Jingyi Wang is a surrealist artist specializes in oil painting.
Jingyi Wang is a visual artist, born and raised in China that currently works and lives in New York City. She graduated from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2013, with a BFA degree in painting. She earned her MFA degree from the New York Academy of Art in 2016. Her works had been widely exhibited at Art New York, Sotheby’s New York, the Metropolitan Pavilion, Portraits Inc., Panepinto Galleries, X gallery, etc. Her artworks are published in art magazines such as ArtMaze Mag, Acrylicworks5, Creativepaper magazine, Studio Visit magazine, Her works were reported by Major Medias such as The China Press, World Journal, Artron Net and she had a personal interview by New York Lounge in 2019, She was awarded for an artist residency at the Terra Foundation of American Art in Giverny, France. Wang’s solo exhibition “The Growing” was opened at the Amerasia Bank Gallery in New York in 2017. Her solo exhibition “Soft Sting” was opened at Times Arts Gallery in New York in 2019.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you discover your painting vocation? Who influenced you as a person and as an artist?
I was born in the Northeast of China. I started painting when I was ten years old. I studied at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in oil painting. Later on, I decided to come to New York City for further education and new inspiration. During my graduate study at the New York Academy of Art, I got accepted at a residency and painted in Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France, for two weeks. This unforgettable experience reminded me of the first time I knew Impressionism at the age of fourteen. I saw a great exhibition in Beijing named ‘Sunshine & impression’. There were fifty impressionism paintings from Orsay Museum, France. I was attracted by the rich and bright colors and this exhibition influenced me a lot on my future creation. Claude Monet is my first teacher of oil painting. Since then, I have dreamed to be a professional painter. I have been painting my entire life for more than twenty years, it seems like my dream has come true. Being an artist is always challenging. I am lucky to have my parents support me. I should say my mother influenced me the most. She was the one who took me to Beijing and introduced Monet to me. She also said, being a kind person is more important than being a great artist.
I enjoy associating the fragile with the acute, the serious with the humorous tones, the poignant with the longing. I work from reality, instinct, and the subconscious. With ideas of narration in my life, I adopt elements from what I encounter or what I go through. My artworks focus on the relationship between nature and culture. Nature is always the overarching context of my artworks.” – Jingyi Wang
What about your beginnings? What were the biggest challenges?
When I was studying realistic painting at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, I felt great pressure since my professors and alumni were the most famous contemporary artists in China. I wish I could be as great as them. So I spend a lot of time practicing my painting skills but I did not enjoy it very much. I preferred painting outdoor and being close to nature. However, I am very grateful for this experience because it was helpful for my future art creation. When I no longer pursued superb painting skills, I found real progress in my artwork. I faced different challenges at different times. The biggest challenge for me now is that, as an artist, I must break through my own paintings and innovate my ideas all the time. I have been trying to find an artistic language of my own.
She had experiences creating a new kind of conceptual painting, where she combines reality, instinct, and the subconscious with cactus as the main subject.
I get impressed by your Artist statement: “plant looks more vulnerable than humans but they live without fear”. Can you tell us more about it? Why did you choose the cactus as the main subject of your artworks?
Once during my outdoor sketching, I saw a plant growing lushly on one side and quietly withering on the other side. It touched me very much. Plants look fragile, but they grow wildly and fearlessly in the wind and rain. I would like to paint nature life, and the cactus is undoubtedly the most representative plant. They are lively and strong. This is also my original intention of painting the cactus years ago. Of course, my thoughts and emotion about the cactus have changed a lot over the past few years. Cactus remains my main subject, but what I want to express is different. Now the cactus can represent me, my thoughts, my emotions. We all can recognize the traits that cacti represent within ourselves, toughened on the outside and fragile within. The sadly washed-out heart grows up against the wind in boundless loneliness.
Jingyi Wang is observant and perceptive and combines her sketching skills and creativity to show the inconsistency between the dainty and acute.
How long does it take to make one of your paintings, from the concept to the final canvas?
