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Art Watch : Wen Fang

Wen Fang is in focus for our Art Watch for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

A Buddhist, with a name that is the first half of the “Four Treasures” (⽂房四寶) in Ancient Chinese Calligraphy. Wen Fang or ⽂房 literally means four sided text. For me her name is as much a clue to her manifesto as an artist, as the work itself.

A trained photographer Fang chose to explore a variety of surfaces to display her “photographs”. And as she pushed the boundaries, she found that what her lens captured needed to be experienced by the viewer in an interactive manner. Hence her installations. In 2016 at the Times Art Museum in Beijing, her installation VOID PAPER is meditative and a work that speaks to Fang’s connections between her Buddhist practice and her art. Her work draws us into her meditation.

Fang graduated from college in 1996 during the period of China’s Internet boom. Before she immersed herself into the world of art, she was a website designer in Beijing.

Why Wen Fang?

At the heart of her craft is her soul and her heart and this is what led her to the understanding of the other deeply. So she doesn’t really posture her work as a ‘calling’ but it is an extension of what she feels and who she is. The choice of art and design, was a way to balance her personality. Working in the IT industry must’ve been immensely different from the world of art. But her spirituality was a strong place of strength that enables and empowers her to truly live and maximise her potential, there is a huge difference in the way art or a profession is approached. Fang is wholly immersed in hers.

Her art developed into a true passion, much later and then it was a means of giving voice to many others. Six years after graduating, Fang wanted to learn more about art and the world. One must understand that the culturally where she belonged, she was aware of the vast opportunities and the sea of ideas that existed beyond. She travelled to France where she studied photography at Louis Lumière College. Fang says, “The most important thing I learned in France was to be open minded…the experience made it easier for me to understand others and their differences.”

Armed with a enviable world view, Fang returned to the land of her birth – China. Gradually she carved a niche for herself and created her own visual vocabulary as an artist. She made a name for herself with her counter-traditional photography, and her installation art is what made her truly unique.

Work & Inspiration

Fang did not want to be tied to the limitation of creating two-dimensional images; Her photographic art can be found on bricks, knives, desks, and even hair! Into her work seeps her culture, her spiritual beliefs, and she often explores the lives of some of China’s most underrepresented people.

Fang says ”I am not a moralist, I focus a lot on the bottom of the society, not out of pity, but because through them, I see a strength of character very much alike new grass growing out of stone cracks. This strength helps me to stay alive.” 

Once again she clarifies her belief – not to be confused with pitching her art under the tent of socio-political activism, but as something that is born of her own understanding and in correlation to her own beliefs. The essential thing to understand is that Fang ‘sees’ people and she works to make others see as well. This is perhaps one of the central reasons why her art is spread on unusual surfaces.

Fang’s work is in some of the most prestigious collections namely the private collection of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Foundation for Creation, Paris, France the French Embassy of China, the private collection of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Arts, Beijing and the private collection of the Renault Art Foundation, Paris, France.

For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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