"ALTHOUGH I OFTEN GAIN GREAT PLEASURE FROM THE PROCESS OF PAINTING, IT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO UNFOLD EXPRESSIVELY THOSE FEELINGS WITHIN MYSELF."
Victor Wang grew up amongst the sunflower fields in northern China. During his childhood years, he played under the bright, yellow sunflowers with his brothers every day. China’s Cultural Revolution played an important part in his life. During that time, sunflowers were used as political allegories to depict how citizens of China should follow Mao who represented the sun, since sunflowers follow the sun’s movements.
People eventually inferred the deception that this symbol masked. After graduating from high school, he was sent to a labor camp in the country for ‘reeducation’ during China’s Cultural Revolution. There, he was subject to grueling farm work. Often, he worked in corn and sunflower fields from sunrise to sunset. Thus, for him, sunflowers evoke both personal joy and sadness. Therefore, to deliver his complex feelings, he uses sunflowers as a metaphor to connote his background and emotional stage.
The human figures in his paintings serve as vehicles to convey the human experience, representing the emotional tension and psychological drama of life’s turning points. The blend of luminous color and buttery texture evoke the enigmatic environment where these moments of meditation originate. Wang has interwoven the sunflower – a prominent symbol throughout his life embodying both sorrow and joy – into his paintings. Incorporating the collaged images from China’s Tang Dynasty simultaneously acts as background and creates the signature of his heritage. Wang is influenced by the exaggerated way Auguste Rodin uses clay to model figures. Sculpture is different from painting – with the expression and body language in the muscles, the form; you can really associate how inner emotion relates to the surface. Hence, he has tried to treat his color paints as clay to build up the form on canvas. The thickness of the paint evokes a sculptural physicality and multi-level quality.
Victor Wang is a Professor who teaches at the Department of Fine Arts at Fontbonne University St. Louis, Missouri in the United States. He was born in 1956 in a small town in northeast China called Qiqihar. He is the youngest of five children in his family. His father was a stage actor and his mother was a librarian. Wang had a wonderful and happy early childhood. There was a sunflower field behind his childhood house and he always played with his brothers in the field after school. When Wang was in third grade, the Chinese Cultural Revolution occurred. At that time, all schooling was canceled during the Revolution. Wang gained intrigue from the political cartoons that were pasted on the walls of the city and he copied them through drawing.
During the Cultural Revolution, Wang’s father was publicly shamed by the Red Guards of the Communist Party. Seeing his father being paraded around the streets changed Wang’s life both physically and emotionally. After graduating from high school, he was sent to a Chinese farm labor camp for “Reeducation of Urban Youth.” Two years and eight months later of hard physical labor, he finally was able to come back to the city.
In 1979, he was accepted into one of the top three art institutions in China, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. In 1983 after graduation, he was hired as an Assistant Professor by the Academy. In 1987, Wang went to the School of Art and Design in Urbana- Champaign, Illinois as a visiting scholar.
Wang’s works have been represented in several art galleries for solo shows including Yuhsiu Museum of Art in Taiwan, Arcadia Gallery in New York, NY, Ann Nathen Gallery in Chicago, IL, Oden Wagner Contemporary Gallery in Toronto, Canada, Duane Reed Gallery St. Louis, MO. He has held numerous shows internationally and nationally in Art Museums, such as Yuhsiu Museum of Art in Taiwan, Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science in Evansville, IN, The Mesa Contemporary Art Museum in AZ and Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art in WI. He has participated in numerous International Art Fairs including Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto, Canada, “Art Market San Francisco” in San Francisco, CA, Sofa Chicago in Chicago, IL, Art Hamptons in New York, NY, Art Palm Beach in Palm Beach, FL, Art Chicago in Chicago, IL, Beijing Art Salon in Beijing, China. Wang’s works also have featured by the American Art Collector Magazine, American Artist Magazine, Art News Magazine and local newspapers.
Victor Wang’s works of art depict that innocence and boldness that yes, we all carry inside. Somehow, his art motivates us to want to reconnect with another part of us that could potentially be lingering in another dimension...and we miss it. His art compels us to seek within, to find that depth we want to reach without limitations and somehow, reach a transmutation. Wang's works of art convey the human experience at its best... reminding us that we are more than just human. The feelings shared through his art offers us an opportunity to share, experience and express collectively.
Q. What role does the artist have in society?
A. Art is my entire faith and belief. I practice art for the soul. To share my art to educate and open the mind of the public.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. My best childhood memory was when I got my first puppy. I was so happy and excited and would fall asleep cuddling the puppy every night.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. When I was a child, I wanted to become an actor just like my father. I never thought I would become an artist.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. My first drawing was at the age of 4. It was a picture of my dad riding a bicycle carrying my third brother and me.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. After the Culture Revolution, I came back from the Farm Labor Camp and went to a one-year art training program in my hometown. During that year, I started becoming serious about pursuing art as a career.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. 14 years ago, I tried to use very heavy impasto paints and loose brush marks on canvas as a way to contrast highlights from transparent shadows in the painting. I found that this heavy paint application created a tactile and profound visual power. I then changed my entire concept of color application by using paints on canvas to model the form as Sculptor use of clay in a sculpture. The vibrant and thickly applied brushworks create an energetic and engaging feel to my large-scale oil paintings.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. I want to express how human emotion can be impacted by social, political and environmental changes. Our human desires and dreams, whether exhilarating, frustrating, or hopeful, can all become vulnerable in certain conditions.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Sometimes, I am too emotional.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. I have had to sacrifice some trips around the world, in order to finish works on time for shows.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. When I was a student, my heroes were Velazquez and Rembrandt. Anselm Kiefer and Grzegorz Gwiazda are my biggest influencers currently.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Yes, as an artist we have to put lots of hours a day in the studio, I am always looking for a quiet environment to think. Yes, I have a group of friends, like an old salon group, we have parties and topics to talk about and discuss.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I like to practice Taichi every day when I walk my dog in the morning and sometimes, I go to karaoke parties for singing.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Art is the new world where we could have freedom and peace. As an artist, you try to create the door to lead viewers into the world.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Your art being appreciated by the people who understand what you try to do, even if it’s a small group of people.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. I have learned from making mistakes. I believe that three mistakes become your own technique.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. When I was young, my dad told me, “Genius came from hard working.” That had an effect during my whole life and in the way I keep working hard to better myself.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Be sincere, be curious, and hardworking.