Usually, I complete a painting from the concept to the final canvas within two weeks. I like to paint directly and quickly. And I hope there is no interruption during the process. Some new ideas may come out during the process so that I will adjust and modify my work while painting. Thus, the time of finishing a work varies from several days to one or two months.
It has been almost 5 years since I started using cacti as my subject. Cacti symbolize my own feelings and attitude towards life, for me, they signify a helpless state and nervous emotions. My ‘silent desire’ series describes the growth of cacti in the room; the shade depicts a surreal natural scene with inescapable decaying. Following this, I created the cactus and balloon series.” – Jingyi Wang
Does the color palette you use in your artwork reflect the way you see the world? Is it a way to convert negative energy into positive creativity and growth?
Yes, my creation is quite emotional. The color of my palette naturally reflects my mood during the creative process. During the pandemic in 2020, loneliness, struggle, desire, strength, and restlessness appeared in my paintings. When my mood was blue, my paintings were in a blue tone, too. Although a self-admitting “pessimist,” I still look for “hope in despair.” I believe artists can transmit positive energy. Although sometimes we are in a depressing environment, we still have hopeful feelings towards the world. How can people find a pure space in mind in this anxious reality? I wish they could see the future, the hope, and the humor in my works.
With her unique surrealist painting techniques she brings traditional painting into contemporary art.
You have moved from China to the States. How much has New York changed, compared to when you first arrived? How has life changed for Asian people since the outbreak of the pandemic?
I moved to New York in 2014. In the past six years, I didn’t feel it has changed much, except that the new WTC site was completed. I was amazed by the diversity of New York City, where I have met artists from all over the world. But many changes took place in 2020. New York became unfamiliar to me in 2020. Many restaurants and galleries were closed or relocated permanently during the pandemic. There were Asian attacks and insults more than ever. I was afraid to go out at the beginning of the pandemic. I even took pepper spray and alarms with me when I went out. I hope New York will return to normal soon.
In her solo ‘Natural Social Distancing’ at Four You Gallery, the cacti take anthropomorphic form.
New York is a world symbol of freedom. It is difficult to believe that many attacks rise in that city. Are you surprised? Are your family and friends in China worried for you?
Yes, New York was a very inclusive and open city. I feel sad and anxious that there were many attacks on people of color because of the pandemic and hatred. For the moment, New York is not what it used to be. But we also had Stop Asian Hate parades and events. Everyone was making efforts to fight for equality and eliminate discrimination. I also participated in several art events. My family is in China. They were apprehensive about my safety so they told me some precautions for self-defense.
During my painting time, over half of my time was spent on landscape painting.Observation and perception is the inspiration source of my artistic creation, which helps me keep improving myself.” – Jingyi Wang
Even the smallest things can affect and add up to make changes. How to come closer together and learn to work toward common goals and stop the spread of bias and hate? Can art be a tool for making this change?
Yes. Artists can make an effort to speak for ethnic minorities through art exhibitions, eliminate racial discrimination and avoid violence. Art is also a tool to heal the soul. During the pandemic, we have seen artists from all over the world share and create works of art·, bringing wordless comfort and support to people. It is not as needed as access to health care and security daily, but art shows its important side when everyone is on the verge of extreme collapse, depression, and panic. Art can also give people the courage to face the future. I have participated in three exhibitions so far in 2021, two of which revolve around the theme of anti-discrimination. PARALLELS & PERIPHERIES curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and The Push exhibition organized by The Push group. The other one is my solo exhibition “Natural Social Distancing” at Four You Gallery. It discusses the relationship between humans and nature. We are all natural beings, we are created equal.
My cacti-human beings reflect the biological and psychological aspects of life, approaching the subtle and intimate intersubjectivity of humanity. With these elements and colors, I would always like to extend our bodies to the ground and mother nature, creating space for dialogue and collaboration among humans and nature.” – Jingyi Wang
Photos courtesy of Jingyi Wang