Wang Haiyang, a young artist from the Shandong province, is far removed from the dominant currents of contemporary Chinese art, which are often characterized by social content and political metaphors. His work explores the various states of the subconscious and our twisted relationships with our desires. Faced with Wang Haiyang canvases and videos, we are moved not so much to understand or explain them as to let ourselves be carried away by the unbridled imagination of the artist: the bodies transform and metamorphose, while enigmatic images put us face to face with disturbing emotions. It was in fact his psychologist who, during the artist’s studies at the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts, encouraged him to express the depths of his soul and his anxieties through his painting, rather than following academic styles.
This oneiric artist, reminiscent of Dalí or Garouste, has some affinity with the surrealist movement, which, for André Breton, aimed to deepen the dream state and conceive of artistic expression as a pure psychological activity. Indeed, the sky’s the limit for the creations of the unconscious in the fantasy works of Wang Haiyang, as illustrated, for example, by the figure of Freud whose skull opens up to release butterflies.
In his animated videos, Wang Haiyang fully expresses himself through stream of consciousness. Freud, Fish and Butterfly and Double Fikret (2012) are “animated paintings” that result from his extraordinary work involving pastel drawings and successive erasures. The artist uses a technique similar to that of William Kentridge, always drawing on the same sheet of paper. He photographs each stage of this patient and meticulous handwork, and then animates the images to create a video.
The two animations are composed of two thousand drawings. Wang Haiyang drew and erased each day for over a year, finally returning to his point of origin: a virgin sheet of paper. He has compared his method to the spiritual practice of the Tibetan Mandala: “A monk spends an entire year creating a sand Mandala that is destined to disappear. Once it is completed, the ephemeral work is simply destroyed, without leaving any trace. One might think that there is nothing on this paper, which I have completely erased, but in reality it represents 1325.5 hours in the life of Wang Haiyang,” he says.
Wang Haiyang was born in 1984 in the province of Shandong. In 2008, he received his degree from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he specialized in painting and engraving. His painting talent was discovered early in his career, and has won him numerous awards. Most recently, Wang Haiyang has received international notoriety for his animation work: the films Freud, Fish and Butterfly and Double Fikret were awarded prizes at the 55th DOK Leipzig Film Festival (Germany), the 11th Sommets du Cinéma d’animation in Montreal (Canada) and the 25th Holland Animation Festival, as well as having been selected in more than twenty other international festivals. In 2012, Wang Haiyang won the Today Art Museum of Beijing’s “Young Talent” award. He currently lives and works in Beijing.