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Washing: Information Energy of Conceptual Art

Author: Huang Zhuan May,2004

To Wang Youshen, communication hosts dual meanings, that are his career and his way of creating art. In the "China Avant-Garde Exhibition" held in 1989, his collaborative works with Yang Jun entitled "√" were based on the media's basic visual information carrier - news photo images. In order to create a photo named the "Man's Advertisement", he used his camera on a tripod to take photos of the Beijing Wang Fujing shopping district, one of the most famous tourist destinations in China. Taking one photo every minute, he randomly captured images of people. He then enlarged hundreds of those photos, put them together, painted a huge "√" sign on top of it and finally covered the images with a real court notice. While such characteristics of intensive social criticism are not commonly seen in Wang's later works, the practice of finding the huge information power inherent in images continues to define his art. Wang's gift for penetrating the depth of images has made him one of China's most successful artists.

Beginning with WashingּBefore and After My Grandmother Passed Away in 1994, Wang Youshen has formed a complete and distinctive style of image processing. In a series of photos featuring family images as key subjects, Wang successfully integrates both a sense of harmony and contradiction by utilizing the picture formation procedure and the cleanout procedure, two completely polarized chemical reactions. It symbolizes Wang's distinctive conceptual style. Wang's conceptualism is not only about the information jammed into the image itself, but also the chemical procedures of picture formation and cleanout that enhances and transforms the information dynamic of the images. He later created "washing within the space" - the Darkroom Series, adding a three-dimensional factor to his art. By using the three-dimensional element of the Darkroom series in the "New Asian Art Show" held in Japan in 1995, Wang Youshen clearly conveys the subject matter "anti-war" through the series Washing. 1941's Deep Pit Buried Thousands of People in Datong. He once again used the procedures of picture formation and cleanout, and probed into the fading history and complexity of memory and oblivion. In recent years, he has increasingly used both news photos and private photos to explore a series of diverse and important subjects. Through diverse characters and themes, his works cover an array of topics, from family consciousness to relations between nature and cities, from the individual's social identity to the potential pressure of behaviors in the information era. These elements all demonstrate the concerns of society, humanity and history on Chinese conceptual art, which can be visually perceived in works of the Washing Series.


Huang Zhuan, renowned curator and art critic. From 1985 to 1987, he was the editor of art magazine Trend of Thought on Art. Since 1992, he has curated art exhibitions including "The Third Contemporary Art Triennial for Asia and Pacific" (Brisbane, Australia), "The First Guangzhou Triennial" (Guangzhou, China), and "Create History: Commemoration Exhibition of Chinese Modern Art in 1980s".

Related Artists:
WANG YOUSHEN 王友身

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