Popular food packaging design, gaudy patterns, and traditional Asian motifs populate the canvases of Chinese artist Wang Ziping. Every painting is a bombardment of visuals, and rendered through a punchy art style, she dishes forth critique on the information overload of our modern lives.
There is a clear graphic sensibility to Wang’s work, which at first glance, can be easily mistaken for digital collages. Every frame is formed by fragmented visuals arranged with a designer’s eye. But the bold iconography that crowds her paintings often seems indifferent to one another, happily occupying their own sections of the composition. These disparate elements, combined with the striking colors of her palettes, create a contemporary dynamic.
A recurring element that appears throughout her work is a checkerboard pattern, which is typically used to delineate the transparent areas of a Photoshop layer. This familiar motif makes it appear as if parts of her canvases have been erased, which to her, represents the emptiness of the digital world. These patterns, along with the thick daubs of oil colors she liberally paints with, adds an additional sense of depth and dimensionality to the otherwise flat, graphic-style art.
Wang studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design before majoring in painting at Pratt Institute in NYC. Born in 1995 in Shenyang, she made it onto Saatchi Art’s “Rising Stars: 35 Under 35” list in 2020. She has exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions at both Unit London, and Galerie Marguo in Paris, and also in group exhibitions in New York, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Her practice is reminiscent of the vivid forms, surreal shapes, and bright pop colors of artist Elizabeth Murray, though it’s considerably less abstract than works by the American painter and printmaker. The young artist’s collage-like creations fall into the realm of pop-expressionism, with visual cues ranging from the historical to the contemporary.
Japanese art has an evident influence on her work. In Melting in Your Paperhouse and The Unmade Object, portraits that remind of the art of Utamaro Kitagawa appear within the folds. Many of her motifs also reflect avant-garde Chinese art, most notably the use of modern packaging, which has been influenced by Chinese pop artist Wang Guangyi. Even though her art education and some influences come from the West, Eastern culture and Chinese artists have been equally important in her creative development.
王子平最初在罗德岛设计学院学习插图，后来又进入纽约普瑞特艺术学院主修绘画。她于 1995 年出生于沈阳，2020 年被列入 35 位 35岁以下萨奇艺术新星（Saatchi Art Rising Stars）。她曾分别在伦敦的 Unit London 和巴黎的 Galerie Marguo 画廊举办个展，还在纽约、北京和上海参加过群展。
她的作品与美国画家、版画家 Elizabeth Murray 超现实风格有着不尽相似之处，两者的作品都极富动态感和波普色，但后者的作品要抽象得多。王子平的拼贴式作品则属于流行表现主义的范畴，能将古今中外的各种视觉元素灵活地穿插在自己的作品中。
仔细看你会发现，日本艺术对她的创作带有很明显的影响。在作品《Melting in your Paperhouse》（融化在你的纸屋）和《The Unmade Object》（残愿）中，你都能看到像一代绘师喜多川歌麿作品的人像元素。此外，她还运用了中国前卫艺术元素，其中最突出的莫过于现代商品包装，在这方面，她主要受到了中国波普艺术家王广义的影响。
Growing up as part of Gen Z, she paints fast-moving consumer goods brands as a critical gaze towards a world overrun by intrusive advertising. Ads are so intertwined with life now that they are tied to our collective memories, and oftentimes, can even evoke nostalgia. In The Unmade Object, she reflects on her time in America through a box of Lotus Biscoff biscuits in the composition. In Emotional Yet Purposeful, she stacks layers atop a package of Pocky, a Japanese snack brand popular in China. She also features another Japanese confectionery, Pretz, in The Snowflake That Comes Alive.
身为 Z 世代，她着眼于快消品牌，以此来批判当代社会无孔不入的广告植入。而反观，广告早已和人们的生活交织在一起，成为了人们集体记忆的一部分，很多时候，甚至能唤起人们的怀旧情绪。在《The Unmade Object》（残愿）中，她用一盒 “和情原味焦糖饼干”（Lotus Biscoff）表达了对美国生活的思念。在作品《Emotional Yet Purposeful》（蓄谋的情绪）中，她在一个格力高百奇饼干包装上层层堆叠了各式各样的元素；一盒百力滋也同样摆在她的作品《The Snowflake That Comes Alive》（雪花附生）中。
In Wang’s paintings, the audience is given an image to decipher, but the painting is open to interpretation. Are these works inward-facing, a way for Wang to express her frustrations with the modern world but conceal her true intentions? Clearly, she is making a comment on advertising and digital media, and how the commercial imperatives behind this modify our reality of the world. Her practice, therefore, is looking to document these modifications—to make sure that we don’t get lost and untethered from what is really important.
These works also question the links between our memory and our notions of identity: how do our memories of the past inform the idea we have of ourselves today? In a world where we are bombarded with adverts from brands that want us to associate them with our happiest moments, Wang’s images show us that our feelings of identity are filtered through this cult of brand.
There is also a childlike quality to Wang’s work, an innocence that brings joy and happiness yet also a subconscious understanding that below the surface there is something unsaid. Perhaps she wants to explicitly express this but is not able or does not want to at this time. Through her paintings, Wang grapples with the concept of transcultural identity and the vagaries of over-commercialization to ask, “What is your reality?”
Contributor: Misha Maruma
Chinese Translation: Olivia Li
Images Courtesy of Wang Ziping & Unit London