Dinner table 2006
painted Pine (Pinus sp.) and steel table,
single channel colour video, stereo sound, ed.3/3, 5 min 10 sec
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2013
© Wang Gongxin
This exhibition launches the NGV strongly into international new media, featuring three large scale immersive video works from Wang Gongxin, who is a major force in Chinese video art.
Born in Beijing in 1960, Wang Gongxin trained as an oil painter in a socialist-realist style. He taught at the Beijing Normal University for five years and, in 1988, he was a visiting scholar at State University in New York. It was whilst there with his wife and fellow artist, Lin Tianmiao, that he first encountered video art. He began to produce video art in 1993 and, two years later, returned to Beijing where he was one of the driving forces in the avant-garde movement along with his friend and colleague Zhang Peili. Wang Gongxin turned his home and, later, a corner of a relative’s restaurant, into a gallery where fellow artists could meet and exhibit. He is credited as one of the first artists to have created a site-specific video installation in China in the mid-1990s.
As a first generation Chinese video artist, Wang Gongxin has commented that his concerns are ‘social’ and concerned with political and social issues, as well as history and tradition. Such interests are evident in his nine-screen video, Relating – It’s about Ya, an immersive experience that deals with Beijing’s relentlessly fast pace of life.Basic colour 2010, is a five channel video installation projected onto a continuous wall. The five projections are orientated vertically and, within each vignette, a tightly framed section of the body is set against a neutral space. The curves and creases of the body suggest a landscape that is abstracted further by an accumulation of coloured pigment on each image.
Wang Gongxin often displays a subtle humour in his work subverting viewer’s expectations by turning seemingly ordinary situations upside down. This is literally the case in Dinner Table (2006), where a Chinese banquet – projected onto a steeply tilted white table - slides slowly upwards.
As the critic Pi Li has noted, Wang Gongxin’s work ‘doesn’t escape reality, but many of his pieces make reality just a little lighter’.