Embrace the Healing Power of Art
Enter Viewing Room
Wang Chuan (b.1953) has dabbled in realistic paintings in his early years, and he is a key figure in “Scar Art” movement in China. He later turned to abstract painting during the 1985 New Wave Movement and became a significant pioneering explorer of abstract ink painting. In the late 1990s, sudden illness brought Wang Chuan to a critical turning point that helped transform his artistic practice. Painting became a personal spiritual journey in the face of illness. Wang Chuan’s ink paintings hum with a quiet energy that tends to be spread evenly throughout each work, with stronger eddies here and there, sometimes punctuated by dots or color, but rarely a major concentrated vortex—just as the energy in an endlessly flowing river. There are nodes of energy where lines thicken, and the lines intersect in a web that stretches to infinity. Recognizable shapes on the verge of emerging into plain view dissolve before solidifying: in an act of non-attachment, Wang Chuan releases the form rather than holding it close. This kind of introspection and healing creation arises from the artist's personal encounters with death. It unexpectedly allows the artist to instinctively react on the impermanence of life and reflect on the spiritual existentialism, as well as interpersonal and metaphysical connections. This viewing room is associate with the online exhibition of "Embrace the Healing Power of Art" that opens on 1st March with ArtLand. We hope this exhibition will be a source of inspiration and encouragement during this special period of the epidemic. [ Viewing and Downloading the Online Exhibition Catalog 👉 https://issuu.com/1000plateaus/docs/embrace_the_healing_power_of_art__wang_chuan_-_onl ] >>>> Supplementary introduction to the exhibition background <<<< In 1998, I was diagnosed with advanced gastric cancer and returned to Sichuan for treatment. I remember distinctly the feeling when I was lying on the operating table for surgery. At that time, I seemed to be in a long, purely dark tunnel with a light spot in the distance. I didn’t know where exactly the light was. I couldn’t see anything around, but I could only try to reach that light spot. Although I couldn’t see anything nearby, my hearing was very clear. I ccould hear the voices of doctors and nurses, and even the sound of nurses playing a card from a far. I don't remember whether I reached the light spot, but after waking up, I knew that I seemed have just walked in the tunnel of death, and these blurry, bemazed and floating feelings perhaps are the dying experiences that people often discussed about. The experience of in the face of death is a tragedy for many people, but for artists, it is a grand gift. In 1998, Wang Chuan was diagnosed with stage III gastric cancer and underwent 80% of gastric resections. He was basically sentenced to death by doctors. During the period of struggling with the illness, painting had become his emotional release. Wang Chuan admits that after chemotherapy, he needed to paint desperately to balance the physiologically exciting effects of the drugs. However, after doing many chemotherapy phases, Wang Chuan decided to give up chemotherapy completely in 2002 and went to the Himalayas mountain areas in Nepal and visited many Buddhist temples there. When I started chemotherapy, I was in an agitated state. I was restless and constantly ranting. I painted as if my life depended on it, because otherwise I would end up berating and hurting others. But then I went into depression, and became a typical split personality case. A person's energies are generally conservative. When one aspect is used too much, another aspect has to come up and constrain it. Now that I understand this, I can deal with it in a rational way. It’s about facing it, accepting it, dealing with it and letting it go. Buddhism was a great help in this regard. The year 2001 was when I was in the greatest danger. If I had gone into the hospital for chemotherapy then, I would have died there. In despair, I quit chemotherapy and traveled to Nepal to see the birthplace of the Buddha. There is the fear for almost everyone when it comes with the threat of death, whether it is an unexpected accident or a disease. In the words of Yan Shanchun, it is something concrete, or perhaps something specific; it is a fear of the tribulations of illness, or perhaps a fear of the separation from this world. For the artist Wang Chuan, the fear at the time was both. after I came out of the hospital, more of my fear was the latter, and I could only dispel it through constant painting or travel. We are not monks, after all; we still cling to many things. My major insights into this came mainly during my two trips to India. The first time, I was on the banks of the Ganges. To one side of me was a group of youths having fun, eating, singing and dancing. To the other, morticians were measuring corpses to calculate how much wood they would need for cremation. These two extremes of life were placed right next to each other, with no differentiation between them. In this way, I gradually came to understand what the Buddha was saying about emptiness. Another time, I was in Kathmandu, and encountered a Taiwanese woman with leukemia. She had been there for over a decade. When she learned of my experience, she talked with me, very calmly, about the meaning of life, and about her own personal cultivation. There are people out there who have reached a high level of insight into life. I don't really remember exactly what they said to me, just their kind, serene faces. I cannot say whether these two experiences impacted my views on art, but they certainly changed my views on life, liberating my soul and allowing me to paint with ease. In October 2004, having wandered for hours lost in the dense and humid forests of Pohkara, exhausted and covered in leeches, Wang Chuan finally sat down and surrendered to the situation. The sight of an old leaf fallen slowly through his field of vision, “like a boat directed only by the current and wind, its destination beyond understanding,” moved him deeply. It is then that he gave up the futile struggle against fate and achieved equanimity. He believes that at this moment his cancer was eradicated. My life was divided from the time when I became ill in 1998. After the illness, my biggest change was to let go of "persistence" (or “attachments” better here? ). The reason why people are upset is to be bound by attachments. This illness taught me to think about life from another angle, and to think about what is human creativity. It opened my view of art invisibly and profoundly. The peace Wang Chuan found within himself infuses his paintings. They don’t overwhelm the viewer, nor do they convey a pithy or amusing message. They don’t charm or seduce, or grab the viewer’s attention. Instead they stand as a reflection of the constant flow of energy through the world around us, as channeled through Wang Chuan. Contemplating one of his paintings we can sense this, and sense that the painting is exactly right, exactly as it should be with nothing to add or subtract. To paint thus is ever a most challenging feat for an artist, particularly when the artist eschews all visual distractions in his art, as mentioned above—no message, no overwhelming power, no recognisable image, and so on.