“Art can escape from reality; it can also not escape from reality. Artists are like a pair of cunning smelly socks and turning them inside out is not a way to escape, but a means to grasp at reality.”
Wang Sishun (b. 1979) was born in Wuhan and currently lives and works in Beijing. In 2005, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Hubei Institute of Fine Art in the Department of Sculpture and received his Master of Fine Arts at the Central Academy of Fine Art also in the Department of Sculpture in 2008. His artistic practice attempts to examine “the boundless abyss in our limited bodies” through the reinterpretation and transformation of time and matter. The rigor of his training as a sculptor is evident, although this experience often manifests itself in non-traditional ways to challenge formal ideas of process and meaning.
The Wrong Body 2 (2011) is a work in which Wang takes a piece of gold and ‘sculpts’ it into the shape of a tiny man by chewing it with his teeth, bringing the sculptural process down to the most primordial technological level. In Necessary Labor Time (2008), coins were melted and cast into one large metal ingot before being shaved down to a needle. The residual dust was used to fill an hourglass. As the title suggests, the process of creation is as important as the end product; the importance of the passage of time resides both in the creative process and in the physical object created.
Uncertain Capital (2009 ongoing) clearly exemplifies his sentiment of the power in transformation that lies at the heart of his work. In both of these works, he manipulates the material’s physical properties and alters the original utility of an object. The progression of time is an inevitable element in Uncertain Capital. The profits from the sale of each metal block of melted coins were again melted down to create a successive incarnation of the artwork. The process of transformation renders the coins’ original purpose obsolete while simultaneously creating something that has its own monetary worth for entirely different reasons. It reflects on the illogical nature of the relationship between capital and value. Wang’s fundamental simplicity and lack of aesthetic embellishments render his art, at its most elemental level, a reflection of the arbitrariness of the material world. If his work evokes nostalgia, it is because of their reach through past, present, and future passages of time.
Other works by Wang take on a more idiosyncratic and unpredictable tone to address the nature of being. The concept for The Indeterminate Boundless I (2013) was born out of a request for the artist to present a sculpture that “is not too big”. His interpretation of this statement led him to create this work made out of a sheet of lead plate, which can be manipulated in order to adapt to its environment. It can be opened up and revealed, or it can be folded up multiple times and displayed as such. Desire and One of N Points (2012) is a performance in which Wang throws a bottle cap arbitrarily on the floor, draw a circle with chalk around the cap, then picks up the cap and throws again and again until the it lands completely within the circle. All the Flesh is with Remorse (2012) consists of a two part video. The first part is a three-minute clip taken under the Dazhanzi Bridge in Beijing and the second is an almost identical scene reenacted by actors; the later was viewed by a live audience during filming. This work uses theatrics and staging to recreate a familiar surrounding, forming a multi-dimensional world of experience.
His latest sculpture series “Apocalypse” includes stones from all over the world including Russia, France, Italy, and China that the artist chose personally based on their resemblance to human portraits. The stones are made up of different sizes, shapes, colors and textures. It seems as though they bridge identities, race and origin, embodying lives from the past and the future. All of them have distinct dispositions: some of them possess spirits that are wholesome, while others are maleficent; some are divine, while others are grotesque. All of these lives and characters that the stones embody come together to create a world of both conflict and harmony.