Mac on Tokyo: Shun Wang
Shun Wang (王 順) is a master Chinese Ink Painter and Calligrapher. Hailing from Shenyang, Liaoning Province, he is holding his first exhibition in Tokyo from 5-8 October 2017. Mac, Founder of Maction Planet, caught up with him to find out more about his work and the man behind it.
Maction Planet: Hi Shun. Welcome to Maction Planet, and welcome (to your art) to Tokyo!
Shun Wang: Thanks Mac! It’s my pleasure to talk to you!
MP: Can you give us some background on how you began your journey in the art world?
SW: Since childhood, drawing has always been a great passion of mine. I always carried my sketchbook with me and drew whenever I saw something interesting, which I still do! I didn’t go to art school, because of the ‘Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement’ policy in China. Instead I went to the countryside to engage in agricultural production like almost 17 million others. That experience gave me many opportunities to get close to nature, which gave me a lot of inspiration for my future creations. In 1971, I returned to Shenyang and became a policeman. In the same year, I started learning calligraphy and brush painting on my own. In 2002, I retired from the police force and focused on my artistic career.
MP: Tell us more about your Tokyo show. What can visitors expect?
SW: The title of exhibition is “The expression of Jiangnan”. Jiangnan is the area south of the Yangtze River Delta. My paintings are Shansui, landscape paintings. Japanese speakers will recognise that this word is made up of ‘mountain’ and ‘water’!
The Tokyo exhibition will show some artwork which use a variety of techniques. The brush techniques so much emphasized in Chinese painting include not only line drawing but also the stylized expressions of shade and texture (cunfa) and the dot methods (dianfa) used mainly to differentiate trees, plants and for simple embellishment. The brush strokes give the painting rhythm and beauty and depict the subject’s outward and inner qualities. At the same time, they reveal the individuality and style of the painter himself.
Also, one very special piece will be displayed – a piece which was selected for the 24th Sesshu International Art Society Exhibition which will be unveiled at The National Art Centre Tokyo in December 2017.
MP: Congratulations, that is a great honour! As regular readers of our blog will know, we believe the National Art Centre is one of the most important exhibition spaces in the world.
Your daughter is also participating in this Tokyo show, right?
SW: Yes. She has a few pieces of colored pencil art on show at the same time. She loves art and is passionate about it, just like me. Due to her busy life, she did not have much time to draw after she first came to Japan. In 2011, she told me she started to learn photography and had purchased her first DSLR camera. I was a little upset as I thought she has given up drawing. She has done a great job with photography though. She now leads photo tours and gives photography lessons and I am really happy for her. Late last year, she sent me a piece of art which she drew for my birthday. I couldn’t describe my feelings; I was so happy she hadn’t stopped drawing after all. I am so proud of her and am so glad we have this opportunity to exhibit artworks together.
MP: I know you had a solo show in Kyoto back to 2006. Now you have this Tokyo show in 2017. What are the significance of these dates for you?
SW: My daughter was studying in Kyoto in 2006. She helped me to hold my first solo show in Japan. It was a fantastic experience. 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. My daughter has been living in Japan for 15 years now. She always tells me how Japan keeps surprising her… in a good way of course! Seeing her enjoy her life there, I am so happy for her. As a father, I truly hope Japanese and Chinese people can continue to develop and maintain strong relationships through art.
I retired in 2002 to focus on my art career. So 2017 is my 15th anniversary. It’s a year of celebration and how better to celebrate than with this international exhibition. I feel very blessed and honoured.
MP: Some readers may not be familiar with Chinese painting. Can you describe the techniques you use in your work?
SW: I use ink, both coloured and dry ink (ie ink without water), to create vivid landscapes. Chinese painting has two main techniques. One is Gong-bi, meaning ‘meticulous’: using highly detailed brushstrokes that delineates details very precisely. The other one is Xie-yi, which we also call ink and wash painting. I use both techniques in different paintings.
MP: I know it is tough to critique one’s own work, but what would you say differentiates your work from others?
SW: Hmmm… good question! Most artists are limited by their original style and are afraid to change. I like to present a variety of artistic styles. You can see this in my exhibition. I try to combining both deep tradition and the flavor of modern times to create new pieces. And in my dry-ink painting, I create vivid landscapes with detailed lines, dots and other techniques which is quite rare.
MP: What previous exhibitions have you held in China? Is your work exhibited in any museums?
SW: I have an annual solo exhibition in the Liaoning Dong Fang Painting Institute. Also, One of my calligraphy and two of my ink paintings were selected into the ‘Liaoning Arts Exhibition’ and the ‘Northeast China Itinerant Exhibition’ which unveiled at the Liaoning Provincial Museum in December 2016.
MP: While of course broad and diverse, can you give us your thoughts on the art scene in China right now?
SW: With the development of the social economy and the improvement of living standards, more and more people are becoming interested in art these days, especially the younger generation who grew up with a booming market economy and access to lots of information about the outside world. It gives them more opportunities to broaden their horizons, which is a great thing. However, at the same time, the cultural heritage of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy are facing a crisis. Oil painting, sculpture, design and architecture are very popular in China these days because it is easier for young artists to find a career in those fields. On the other hand, not many people choose to learn and succeed in the genre of Chinese painting even though they appreciate this traditional art and beauty. This is one of the reasons why I want to bring my works to Tokyo this time. I hope I can introduce Chinese painting to more people, who can join us to preserve its heritage.
MP: The contemporary art industry is constantly growing, which is fantastic. However, being an artist in such a competitive climate can be challenging. What advice do you have for aspiring artists who want to be successful in the art world?
SW: First, maintain your passion and follow your heart. Second, artistic creation is not a competition. Real artistic creation happens when the artist follows their own journey, their own emotions. And we should always learn from each other, keep absorbing new knowledge and fight for your own artistic vision.
MP: Thank you for joining us Shun. Best of luck with the exhibition. We look forward to checking back in with you after the show.
“‘The Impression of Jiangnan’ －Chinese Ink Painting Exhibition of Shun Wang’ is on show from 5-8 October 2017 at Rental Space Sakura. Directions and further details can be found here.
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