Intrigued by the process of bees working to build their home, Wang Mo’s work draws inspiration from the honeycomb. Continue reading to find out more about her inspirations and process.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
STAR: Your unconventional use of materials has produced a surreal and beautiful landscape. How did you experiment with the medium and artistic process to inform the final presentation of your exploration?
Wang Mo: In the days of my undergraduate studies, my painting tutors had repeatedly stressed the importance of materiality in art making. Their words were rather new to me at that time, as my art education in Singapore had mostly emphasised on the technical aspect and ideation process. One of my first lessons at the Slade School of Fine Art touched on the effect of sunlight on the aging of oil painting colours, which really fascinated me. Subsequently I painted with oil and acrylic on different surfaces such as raw linen, silk and tracing paper to experiment with interactions between materials. From then on, I found myself enjoying the process of finding different materials to paint on and pushing the boundary of two-dimensional painting.
The discovery of the illuminating effect of UV light on certain paints came as a surprise. A friend of mine was playing with a UV torch and shone it at my unfinished work, and what we saw under the UV light intrigued us both. Being an artist, I naturally embraced it and built on it. I prefer painting to be a ‘raw’ process, allowing the paint to flow naturally and produce unique colour combinations. I find the art making process more exciting than final product – the most intriguing moments usually happen during the making – but both parts are equally important in uncovering the chemistry between colours. As I am trained since young in Chinese Ink and Wash painting, or xieyi (writing the idea in visual form) painting, I am more concerned with capturing the essence of subject matters and the atmospheric representation of ideas, rather than a meticulous figurative portrayal. The Other. World / 别有。洞天 has traces of reference to the Chinese landscape painting motifs of mountains and clouds, but I hope to leave it open to the viewer’s interpretation in accordance to his/her personal encounter with nature. I hope that through my work, people can recognise, appreciate and respect the wonders of the natural world in flux.
I hope that through my work, people can recognise, appreciate and respect the wonders of the natural world in flux.
STAR: Could you elaborate on your childhood experience and how your interaction with the natural world lead to the conception of your work?
Wang Mo: I was born in Beijing and moved to Singapore at the age of eleven. I used to live next door to the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing, and my childhood memories largely consist of running wild in the imperial parks that seemed boundless to a child. The parks had no fencing back then, so I had the luxury of rolling on grass and even climbing on small hills. The vast land and freedom of exploration in a space abundant with myths and legends enriched my imagination. I envisioned myself owning such a heavenly place in nature, and I was thrilled to make up stories for the ancient trees in the parks – some had stood for centuries and some, such as the Nine Dragon Juniper, had their own captivating myths. I think my love for nature and preference for the free-spirited manner of portrayal came from these experiences.
STAR: As a Teacher-artist, how do you balance your work and your art practice? Could you share some advices for Teacher-artists who hope to do the same?
Wang Mo: To be honest, I do not think I managed to balance my work and art practice well enough. There was a long period of inactivity in my art practice, which has caused me much regret.
I only managed to find my way back to art making after settling down in an art studio with a few like-minded friends. However, maintaining regular visits to my studio remains a challenge to this day.
My advice to other Teacher-artists would be:
● Talk to and be inspired by like-minded friends with an active art practice. It is always easier to grow with a ‘support group’.
● Always stay connected to the developments of the contemporary art world – visiting exhibitions and reading about art will keep you in tune and constantly inspired.
● Restarting your art practice after a hiatus is way more difficult and painful than maintaining a regular art making habit, so try not to have long breaks. Continue to make art in bits and pieces, this will help you stay relevant.