All about experience
One strange phenomenon that exists in the arts has to do with what an audience can tolerate in terms of sameness. In the visual arts, we often need to see signs of an artist growing. An evolving artist tends to hold our sustained interest. Of course, the world isn’t that simple; some artists’ work doesn’t change much—Giorgio Morandi and Piet Mondrian come to mind. But the truth is that even their art changed, just in such a subtle way that only the artist himself or a maniac fan might notice. Art of this nature tends to be the mature work of an artist who has spent plenty of time developing the nuances, establishing what works and what doesn’t and then laying it out—damned near perfect each time. Think of Edouard Manet’s still-life paintings at the end of his life. What it really comes down to is experience. An example of this can be found in the simple still-lifes of Jian Wang, on display this month at the Solomon Dubnick Gallery.
Wang’s compositions are sparse, quiet kitchen objects that aren’t there to say much, but to serve as a vehicle for light to define shape, color and texture. The backdrop for these objects is a sea of white. Here is an area where Wang’s experience shines. These backgrounds read as pure white, but close inspection shows all of the small changes in tone to create the illusion of pure white. The neutral backgrounds are offset by rich, bright colors that serve the paintings while still belonging to the artist’s distinct palette. Thick brushstrokes are evident throughout the surfaces and serve to illustrate that each was put where it was intended.
Only an experienced eye and hand can create images with this attention to detail—keeping everything perfectly balanced while still maintaining freshness and intrigue—and to do it several times over is a true feat. And that’s what makes paintings like these—each painted like the one next to it, not unlike the figurative paintings from his last show—still interesting. Though we may want the specific objects to vary, so we don’t get bored, we want the paintings as a whole to stay the same.