Rewriting Tradition: Interview with Wang Tiande
By Olivia Wang
Shanghai-based artist Wang Tiande has earned critical acclaim for his unique visual language, which draws from and reimagines ink-painting and calligraphic traditions. Wang was one of the first artists to radically present Chinese calligraphy in the form of an installation with his iconic conceptual work Ink Banquet (1996)—a table set for eight people, covered in ink-washed strips of paper. He forged his signature idiom in 2002, after he accidentally dropped ash on a sheet of Chinese paper when lighting a cigarette and noticed the beauty of the burn marks. Wang thus embarked on a series whereby each work typically comprises two sheets of paper layered one atop the other. On the surface is a landscape and calligraphic inscription created using the burn marks of incense sticks or cigarettes; the composition of the bottom layer is based on the image on top, and is rendered with ink and brush. What results is a complex work that challenges traditional precepts of ink-painting and calligraphy. Wang has since devoted his practice to further developing his layering methods. His subsequent series have incorporated stone rubbings and classical calligraphy, inviting viewers to reflect on the relationship between past and present. On the occasion of his exhibition “Awaiting” at Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong—the fourth solo show that the gallery has presented for him since 2003—Wang spoke to ArtAsiaPacific about his new works, collecting his thoughts on the future of contemporary ink.