Studio International

Published 02/11/2015

Zhan Wang: ‘I have been continually influenced by Michelangelo, Rodin and traditional Chinese sculpture’

The Beijing-based artist is a photographer and video artist, although he is best known for sculpting highly polished stainless steel rocks, a cultural reference to the ‘scholar stones’ loved by the Chinese for their aesthetic appearance

Lilly Wei spoke to Zhan Wang at his Beijing studio in July 2015 to discuss the evolution of his art.

Zhan Wang (b1962, Beijing) is best known as a sculptor of artificial rocks made of highly polished stainless steel, often monumental in scale, their mirror-like surfaces simulating the intricate configuration of scholar stones. He is also a photographer and video artist, and has worked compellingly with installation. Something of an iconoclast, he has embraced and subverted the conventions of Chinese and western art equally.

Zhan lives and works in Beijing and shows internationally, but is better known in his native country, where his production is widely seen in both public and private venues, his place in contemporary Chinese cultural history assured. Riffing on shan-shui (mountain-water) and scholar rocks, both revered subjects in Chinese art, Zhan melds the man-made and the natural, the realistic and the abstract, the geological and the spiritual. In My Personal Universe, his exhibition for the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing a few years ago, he created a spectacular installation of countless suspended fragments of a boulder in shining stainless steel. He began this work by exploding a gigantic boulder in the mountains of Shandong province and recording it on video. Surrounded by enormous projections of that detonation, it was an impressively dramatic and immersive narrative of cataclysm, of changes that might refer to the current state of China.

Lilly Wei spoke to Zhan Wang at his Beijing studio in July 2015 to discuss the evolution of his art.

Interview by LILLY WEI
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Translation by ALEX MA