Two figures eerily creep through a scene, with a strong sense of light shooting up at them. Dark shadows are cast behind everything that catches the light, and within one of the corners sits a sculpted portrait bust, whose giant face looms like the Ghost of Performances Past. His nose is broken and his mouth is twisted, and the space behind his head is the only part painted black – an ominous warning against the dangers of acting, cautioning how much of your own self that might be forfeited in the desire to become someone else on stage.
And even though the subject matter may lean towards the creepy, the colors are anything but – bright oranges and whites against a pale green background, colors painted so thick that they become autonomous, living on their own within the 63 x 79 inches of canvas, bleeding and oozing but with enough restraint for detail. There’s a strong sense of the artist’s hand across a floor that’s painted in lines mimicking the light’s direction. But the walls and clothes seem to glow from the color within them, somehow shiny and organic at the same time.
“Performance” by Johannes Heisig, 2012
Also on view in Heisig’s booth on the Modern Art pier was a triptych of sorts – three watery interpretations of himself, each numbered as a different “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflection.” Each utilizes a distinct color palette and emphasizes a different part of the artist’s face – the first focuses on his nose, the second on his head/ear, and the third on his mouth and chin, as if he painted three different still frames from one good head shaking. They could be three totally different people, and shown altogether they play with the ideas of how drastically the way we view ourselves changes from day to day and hour to hour.
The artist stares right at you in the middle portrait – his head swimming in bright colors that highlight the fleshiness of his skin that’s even painted a burning red/orange in some places. His eyes look out disapprovingly, his mouth puckered in a grimace as if he’s judging your outfits or your bad habits from within the frame. If you look closely, you can see each individual stroke of the artist’s brush – they seem random and chaotic, but somehow take a few steps back and they come together to become an impassioned kind of melting impressionism.
Heisig’s “Selbstbetrachtung” or “Self Reflections”
Johannes Heisig, 60, has been described as a social realist painter working in subjective expressionism. From Germany, he’s painted a number of German politicians and also works in graphic design and illustration. His artwork has been shown throughout Europe since the early 80s, and at the Armory Show he was represented by Die Galerie in Frankfurt.
“Selbstbetrachtung I (Self Reflection I), 2010.
See more from Johannes Heisig on his website.
One large-scale canvas that was covered only in colored pencil underpainting took up an entire wall of Tang Contemporary’s booth at The Armory Show. The canvas was surrounded by flying flecks of color, the same colors that should be on the painting instead of around it. It was just a simple landscape scene, a valley surrounded by green hills that led the eye off into the distance, but spreading the paint everywhere keeps you inside the booth instead of letting you escape into the scene like typical paintings intend.
A scattered, abstract way of interpreting absence versus presence, the piece is titled “A painting-Landscape,” and was created by contemporary Chinese artist Wang Yuyang in 2010.
The piece mimics the Dr. Suessian notion of smacking color right off of the objects they belong to – you can almost see the artist finishing the landscape, hating it, and then KERSPLAT! He slams the canvas against the wall and paints flies everywhere. Of course, the canvas can’t be left completely empty since then there would be no correlation between the colors and what they used to represent, so the pale outlines and colors remain within the 85 x 55 cm rectangle.
There’s a connection between past and present, what used to be and what is now, all compared to what should be. Societal standards are overrated.
A miniature version of what the painting was intended to look like stood beside it, allowing viewers to compare color with the lack of it, although it’s hard to tell if this painting was ever really completed or just filled in with computers. Similar to one of those cube-scaling projects each art class has on its curriculum, the miniature version lets your eyes fill in the appropriate emptinesses of its older brother scene whose paint has flown the coop.
If you look close, you can see that all the little flecks of paint aren’t just oil and water, they have a plasticity to them that makes them more substantial than if they’d just been merged and flowed across a landscape scene. Each individual shade of green, yellow, gray, white, blue and black stands independently – defiantly almost, refusing to become part of the whole and wanting its own space on the wall to be noticed by passing viewers.
Tiny colored flecks even fall on the floor beneath the painting, bringing this contemporary art piece all the way to your feet.
Wang Yuyang is a 34-year-old contemporary Chinese artist whose work deals with technology and our relationship to it, along with the aesthetics of brokenness and pilings of material waste.
“I like the traditional Chinese philosophy because it talks about the relationship between 1 and 0, on and off, black and white, something and nothing,” Yuyang explained, “My works explore this connection.” He is also particularly interested in exploring what he calls “the zero state” – an emptiness filled with nothing but silence and stillness.
For more of Wang Yuyang’s work, see his bio pages from the galleries who represent him, White Rabbit and Boers-Li.