Saturday, February 14, 2004

Wang Qingsong at Prefix - National Post Feb.7/04

Wang Qingsong is like the Cindy Sherman of China. His massive and elaborately staged photographs aren’t self-portraits exactly, but they mirror his country’s inner state of mind and outward perception in the same way Sherman mined the social psychology of women in the 20th century.

The Beijing superstar has fully embraced the most popular form of Western contemporary art—a hyper-real style of photography that shares a similar glow to a Hollywood film epic. It’s a strategy for him, a way to gain a receptive audience outside of China, and at the same time enables him to serve up critical commentary on the uglier side of China’s love for the Big Mac. His photographs, many of them life-size panoramas, are staged scenes of young women out shopping, of rickshaws covered in Christmas tinsel, and in one, a village of farmers painted in gold and standing on a pedestal like they are living relics.

Qingsong doesn’t point blame at anyone with his critiques, which is partially why his art is so popular. He simply states that the coin has two heads: Free trade is to blame for the neglect of China’s traditional culture, and so is China’s desire to have Pizza Hut on every corner. These photographs are so riveting and so smartly nuanced with social anxieties that they are nearly impossible to turn away from them. - Catherine Osborne

Wang Qingsong’s Present-Day Epics runs until Feb. 28, 2004 at Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, 401 Richmond St W, suite 124.