work displays a very characteristic language: one aspect is the vocabulary of Soviet painting, which by-and-large has been abandoned by almost everyone. The other aspect is the magnificent combination of a painting vocabulary people would regard as rustic or old-fashioned–it’s simply the kind of juxtaposition that is simply unprecedented! Is there a combination like this that can give rise to such unique paintings? A kind of painting that is ‘behind the times’? And is there anything like these painting that are far from the mainstream as these? But how are people to view this notion of being ‘out of fashion’? People can say that this being ‘out of fashion’ is intentional and a deliberate form of distancing with our particular era. For a long duration of time, Wang Yin has intentionally longed to maintain a distance from the mainstream circle of art– he is more a spectator of the art world. However, within this bustling scene, with the ones truly sober, are they also not the spectators too? A good artist is one who establishes a distance with the times. In other words, they intentionally disengage themselves from the era; they use an anachronistic way to exist in this era, engaging with the current era as a detached observer. A good writer does not adopt the mainstream language to write, nor would the writer allow the vernacular vocabulary of the street to obstruct his work. On the contrary, he always collects old-fashioned words or he refurbishes these words in order to attain new connotations. There are also a few writers, who always speak of people in purposeless sentences. The same also applies for painting, a good artist will use key elements found outside of the present age to overflow the era they find themselves in.


Using this as a pretext to break away from the pretensions of today’s era, but also to break away from being fiercely engulfed by the era, his intention is to open up a new space within the era he is situated in. For this reason, he escapes to the outside in order to draw from the outside to agitate this era – this notion of outside is both a spatial outside, but also a temporal outside. In regards to Wang Yin, the temporal form of an ‘outside’ is the ‘past’ – the past that has been thrown behind by the present era. His spatial notion of ‘outside’ is ‘folk’ culture, it is the taste of ethnic cultural minorities, and it is the painting techniques of the Soviet Union. This is his way of calling to folk culture, calling to the Soviet Union style, calling to the ethnic minorities, and calling to the origins of a local rustic feeling. All of these things together constitutes the ‘outside’ that is behind the time of the present era. He uses this ‘outside’ of our time to provoke the current era and to cause a feeling of uneasiness. In other words, he enters the art of today by way of preserving a distance to the art of the current era. A good artist always adopts a method of self-isolation to maintain a form of resisting against the contemporary trends of the time.


Consequently, he does not conform to the times when he paints. "To speak correctly was never the greatest characteristic of a writer and it is also not an issue we concern ourselves with (Deleuze).” There are times when a writer needs to make visible the limits of language in order to link the writing together, thereby drawing people’s attention to this kind of language itself, whilst at the same time, it also highlights the customary forms of repression induced by the dominant forms of language. Simultaneously, a good painter does not allow the elements or traits of mainstream painting to filter into the painter’s canvas, he needs to work around the limits of its language in order to paint. He needs to stutter while he paints, there are times when one most also assume that they do not know how to paint in order for the painter to commit all sorts of painterly ‘mistakes’. It is like everyone speaking a standard national language - he inexplicably has to speak dialect instead. He needs to have his own accent and he also strives to preserve personal habits of pronunciation and a style of phrasing that comes from his childhood. It is precisely in the same way that a good writer will break down the conventional modes of language itself, a good painter needs to develop an individual idiosyncratic vocabulary; it is a mode of speech possessing one’s own accent, a mode of painting with a stutter.


It is this kind of ‘painterly stutter’, which Wang Yin would regularly interpret as a kind of ‘accent’ in painting. He does not speak the standard language of painting, nor is he fluent in its grammar when he speaks. His painting is a kind of stammer of the paintbrush. It is a way of stuttering shedding light onto many different aspects: his images appear disjointed. The lines and color always appear interrupted, he does not even paint lines or to put it more precisely: he does not attempt to paint fluent lines. He more often will lump on the essential components, Wang Yin’s paintings are a composite of connections brought together piece by piece: each piece overcomes the other; they engulf one another; they mutually press one another; and they also constrict one another. As a result they will never appear smooth, they hesitate, stammer, the canvas chokes with emotion. In the bumps, there are times when the areas of color hover, seemingly conflicted, and hovering over a short moment of stasis. In short, they can never be fluid, neither swift, nor smooth, or even flat, there is never a flow of unrestrained vocabulary – instead they seemingly have been simply rolled and kneaded together. The figures that he paints usually are bent from the waist, these bodies are similarly also cramped. Even with the figures intentionally painted with longer legs, these legs also have a stammer. Although these legs are slender, but they are certainly not smooth.


