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Colourful Life — The Autobiography of Changdao

From a Tough Life to a Colorful One: Mr. Wang Bingfu’s autobiographical exhibition

 

By Fu Xiaodong

 

This is Mr. Wang Bingfu’s second solo exhibition at Space Station since Thus Spoke Painting History in 2014. The exhibition features the autobiographical works of Mr. Wang (epithet, Changdao), the memories of more than eighty years since 1935: his Colorful Life -- the anti-Japanese war, the liberation, the life in Academy of Fine Arts and the Cultural Revolution. The fragments of life and work so far have been flashbacks like the montage of the movie, consisting of a highly summarized brushwork, a rigorous and ingenious style of ancient prosecution, and a touching personal narration. Those incidents combine the rugged individual life with the turbulence of historical background. Individual experience, as a clue, shows that how an independent intellectual established his cognitive model based on self-experience in the face of unchallenged destiny. The information of his individual life presented in the exhibition has become a kind of special media with historical and social value. What the exhibition showed is Mr. Wang’s involvements in the maelstrom of politic and inevitable choices rather than his ink works. Those imprints that the ruts of times forcibly carved in individual memories, those unspeakable and repeated senses of injustice, and those unbiased and unreserved plots, commingled as a heavy work of life.

 

Compared with the heavy social literature pervaded the whole set of works, written materials have become scarce and weak. These images strongly conjure up those times that we can only return through words and historical materials. Painting, as a projection of representation, makes the semantic meaning of memory rich and specific. These fragments of personal historical narratives, like the camera lens, zoom in on the space-time that is not remote but has become unfamiliar to us with man-made screening, reconstructing the forgotten era. The non-verbal information of these images plays a role of reproducing and recirculating memories in the episode, allowing us to imagine the details of the story by reproducing the real story while sharing the history. These clues also make the cultural knowledge sediment, which conferred by the broader world, unfolded in the picture; however, the question of how to extract historical information from it has become a question of confirming each other for the viewer.

 

The exhibition records everything from 1935 to the war of resistance against Japan (1937 - 1945) in which fierce fighting made life impossible for people, but they took care of each other and their affection is warm; to the China’s War of Liberation (1945 - 1949) during which Wang entered the Academy of Art, and guided by many famous artists, he found art as a shelter; to the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976) during which Wang was cast as a rightist and sentenced to labor reform for his opposition against Russian Factionalism and the restoration of traditions, which, as with the political movements invading aesthetical field, became an important thread of his life; then to the new era of Reform and Opening (1979 onwards) in which esthetics finally saw its freedom imprisoned by politics. From the perspective of individual psychology, the style of the early Wang Bingfu, fulfilled with amazement and novelty of the war, was simple and honest, pleasantly expressing his childhood and teenage years spent in Tianjin and his young age after being admitted to the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts; From the early 1960s during which the policy was changed, and Wang was sentenced to labor reform in Xishan plantation, to the break of the Cultural Revolution (1966), he was cast as a ‘gangster’ and sent to a carpet factory where he spent 10 years of dark time; thus, his words went helpless , in which there were a little occasions with ease and hope, but more about how to continue living in despair. He was rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping’s return to power in 1972; and got a position at Academy of Art, and settled down. It finally has become a portrayal of a happy life that returning to painting and nature.

 

Wang Bingfu converted his life from a tough one to a colorful one. That is a summary of his open-minded and happy-go-lucky life. Mr. Wang’s life is like a boat being swung for nearly a century by the waves of the grand times: his birth and death are closely linked with the tides, as presented in more than 400 pieces of works. His deep love for the traditional is not only a striking incident as an important turning point in his life but also a path that he, upholding his faith, willingly withstood to punishment without changing his mind. It is the best demonstration that the traditional modeling and painting skills embodied in the picture. The distressing political events that expressed in the painting language are solid evidence for all the experiences of political fluctuations and persecutions of that era as well. These autobiographical paintings, like flash memories, are not simply pleasantries, nor merely reductive realism, but can be expanded into the categories of philosophy, aesthetics, psychology and political history.


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