It’s hard to believe that the enveloping, experiential installation that currently fills de Sarthe Beijing began as a simple photograph of the view from one of the gallery’s windows. This is the work of Wang Guofeng, who took this seemingly mundane image—a print of which is now mounted on the gallery wall—and deconstructed it to form the current installation, the centerpiece of his current show, “PROBE.” Wang reworked the original image digitally, abstracting and enlarging portions of it to the point that its pixels became large, tile-like squares. He then transferred the resulting image onto vinyl wallpaper and affixed it to the gallery’s walls. Simultaneously, in Hong Kong, de Sarthe Gallery shows Wang’s new and recent works, in “PROBE II.”
“PROBE” is Wang’s first solo show in Beijing and it marks a major departure for the artist, who is known for creating large-scale, manipulated high-resolution images of socialist architecture in China that examine the country’s recent history. “Buildings from the 1950s and ’60s are not only symbols of the New China, but also symbols of Chinese socialist culture,” Wang has said. These past works, which were meticulously staged and researched, often took the artist months to achieve the desired results.
With this new, more abstracted body of work, Wang—a photographer and a trained painter whose practice has included a variety of media—sets off down a very different path, as he investigates the concept of what makes an image. Employing a technique completely different from his past works, “PROBE” and “PROBE II” are the results of Wang’s painstaking studies into an image’s fundamental core: the pixels from which it is composed. The work challenges how we typically perceive images, posing questions such as, what are the visions we see comprised of? And is the significance of the original image gone once we can no longer recognize it? As Wang argues, a real-life subject, once represented at all, becomes divorced from its original context—and ripe for manipulation.
We are living in a digital age, where we are constantly in contact with images that may or may not have been digitally altered. Wang’s work addresses the fact that although the images we see are shaped by their creator, their interpretation—whether it matches the creator’s original intent or not—is ultimately left up to the viewer.
—Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
“Wang Guofeng: PROBE” is on view at de Sarthe Beijing, Nov. 8, 2015–Feb. 25, 2016.
“Wang Guofeng: PROBE II” is on view at de Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong, Nov. 28, 2015–Feb. 6, 2016.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory