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Solo show appeals strongly across the generations

China Daily| Updated: August 7, 2023


The artist (with cap) shares his career path and the stories behind the artwork on display with visitors at a workshop held on Saturday.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Wang Shaoshuai's solo exhibition in Shanghai is attracting children and grown-ups alike.

Wang is the seventh artist featured in the Nan Fung North Art Project, a collaborative project between The Place, a mall located in the Hongqiao area of Shanghai's Changning district, and Ideal Gas, an art agency dedicated to the promotion of young emerging artists.

The exhibition titled Smile: A Solo Exhibition of Wang Shaoshuai will run until Sept 10 in the lobby of the mall's north podium, showcasing 27 paintings, four sculptures and two installations.

Wang held a workshop on Saturday and spoke to 16 students of the Shanghai Changning Fine Arts Academy and their parents, sharing the ideas behind the artwork on exhibition, and his life journey from a child who loved drawing to becoming a user interface (point of human computer interaction) and brand designer before making the switch to being an independent artist.

"When the seed of art is planted in a young heart, it will sprout, and grow strong someday," he says.

Wang studied art and design at the Xi'an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi province. After graduating, he was recruited by Tencent, a leading internet company in China, as a UI designer. But though he went on to open his own design company, he never gave up his dream of becoming an artist. He eventually started painting again.

"Painting helps release your energy and transmit it to the artwork," he says. When being asked about what art form he loves the most, he says, "I enjoy making free strokes with charcoal, acrylic and oil pastels …using whatever material feels right, adding one layer after another."

Visitors will notice that his paintings often have multiple layers of colors and seemingly unfinished strokes on murky outlines.

When a child asks why he tends to leave his works "unfinished", Wang answers: "You are free when you do art. You can say the painting is completed whenever you like."

For one of his works, Wang turned a recurrent image from his childhood dreams into bronze sculptures in the shape of balloons. These artworks appear to give the half-inflated balloon humanlike postures, as if it is resting after a hard-day's work.

He then started the Red Balloon Project, taking a red balloon on his travels around the world, but then the pandemic forced him to put the endeavor on pause. He then took the balloon on a virtual journey, adding it to familiar imagery, such as Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Picasso's Weeping Woman and the signature portrait of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama.

Creating these artworks brought some comfort during the isolated days of the pandemic, and he hopes that they can bring "some lightness "to the viewers and provide encouragement and relief.

Just like the collective name he gave to the series Common Face, Wang overthrew the established public perception of these objects, and dispelled the authority connected to these images, creating an "easy, equal and casual" relationship with the audiences, says Yao Shuo, president of Ideal Gas and curator of the exhibition.

Jiang Jinhong, assistant general manager of The Place, says that "we are a community-oriented mall, and want to work with artists that both children and their parents can resonate with. Aesthetic education is an important part of our public service and it has become popular with children and parents".

"On the other hand, we hope to find new talented artists, and give them our support. … Hopefully one day the exhibition here can become a project listed in their artistic portfolio," she adds.

If you go

Smile: A Solo Exhibition of Wang Shaoshuai

10 am-10 pm, July 2-Sept 10.

The Place, north podium lobby, 100 Zunyi Road, Changning district, Shanghai.

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