This exhibition of recent work by Wang Chuan is a remarkable distillation of 35 years of work by an artist who is a key figure in any account of 80s’ and post-80s’ Chinese art. Very early, he understood the power and importance of abstract art, and has been an equally important figure in the history of experimental ink art.
In Always Going Home (‘漫漫归家路’), the formal resources of the work are both rich and complex. There is the line as inherited from traditional Chinese art but transferred into oil on canvas; there is graffiti; doodling; drawing in paint; and there are elements of both abstraction and figuration. It is as if Wang Chuan is suspicious of the purity of abstraction and he is equally suspicious of the power of figuration. The title of this exhibition, Always Going Home, suggests what binds together these apparently different paintings. Some of the paintings’ titles explicitly reference house or home but all of them that do so are structures without weight, density or detail – and conjure up boxes or even tombs, as much as houses. (In all cultures houses are metaphors for bodies.) In other paintings the line drawings conjure up strange spectral architecture; and yet in others there are movements in the paint that conjure up fragments of a roof or the ruins of an architecture.
The work in Always Going Home meditates on the immense power and resonance of the idea of home at the same time as it acknowledges that there is no way simply to return home to some earlier moment of innocence - whether biographical or cultural. The purity that these paintings celebrate and explore does not ask us to choose between East and West or between classical and contemporary.