All at once colourful and chaotic, Ziping Wang blends the imagery of commercial packaging and fragmented colours and shapes, creating a visual representation of the overconsumption and information overload of today's society. Born in China, she pulls inspiration from her memories as a child to capture the mental anxieties of everyday life. Small Talks is Wang’s newest exhibition open at the Unit London from February 6 to March 9, and adds to the ongoing commentary of the digital age while also abstracting the preconceived imagery in her work.
Ziping, you have a new exhibition called Small Talks coming up with Unit London. Congrats! What can you tell us about your upcoming work and how does the title fit into that?
Small Talks refers to spontaneous conversations under certain social situations with acquaintances. This behaviour is perfectly parallel to my painting process of combining familiar visual elements and rearranging them under different contexts. Though the paintings in this exhibition still utilise packages and patterns, one can clearly see that the paintings consist of smaller deconstructed shapes, and the importance of packages are further pushed behind as merely a shape with visual and text. Rather than insist on the memories that a certain visual could recall, I emphasise the overwhelmingness of information overload.
So you were born in China, but now you’re living and working in the US. With your paintings highly based around consumer culture, how have you found these locations to influence your work? Would you say that you get inspiration from what you see day to day or memories from the past?
I grew up in an era where material abundance was vibrantly blooming in China. So there was much more variety of brands and food available for general consumers with their eye-catching package designs. Witnessing everything happening in the 90s and early 2000s, I was dazed by the visuals of the packages, I remembered going to supermarket before Chinese New Year, the festival songs playing on and on that you almost feel that the music notes left a permanent stain on your skin, all the packages stacked floor to ceiling, so many things to watch, listen, and buy. I feel nothing is being absorbed and processed, things and visuals just pass through me.
I want to capture that precious feeling. This feeling is not bounded by geographic location and nor affected by languages. Because of the abundance of colour and shape in a tiny time frame, this feeling could be shared by everyone across the world.
Speaking of consumerism, your paintings are known for their bright colours and images of commercial product packaging, however, your new set of works takes a step back from this and focuses more on the abstraction of the digital age. What led you to take a different direction in your work?
Through talking to my audience and my mentors, I found out that my past series of works placed too much significance into the actual packages, which is not what I intended. If one element is too dominated in the painting composition, then it weakens my intention of everything being given equal attention and importance. I am still carefully weighing each element; one may find that I am experimenting with different proportions of package elements in this exhibition.
A common theme throughout your paintings are the mixed and matched designs and patterns that mirror the image of a collage and create a sensory overload effect. What are you hoping to communicate to viewers through this distinctive style?
I created the paintings without any premise of judgment. I personally don’t think my paintings will change people’s point of view towards social media, attention economy, or the development of visuals. I think most of the time I am in the observer position, witnessing, documenting and processing the feelings that are tied to my everyday experience. My hope is that the painting should be true to myself, and if possible to a broader audience, then the work could be studied as anthropological evidence for future generations.
Since your paintings are known for being colourful and patterned, is that something that you incorporate into your personal style?
When I was an art kid in high school, I (of course) wore only black inside the school uniforms. I think my personal style started to shift a little in college. Unfortunately, most of my days were spent in the studio, where I needed to wear more casual clothes. On a day out, I love to wear vintage design clothes with a kid fashion, I love to cheer people up with colourful clothing. I can’t wait for my hair to turn all silver so I can wear all my colourful childish clothes.
At this point in your career you have a number of accomplishments under your belt, including being named on the 30 Under 30 Forbes list for Asia in 2022 and collaborating with Louis Vuitton in 2023. What do these accomplishments mean to you and how has your artistic journey brought you to where you are today?
I was unbelievably lucky for the past few years, and I felt deeply grateful for everything that happened to me. I guess hard work and ambition will always be the most important things in my life. I think the most cherished accomplishment is that I can support myself using solely my creative work. This gave me tremendous confidence at the beginning of my artistic journey. In the future, I want to help younger artists in the fields.
While your paintings critique the overconsumption of today's world, how has the internet influenced and impacted this vision in your art? Do you think that social media is helping to elevate art or does it only add to the sensory overload of everyday?
I feel like this is a complicated situation. Most of my friends who are currently working as artists were discovered through social media, like Instagram. But at the same time, it definitely consciously ate away a lot of my time, which is kind of scary. I even have to deinstall social media apps a couple times a year to be more productive.
How would you describe your artistic process? Would you say that it’s more messy or organised?
I think the process is quite routine and organised. I am that kind of person who always carries a planner with me and loves a timeline for everything. My painting is usually based on a rough sketch whether digital or physical, and in the sketch there are plenty of empty areas for further creations, so even spontaneous designs on the paintings are controlled accidents.
Finally, what do you hope will come from your new exhibition? Is there something specific that you’re hoping viewers will understand through your work?
I feel each audience will bring a new narrative to the understanding of the works. I don’t have any assumption towards the painting but I am always eager to hear what other people think of my work, so definitely reach out to me if you feel like you want to share something.
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