This kind of stuttering painting causes people to think of painting as a particularly difficult exercise. The paintbrush causes one to be in a state of hesitation, there always appears to be an array of different possibilities, and there are always different forms of hesitation in making certain decisions. The painting’s surface always possesses awkwardness and is always inhibited: regardless of whether it is the impeding brush or the obstacle of meaning. In the work of Wang Yin, there is never something straightforward to see – it is precisely like a nervous person’s speech, a person with a stammer, or a person fumbling. In the same way, he makes it difficult for people to immediately understand what he means. As a consequence, people often say that this type of work is too obscure or that it is too intransigent. But for Wang Yin, obscurity and this kind of stuttering is precisely the style he strives for. It is precisely through obscurity and this stutter that he is able to avoid becoming coerced by the tastes of this present era. It is also through obscurity and the stutter that the scenes of his paintings can prompt people to spend more time to engage the work - people are also able to afford more attention to the meaning expressed on the canvas through his practice, people are able to look more closely at the movements of his brush on the canvas. As a result, it is not too important what kind of subject matter is painted. In fact, Wang Yin is involved with many kinds of subject matter on the canvas. If you look from the perspective of the subject matter at hand, people will say that it is unclear what category of subject matter Wang Yin is dealing with in the painting. In actuality, he is not the kind of painter modeled after its subject matter. He has painted numerous figures, but it is not for want of understanding the intrinsic nature of these figures, he has never sought to paint the psychological state of his figures.


He has painted many scenes, still life (flowers in particularly), but he has never sought to reveal the beauty (or ugliness) of this scenery or still life to people, nor has he ever attempted to insert a particular ‘feeling’ into them. In other words, with this kind of subject matter, Wang Yin discards altogether the kind of subject matter painting strives to sublimate. So what category of painter is Wang Yin then? He is neither a painter of scenery or a figure painter, neither a still life painter, and he is especially not the painter who will tell stories. He is not the kind of painter colored by a clear ideology: this is because he is not the antagonistic kind of painter, he is of course not a ‘compassionate’ painter – there is also not much satire or humor in his painting. He does not really tell a story, as he is not a narrative painter, he is rather difficult to pinpoint as he does not fall within any categories of painting. Furthermore, he is especially not in this sense, an ordinary formulistic painter either, this is because he does not seek a particular form as an objective to strive for–there is no particular form he aspires to explore in a thorough manner. Of course, he certainly appreciates the value of form, but for him the value of form is through the objective of breaking it up. Rather than exploring form, it would be better to describe his approach as exploring forms of obstruction and the limitations of form. 


To summarize, Wang Yin attempts to reveal the ‘accent’ of painting. He attempts to make all the objects within his painting more challenging, and he can only use this method of ‘stuttering’ to paint. Subsequently, he can only maintain a distance from the seamless forms of painting, the painting that is inseparably connected to the contemporary, and also the trajectory of the fast-paced present era. But what does this distance away from the present-era signify? It is perhaps another kind of contemporaneity. It is more so a separation from the era, and furthermore a form of being contemporary. So what is contemporaneity? At this point we can conclude using a quote from Agamben: “Contemporaneity refers to a particular way of connecting to your own era, this kind of connection is already intrinsically a part of the era, whilst at the same time, there is also a distance maintained. To be more precise, the connections to the present era are either defined by relationships between the fractures and mistakes or they adhere to the present era. Those entirely at consensus with the era, those who are completely connected with all aspects of an era, they are the people who are not truly contemporary. The precise reason behind this is that they cannot truly scrutinize it - they cannot just rigidly gaze at it.” Perhaps precisely for reasons that he departs from contemporary mainstream painting, Wang Yin’s paintings possess a greater notion of contemporaneity.