Wu Ming and Chinese Art Informel




The painter Wu Ming strikes a bridge between the ancient Chinese and the Western Informel painting traditions. Representative for her works are the series “Soul of Nature” and “Polymorph”.

“Soul of Nature” is a series of small-scale oil on paper paintings and encompasses meanwhile more than 150 works. In these paintings Wu Ming seeks to visualize the relationship between volume and contour on the one hand and between space and time on the other hand. Contour creates space, encloses volume, volume embodies time, time takes up space, space breaks time. Nature is change and transformation, nature and stagnation are incompatible with one another. In some parts of these paintings one does not see anything contoured. This however does not mean emptiness, but volumes, which can take up form at any time. Such volumes are potentiality; they constitute pictorially the space out of which contoured “beings” can emerge. Thus they also signify time, which is the medium of transformation.

By accentuating the tension between volume (which illustrates time) and contour (which constitutes “beings”) Wu Ming visualizes the tension typical of nature between “not yet” and “no longer”. The “Soul of Nature” paintings are the manifestation of Wu Ming’s inner world; they are the traces of the spiritual correspondence between the human self and the creation and destruction of nature.

Other than the “Soul of Nature” series the “Polymorph” series depict sharply outlined organic, partially zoomorphic and anthropomorphic forms. They address the problem of “Emergence”, i.e. the impossibility to derive the whole from its parts. These shapes are irreducible, i.e. they cannot be divided into parts and then put together again. Thus they exemplify the law of the unity between artwork and thought and make the inner world of Wu Ming visible. These brown shapes look as if they had been poured down from heaven into the world. They remind one of Homunculus, of the putrefaction of the alchemist Paracelsus, or the golem – the yet unformed human being. They allude to the incarnation of human beings out of formless material. As in the “Soul of Nature” series volume and contour also stand here in a tension relation, which is even more stressed by the white background. The circulating contour encloses a highly structured volume, in which “the inner life” of the shapes bulges forward. There one recognizes cell structures, blood, skin, bones, brain mass, legs, hands, shoulders, etc. With her polymorph structures Wu Ming creates the protagonists of a private mythology, with whom the viewer may build up a close friendship through time.

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