In the studio with William Jiang, a contemporary visual artist whose practice is influenced by traditional Chinese poetic aesthetics - utilizing the value of emptiness and stillness to observe the subtlety and emotion of overlooked scenes in life. We met with William to tell us more about growing up in China, what inspired them to first pursue their artistic journey, and William's greatest influences.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
I know I can draw and I love drawing since I was a child. However, the first begin to see myself as an artist was not because of drawing but writing. I immersed in writing prose when I was in middle school. That was the first time how special it is to create something. And after soaking more knowledge about visual art, I started to study how to be a painter, which is the most proper way for me to express myself.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I am from China and grew up in an ordinary family. My parents didn’t know much about contemporary art, so I only got the concept of contemporary art after I entered university. My father studied graphic design as an undergraduate, so taught me to sketch in high school. Although his job has nothing to do with art, he likes to collect Chinese antiques and handicrafts, and these art pieces he collected accompanied me growing up. Therefore, I feel that some artistic spirit and literati temperament of the oriental tradition is hidden in my works.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work?
When I was a teenager, I felt that creating was the most meaningful thing for me, so I chose to major in fine art. In the beginning, the creation must be an imitation of the famous artists, and then I turned to my own practice. Because I am engaged in painting, I am particularly afraid of being similar to other artists. I spent a lot of time trying to find the images that matched my feelings deep inside.
What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from?
My practice originates from the observation of the overlooked scene. By analyzing the images I have, I hide the appearance of reality itself and transform its invisible meditativeness. My works look abstract, but they are inseparable from my viewing of reality. I feel that my sensitivity to the surrounding landscape leads to the results of the images in my works.
Aesthetics is a important part of my work. First of all, I impose myself as a follower of the Minimalism, so when I get an image, I cut out unnecessary details first, trying to extract the stillness and emptiness. I’m interested in exploring a certain aesthetic potential, combining screen vision, minimalism and realistic imagery.
Who & what are your greatest influences?
Zhang Enli. Gerhard Richter. Laura Owens. Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I try to offer the audience a visual space where they can meditate and explore. I will not consider the specific audience when creating. The standard is only me myself.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic?
I went to a residency located in a family forest in Minnesota for ten months after grad school, living and working with two other established artists. Because it is a place isolated from the world, so I only face myself every day. I felt “I found myself.” I started to create the “Recluse” series in 2018, and it continues to this day. I have tried different techniques such as airbrush painting and traditional oil painting. I applied them according to multiple requirements.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
Feel joyful while making work.
Tell us the inspiration behind your works?
Many of my works are inspired by a light source, and so is this work. One day I was driving in the middle of nowhere and a light peeked out from behind a cloud, and that achieved this painting.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I will try to lengthen my practice to video art.