Viewpoint | Understanding Digital Pictorial Photography

Independent & Image Art Space
May 20, 2020 3:06AM

By Timothy Warrington, English art critic, curator, member of International Confederation of Art Critics

From a layman’s perspective, photography is all too often seen as a tool with the sole purpose of documentation and, unfortunately, its extreme and sophisticated creative potential can occasionally be overlooked or even forgotten; Fu Wenjun is an artist actively concerned with creative attitudes and stereotypes who wishes to elevate photography through a process of thought and execution. In fact, his dynamic artworks explore, challenge and define the boundaries of digital art, photography and self-expression via a conceptual journey that is at the heart of his artistic process. In his most recent collection he has developed an intriguing and unique style that he has named ‘Digital Pictorial Photography’. These artworks adapt and distort the viewer’s perception, creating intense intrigue and inviting the passive observer to ponder the subconscious messages that are intrinsically contained within each piece whilst, simultaneously, conveying a treasured personal sense of the artist’s inner self.

Wenjun’s ‘Digital Pictorial Photography’ conceptions are alive with movement, intense character and comprehensive personality. The complex structural elements they possess lead the spectator’s eye deep into each enthralling detail while the fluidity of the forms and shapes often mask the image of a hand, face or even animal disguised within the artwork. These hidden intricate facets combine to assemble an arrestingly compounded formation in thoroughly captivating pieces that encourage the viewer to investigate and carefully analyse each aspect. This contemporary artist flawlessly employs his process, which incorporates multiple exposures and culminates in an intensely rich, layered opuses that conjure images of Man Ray’s rayographs produced without a camera when considering their shared experimental approach to the delicate relationship between light, balance and aesthetics. Wenjun’s creations are often defined as rebellions and its purely informational attitude towards photography. His stunning compositions are thought provoking and require substantially more from the viewer than simple observation of their beauty as profound dimensions of the mind are ceaselessly stimulated by Wenjun’s work.

© Fu Wenjun, Expectation, 2014-2015

© Fu Wenjun, Under the Dome, 2014-2015

In Wenjun’s collections ‘Digital Pictorial Photography 1, 2 and 3’, he uses extensive imagery of traditional sculpture, predominantly originating from the Western hemisphere, which suggests an inspiration or reaction to artists such as Michelangelo and Donatello, or indeed to the entire Renaissance period. Wenjun’s conceptual photography inspires deep reflection in regards to the relationships that exist between different cultures in the modern age of globalisation; he seamlessly juxtaposes ancient artforms with contemporary styles proving he possesses the undeniable capacity to move the viewer to contemplate specific issues whilst successfully bringing together a cohesion of old and new artistic techniques enriched and connected by his fresh perspective. Wenjun masterfully utilises his artform as a fluent language through which to communicate his passionate commentary on urbanisation on modern life.

© Fu Wenjun, A Showy World, 2014-2015

Wenjun’s digital photography stems from diverse influences, including a fundamental understanding of classical European art, as is exemplified in ‘The Showy World’ from his Photographic Narrative collection. The statues presented in this piece have been expertly manipulated in negative and are surrounded by strong, eye catching colours and exuberant, expressive forms. Wenjun’s art is awash with vibrant energy; he frequently uses striking red hues and harsh black tones which, combined with a distinct sense of movement, provide inextricable links to traditional Chinese art such as that of Zhang Daqian. Wenjun visually contorts themes and motifs in order to emblematically express the narrative of the profound effect that rapid societal change has on Chinese towns. His message is further solidified by means of an integrated web of academically utilised symbolism that connects the viewer to the eloquent sense of the artist’s honest and full self expression captured in each artwork.

© Fu Wenjun, Among the Clouds, 2014-2015

Whilst Wenjun’s style is incredibly unique, upon close analysis it is possible to draw comparisons with the photography of Barbara Kasten and Maya Rochat by analysing at their vivid use of colour and bold forms. Kasten shares the use of three dimensional objects and statues that are artistically altered through the lens of the camera to conceive a distinct conceptual creation with new perspective and purpose. A further influence of expressionism can also be detected in Wenjun’s individual approach to form and shape; he and Lee Krasner share deep philosophical ideals that are powerfully demonstrated through their daring yet elegant interpretation of line and shape.

There is a rare aura of freedom radiating from Wenjun’s photography who, through his artistic processes, achieves a wonderful symbiosis of beauty and provocative message rendering his works a true delight both to observe and to contemplate. Wenjun’s creativity reflects the sheer magnitude of his affinity to his medium, he demonstrates an impeccable ease in expressing challenging thoughts and concerns through his camera and via his skilled photographic manipulation. His remarkable innovation consistently catalyses a relentless search to develop new artistic methods through which to articulate his fervently heartfelt and sincere thoughts that unite to establish his philosophies in regard to a ceaselessly expanding world.

December 2018

Independent & Image Art Space