About rays of light which are falling into deserted halls
The lost glory paintings by Wang Jixin
by Alexandra Grimmer
However the context in a painting may be cruel, hard, alarming or sad, its beauty should never be harmed and respecting the laws of elegance and dignity many things can be said in art. Wang Jixin’s paintings from the Fade refulgence-series show working places: deserted places that now belong to China’s past, the Chinese history of manufactories and handmade crafts.
In his book The Unknown Craftsman Soetsu Yanagi develops a concept of two ways of artistical accomplishment: The way of the genius and the way of grace. The way of genius is reserved to a few craftsmen with high talent, having the ability for ingenious creations. The way of grace is for the craftsman who through years of experience and practice finds a form of perfect accomplishment; accomplishment of the expected model by fulfilling the procedure without creating their own artistical statement.
Building a monument for craftsmanship, Yanagi follows the long tradition of Japanese crafts that, finding their roots in the Chinese history, share their ambition for perfection.
Wang Jixin visited places of former porcelain manufactures in Jiangxi province and studied their history. By documenting photography and dialogues with former workers he learned about their lives in the factories. This work came to the abrupt end when those factories were closed down in the 80s.
During several months, Wang had his studio in Jingdezhen, the Capital for imperial Chinese porcelain. The main part of his The lost glory series about the porcelain manufactures, resulted from the intense and fruitful working process in his temporary Jingdezhen studio.
The base for Wang Jixin’s paintings are photographs that result from a comprehensive documentation by the artist. Visiting the places and observing them through the camera eye is the first step of his working process.
Coming from the “true and unambiguous” photographed image to the “untrue” since “interpreted”, painted one on the canvas, Wang transforms the objective view to his own subjective statement on the canvas. Gerhard Richter says in an interview with Armin Zweite that photographs are true and objective, unlike paintings which are subjective and artificial, because as soon as the painter starts drawing or painting, he is stylizing the work.
Wang Jixin is consciously adding his observation to the picture by the camera. His Fade refulgence-paintings are an interpretation, showing the speed of decay, but in the same time without being narrative.
This interpretation does not exist in a narrative form; it comes from the historical background that plays an important role in Wang’s work. The research about the place, the mental examination with the situation ahead of the painting process affects and determines the context of his paintings.
Thus the historical background plays a role in his study, including the working places which used to represent the worker’s center of living in earlier days, giving them through their skills for perfection a special status and a secured life. The manufactories have been shut down from one day to the other, leaving the places in the state of a breakup.
Wang’s paintings unmistakably show that those places have been left in a traceable rush, transmitting a scary weird feeling to the observer. This atmosphere created in his paintings is the first message to the observer. They remember history, giving a strange feeling of what remained on those sites. However by saying this, colors and forms are in an esthetical equivalent, having a sincere message transmitted through beauty and perfection.
Showing his deep respect to those former workers and in the same time towards China’s history and its unique porcelain, the critical context in Wang’s works can’t be negated and yet titles as lost glory emphasize this.
Wang Jixin is creating charged images (l’image chargé, as Jean Luc Godard used the term for images and moments that are loaded in expression and density), having a rich context with historical, sociological and political information, through his own perception. Using the term of l’image chargé in Wang’s paintings, many arguments arrange themselves to one another: Not only their substance is dense and loaded with content, it is also about the technique, about Wang’s handwriting in his paintings. Their base is a strict drawing creating the macro structure and serving as a skeleton that builds up tension that is even in the very large formats a strong constant. However the main part is due to his use of color, which differs from very thin, transparent surfaces to thick parts that seem almost as “molded”. Especially in his smaller scale paintings this surface may become rich of material and lumps of oil color. Spots of color and dripping parts establish the micro structure of his paintings that in contrast to the strict macro structure create tension. Here, especially his gestural paintings are fascinating. Their surface with thick material and spots of color properly build a second level over the image on the canvas, creating a vibrating impression.
While approaching to one of his paintings to see from closer distance, there is instantly the question coming up which part provokes the impressions of light, that sometimes seem to be appearing as a strong ray of light shining from behind the painting and sometimes as reflecting spots of color on the surface. It is probable this mystical incidence of light which brings “the positive” and the beauty into the executed places.
Lonely, deserted places may evoke feelings of regret, but in the case of Wang Jixin’s paintings that are often in very big dimensions (300 x 600 cm), the observer is engaged by a certain fascination. His paintings capture the view, and what is fascinating to find out, they actually direct the observer’s gaze from one point to the other. The situation of getting lost in an artwork, such as the observer’s attention becoming independent is something very interesting.
In order to find a suitable explication for that, one comes back to the aspect of the light, together with the presence of movement, of motion which play a role. Wang Jixin plays with the visible incidence of light, shafts of sunlight are coming through windows and slots of the buildings, supporting the certain vibration of the colors. Especially in the perception of Wang’s large scale paintings the result on the canvas anticipates a static impression.
By observing works by the futurists (an artist movement coming from Italy in 1910s and early 20s, like Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà as well as the few paintings by Marcel Duchamp) one can find similar characteristics in the perception. The visible movement became an important part of the artwork. By including several stages of the motion, several moments of time are being included into the painting.
In Wang Jixin’s canvas it is not question about movement but in their case with the exposure of the decay and the proper tempo of decay. A certain futuristic aspect is evoked and can be considered as a link to his critical standpoint. In that way he is painting, documenting the decay, the extension of emptiness. The impression of vibration through the effects of light can be interpreted as well as slight movement.
Wang Jixin’s paintings have a critical message and show respect towards his country’s traditions. They show his passion for painting and a generosity with form and color. In one moment they capture the observer, directing his gaze and inspiring everyone to find his own points of interest. In the next moment they have a high esthetical potential with an equal proportion between elegance and tension.
But most of all Wang Jixin lays much of his personality open in his works. It is possible to “enter” into his paintings. They are open and give the possibility to add one’s own interpretation, without being predetermined. By permitting the observer to enter he also makes an honest statement, certainly melted with a degree of concern and regret towards ruins of history.
titles are in kursiv
some words are “ “
nicht-übersetzung des titels
 title by the artist
 Armin Zweite in the catalogue to Gerhard Richter’s solo show, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfahlen 2005, p. 15ff