Away from the agitation of the city, the White Cube gallery has succeeded in imposing calmness and silence. The mixed media installations of Chinese artist Wang Gongxin, not only fill the space but also participate in the creation of an ubiquitous presence of balance.
Born in Beijing, Gongxin was educated in post-cultural revolution China, during which he was introduced to painting through socialist-realist style. It was only later in his artistic career in the early 90’s, that Gongxin shifted towards installation works and upon his return to Beijing after a stay in New York, that he became the precursor of video art in China.
Rotation reunites works spanning from 1995 to 2017. Dialogue and Unseatable are two pieces which date from the early stages of Gongxin’s reconversion to mixed media and experimental art.
Light bulbs mechanically descend to graze liquid surfaces atop a set of metal chairs and table. Unwavering, yet made of radically opposing components, the installations strike with their ability to force tension and tranquility, simultaneously.
Created during the same period in 1996, Baby Talk is another kind of installation which intrigues through its irony, indirect political implications and originality. Using video, the base of a metal bed has been turned into a slow-motion projection of Gongxin’s family faces grimacing., A hole has been placed where their mouths are and by an ingenious mechanical process, liquid sprays, mimicking milk spit from a baby’s mouth.
Borderline experiences and restricted situations seem to be the highlight of Gongxin’s works. The new installations created for this exhibition reveal the direction of the choice title, Rotation.
As if he were going back to where he started, the artist once more explores the ramifications of his past, his journey and perhaps from there, attempts to project his future.
As he states in the press release, “Through ‘Rotation’ at White Cube Hong Kong, I perform a self-optimisation and a ‘reboot’ on my own twenty years of artistic creation!”
In and Out, Horizontal, Equal, and Humidifier, indeed are pieces which share the same flavour; an aftertaste of his previous works.
Gongxin is an artist who seems to immerse his works with inner introspections of his private life, social environment and political matters. Wanting to actively partake in modern times, he deliberately and courageously plunges into his past in order to “’empty’ and ‘reboot’. Has he succeeded in resurfacing a virgin, a blank canvas now open to receiving more data?
The artistic process utilized to spiritually reconnect with himself is the part of Gongxin’s work which resonates the most to me. Surely, in order to navigate towards this journey, the pieces were indispensable.
Artists and individuals for that matter who are brave enough to circle back and re-enact their pasts to move forward, are to my knowledge, rare.
Penetrating the White Cube today, I had not anticipated stumbling upon such a high level of consciousness and openness. A delight for my eyes and an inspiration for the practice of my soul.
Rotation: Wang Gongxin at White Cube Hong Kong (6 September – 11 November 2017)