Wang Youshen's art is characterized by a focus on the influence mass media exerts on our thoughts, emotions, and actions. For example, the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, which are determined by value judgments if never explicitly stated. In his photograph-based images, Wang Youshen uses selected press images alongside private photos as the basis of his investigation into the various functions and values of images as well as their truth content and modes of employment. Having worked as a magazine editor, Wang Youshen is particularly concerned about the power of print imagery. This is directly reflected in his work Newspaper (1993), where he uses newspaper as raw material, both covering entire walls and printing them directly onto fabric for clothing. In a similar project called Newspaper Advertising (1993), he covered part of the Great Wall with newspaper. By reusing the printed media in an entirely new context, Wang Youshen subverts and questions its original meaning.
In the monochromatic series of photographic work entitled Washing (2003), his focal points are two original photographs documenting tens of thousands of Chinese buried alive by Japanese troops during the Second World War. One of the pictures depicts a scene where some remains from the burial site have been washed off. Wang Youshen uses the symbolic act of washing to reflect upon the question of washing that can be understood both as a form of catharsis and as a form of amnesia; a cleansing of memory. Wang Youshen's visual experiments mirror his intent to develop a form of artistic communication that recognizes the necessarily fragmentary nature of any media. He therefore rejects the notion of reducing the work to a single coherent narrative.
Wang Youshen, born in 1964 in Beijing, graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1988, now works and resides in Beijing. Selected exhibitions include: Wang Youshen - Codes of Culture, Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing (2022); Waves and Echoes, A Process of Re-contemporarization in Chinese Art Circa 1987 Revisited, Inside - Out Art Museum, Beijing (2020); Afterimage: Dangdai Yishu, Lisson Gallery, London, U.K. (2019); Contemporary Chaos, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Vestfossen, Norway (2018); Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, U.S.A. (2017); Wang Youshen : Diplomatic Residence Compound, DRC No.12, Beijing (2016); Art Changsha 2015, Changsha Municipal Museum and Tan Guobin (2015); Wang Youshen: Per Square Meter, ShanghART, Beijing (2014); Wang Youshen, Double Solo Exhibition, Regis Center at the University of Minnesota & Minneapolis Photo Center, U.S.A. (2013); The Seventh Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, OCAT, Shenzhen (2012); Reshaping History: Chinart from 200-2009, The Theme, China National Convention Center, Beijing (2010); Lianzhou International Photo Festival, Lianzhou, Guangdong (2009); Wang Youshen: Washing, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong (2007); the 27th Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil (2006); Zooming into Focus, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2005); Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, U.S.A., U.K. and Germany (touring exhibition 2004-2005); 5th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum (2004); Washing - New Works by Wang Youshen, ShanghART, Shanghai (2004) and 45th Venice Biennale, Italy (1993).