Wang Youshen was born in Beijing in 1964. Wang began his artistic training at the Beijing Art Academy when he was 16. Upon his graduation he chose to continue his training at the Art Academy's Folk Art Department and majored in illustration and graphic art. As a teenage student during the 1980's, the exciting artistic milieu had a marked influence on his development and philosophies. As with other young artists at that time, he went through various styles, from classical to modern and experimented with all kinds of materials. The 1985 art movement was in essence about subverting the art training of the academy.
Wang Youshen became one of the few well-known installation artists in China. Wang Youshen's roles as artist and art editor have provided him with different sources of inspiration in the production of art. His work has for a long time been consistently associated with his everyday activities. As an art editor, he was constantly exposed to and was aware of the enormous changes taking place both at home and in the world. Different perspectives from his private and professional life served as the source of his inspiration, and he constantly alternated attention between the public and the private spheres.
His work "Nutritious Soil" was initiated and completed at his home. In this work, inspired by his father planting an indoor plant, the installation consists of the placing of soil from Northern China throughout his dining room and bathroom. The work talks of the artist's perception of nature which is alienated from his life.
The Selection of the materials has always been of primary concern in his work. He is particularly interested in various forms of printing. His works "Newspaper" Series" used newspapers as raw material, covering a portion of the Great Wall with one issue of the Beijing Youth Daily. In another, he printed an issue directly onto fabric, transforming curtains, clothes and even bed sheets. This served to introduce a very public item into a private domestic arena. His work "Before and After My grandmother Passed Away" (1994), was a photographic record of a portion of his grandmother's life exposed to the public.
Besides being an artist, Wang was also the art editor for the "Beijing Youth Daily", during which he also organized a number of projects. Wang Youshen did not see a distinction between his roles as artist and newspaper art editor. Rather, he thought both roles are closely related to one another. He saw in his daily activities the constant inter-play of three roles; first as an ordinary office clerk, second as the artist who created work and third the newspaper designer who not only created work and published them but also helped to promote sales of the publication. He used the "Newspaper Series" not only as a promotion of art but also a promotion of the newspaper. The ambiguity of advertising both art work and art medium here played very important parts in expressing the exchanged of ideas between these two. Using the same idea, he organized the project "Interior design". The year-long project involved 12 artists, their designs published in the newspaper, printed as postcard-size images and distributed as a series to the public. The work is not just a reflection of economic reforms and general public demands but also a critical investigation into the power or potency of images to conceal and reveal the interior dimensions of habitation.
In 1995 Wang Youshen created a new series entitled "Washing: 1941, Datong, Ten Thousand Men in Ditch". It was his intention to depict a historical topic through these works. This was carried out to coincide with the Fiftieth Year Commemoration of the Second World Was. The concept behind this series came from two original photographs which Wang came across in his research. In his reading he found a detailed report of an incident during the war where hundreds of thousands of Chinese were buried alive by the Japanese in Datong in 1941. On of the two photographs featured a Chinese researcher washing some remains from the burial site while the
other came from a report about the outrage over the Japanese invasion of China. Through careful analysis of his findings Wang installed this work using two baths and two sets of Shower equipment. The baths were covered with two groups of positive and negative images. These grainy images were a result of the substantial enlargement of the original (small) photographs. In the exhibition the water was recycled through the shower equipment while washing the photographs in the bath. This physical washing of the images eventually caused the photographic images to disappear. This was to signify that as water washes the images away, time too will eventually wash people's memories clear of the hurt that occurred fifty years ago.
It is obvious that Wang Youshen is careful in his approach towards his productions. He does not allow anything to be left unexplored but will devote equal attention to the minutest details. Nothing is to be taken for granted and all possibilities are researched. Wang is dedicated to developing all of his work so that it remains accessible to those interested in understanding it.
(from <<IN & OUT>>, Contemporary Chinese Art from China and Australia)