White Space Beijing is a big white cube of a gallery in Caochangdi. Downstairs are two large rooms, currently occupied by Chen Guangwu and Yu Bogong. Upstairs, the gallery is pleased also to have a smaller space available called ‘the Hub’ where they can show younger, less prominent artists’ work. On show now at the Hub are some works by Wang Min, a 36 year old painter.
There are a number of small paintings to see here, some hung in a line, a couple on their own, and more grouped together in clusters. The exhibition is called ‘On the Way,’ and these arrangements reflect the feel of the work and the way that Wang conceives of her project. There is no highfalutin idea bolstering these paintings. Rather, the framework is diary-like: a quiet, unobtrusive record. Wang’s major focus is minor objects; side by side are square paintings taken from CD covers – Jason Mraz, Blonde Redhead, Jose Gonzalez; alone at the end of the room are two larger canvases containing airport scenes with planes being unloaded and little figures dotted around. On the right-hand wall the clusters include a squashed peanut pack with some nuts lying on a surface, a blue-ish-toned piece depicting window cleaners, a frieze-like line of shoes (presumably Wang’s), a row of glasses full, empty or partially full with lager; also here are chess pieces, a book face-down next to a plate with a twig stripped of its green grapes, a pair of gloves, a tea cup held between two hands…’On the Way’ refers to the idea of a journey - echoed in the aeroplane paintings – but it’s a daily journey, perhaps without much of a destination in mind.
The introductory text stresses Wang’s avoidance of elaborate technique in favour instead of a return to ‘the pure inner world in her painting language.’ It is noticeable how softly these works are painted; it seems the brush has glided along the surface, pushing slightly into a creamy layer of pigment. The tones, as one might expect from the mood of the show, are also temperate, verging sometimes on murky but never to the extent that they suggest a dull atmosphere. One senses that the ‘inner world’ described here is not the innermost one. These works seem like painted punctuation for instances otherwise unmarked or recalled in their own right. Together, they make a statement of moments occupied, not thrillingly – in fact, barely even noticeably – but passed through nonetheless; the exhibition text talks of daily objects ‘lingering’ through Wang’s imagery, and this is certainly true. Although this work might not declaim its presence or subject matter, there’s a deliberateness here, an unquestioning attitude. Some kind of strength inhabits the fact that these paintings, taken together, resist outside or overly-complex projections. In effect, one could say, they simply ‘are.’ The fact that Wang is a woman offers a further possible path; solo exhibitions by women artists are few in Beijing, and the pantheon of famous names remains almost entirely male. But what kind of useful light does this cast over the work seen here? One might say these paintings, domestic in scale and subject matter and the soft, painterly touch with which they are rendered testify to a feminine gaze, but what of that? A certain humility and gentle application need not be bound only to gender readings. For now, perhaps, this angle need not take centre stage.
-- Iona Whittaker
(All images courtesy of The Hub and Wang Min.)