By Nadja Gnamuš : Eastern and western art have always exchanged information and inspired each other. In the 5th century, the Chinese painter and theoretician Xie He defined six fundamental principles of Chinese traditional painting, which have been in use until the modern age. His first and most important principle stresses the importance of internal energy (qi), which can help us reach and transfer the spirit of life and an impression of life motion, thus being surprisingly similar to the starting points of European modernism as well as some tendencies in contemporary painting. The latter two can also be related to the last, the sixth He's principle advocating the painter's subjectivity in choosing and presenting motifs. If the art of the Far East influenced the formation of European modernism greatly, the influence also worked in the opposite direction, so that contemporary Chinese painting also features the aesthetics of pop art and mass culture. As the integration of values and cultural patterns is becoming increasingly complex, and Asian philosophy has been gaining in importance in the West, the eastern and western thought have been integrated into a more comprehensive image of the world, representing cultural transformation at both sides.
To Huiqin Wang, a Chinese-Slovenian artist creating at the intersection of cultures of two countries, such a process of convergence was spontaneous and natural. On one hand it is defined by the “congenital” knowledge of Chinese society, its tradition and spiritual lore, on the other hand by accumulated experience that has demanded the understanding of different cultural environments.
In the globalised world where the migration of forms and people as well as the changeability of identities is a matter of everyday life; where space and time are no longer static or fixed categories, multiculturalism is no longer an extraordinary experience. Yet the creative practice of Wang assigns this experience a new meaning, not that of a passive phenomenon, but of a binding, alive, constitutive element, established time and again by the author and incorporated in her work in various ways. Her art emerges from the difficulty of establishing identities, form the duality that is generated concurrently, which might be the reason for its constant changes. She seeks new modes of expression, new emphases and starting points, yet always preserving the contextual framework of interaction between both art traditions.
Stressing the importance of personal integrity having been achieved through the unity of body and mind, the microcosm of an individual being in symbiosis with the universal yet flexible cosmic principle, the Chinese philosophy also considers art a complex intertwining of diverse skills and knowledge. The traditional integration of calligraphy, painting, music, poetry, meditation and martial arts as well as cooperation of various masters in a single work of art is surprisingly close to the use of multimedia practices in modern art and the increasing 'universal skill' of artists. From such point of view, Wang reinterprets the tradition to place it in a contemporary context. The artist renounces specialisation. Rather than adhering to a specific mode of expression, she explores new art methods and uses various media, from illustration, graphic art, calligraphy, painting, photography to video art, installations and performances. Wishing to find new creative challenges, she began to cooperate with other artists, particularly the painter Živko Marušič, graphic artist Zora Stančič and photographer Tomaž Lunder. Such coordinations in art are always marked by dialogue and compromise, keeping the recognisability of individual artists discreet, their contribution mostly being present as an intervention into the imaginative field of the other. The final result is unpredictable, being created through coordination and creative interaction, the ideas being mutually triggered and upgraded. The artist's cooperation with Lunder (the series Pregrevanja / Overheatings), also shown at the exhibition, displays a witty integration of reality and fiction, the shots of urban environments being provided an unreal disturbance by imaginative digital interactions, a disturbance whose meaning is saturated and provocative in commenting the current social situation. The relation of the local towards the global is that of a part towards the entirety, the local having the role of metonym representing the entirety.
More and more, Huiqin Wang perceives subjective experience as dependent on and defined by the wider social context, in which it is inevitably involved. The artist considers an art form an efficient medium for criticising the social reality and its materialist orientation, therefore her works often include fragments from the Chinese past, reminiscences of current political developments and various markers of the global society, which se uses to warn about the constructed nature of our knowledge, desires and values.
She does not use the tradition to acquire established formal patterns, rather, she transforms them in order to integrate the knowledge of them into the current art context, where traditional media are being adapted to the language of the new ones, where calligraphy for example is not necessarily bound to the surface, as it becomes an active element in the choreography of a performance.
In the series Neotipljiva bitja / Intangible Creatures, Wang uses the media image of the female body as the frame of reference in which to research new possibilities in the expression of an image integrating the nature of an example of graphic art, an industrial product, a photograph and an object. Perforated surfaces of industrial material are inhabited by the historical memory of pointillism, Lichtenstein's Benday-dot technique, print raster and digital pixels, at the same time enclosing the 'materialised' concept of emptiness, the empty spaces in fact generating the perception of form and its visibility. The bodily form is becoming landscape, is showing and disappearing, the image being made alive and flexible by the interaction of the empty and the full, the dialectics of the abstract and actual form and the accidental empty spots to be complemented and completed by the eye.
Within her work the artist interprets both cultural heritages; she integrates the tradition with the language of mass culture and uses their diverse arrays of motifs. The contemporary language of art being open and unrestrictive, it enables her to wander between formal sources and references at the same time adopting, creatively manipulating and combining inspirations and ideas freely.
The two-year international project Hallerstein (2008-2009), having been dedicated by Wang to the life of the astronomer, scientist, missionary, inventor and diplomat Ferdinand von Hallerstein, born in Ljubljana, yet spending a major part of his life in China named Liu Songling, has been indirectly yet strongly marked by the artist's experience. Integrating the cooperation of artists from various countries and comprising art events as well as symposia and workshops, the project not only serves as an interdisciplinary reconstruction of a story taken from history, it also revives the cultural bond between Slovenia and China and modernises it in the present time. The historical data and archive documents are becoming part of an art project, in which scientific facts and imperfect historical section are being complemented by imaginative interpretation. The artist finds it the major challenge to transmit the image of Hallerstein, which has not been preserved, nor has been any information about it, save for a scanty description. As stated by her, she sought inspiration in various sources, letters, descriptions and images from his time, not to reconstruct the actual visual likeness, but in order to come closer and acquire spiritual understanding, because, according to a Chinese belief, it is only in the latter that real presence dwells.
Here, the image as a symbolic carrier of identity is constantly evading and appearing, like an illusion. On the one hand it is composed of dots reminding us of tiny data units in modern technology, on the other hand showing as a silhouette embracing the secret material of experience, being filled with writings or dispersed images as component part of consciousness. The path of the scientist who spent the majority of his lifetime between two countries is surprisingly close to the life of the artist, therefore providing her with a particular point of identification.
Yet the concept of identity cannot be limited to geographical, social, economic and political features defining an individual, and a group with its culture. This phenomenon is not stable, bur flexible, being constructed time and again upon various points of conflict and upon facing the otherness. Thus the art by Huiqin Wang is not about her declaration based on belonging to one or another culture or nation, it is about the search, the recognition and definition of one's position and world view based on art.