Jeffrey Wang "Year of the Tiger"

Sep 28, 2012 - Oct 17, 2012

Opening Reception -

Friday September 28th, 2012

6:00pm - 10:00pm

“I'm son of Han,” Gao muttered, coal smoke in his rheumy glances. “I shall see Tomasz.” Gao peered right now, in fact, from a Dun Tai buttress; one of many blind angles constructed to deceive an invader. Kung Fu toes up and out, Gao springboard bounced over round-the-capital train tracks. An impossible, swaggering lightness of step. A seven foot six basketball player's leap? Chinese jumping vampire? Yao Ming! From the secret nook in a wall to this clockfaced turret above Dongbianmen railway plaza.

– Fatty Goes To China by Royston Tester

In the ever-devolving world of the genuine self, the instance of autobiography is at work ad nausea by the vacuous volcanic world of mass culture and its insipid drive to deliver the truth and the real. The oral confessionals that pervade our psyches -- both money-grabbing TV and tabloid stars and the interpersonal anecdotal nature of our personal lives in which we recall quotidian moments of self -- find their way into our emotional landscapes with clutter and sincere influential reverence. Details are glazed over for diplomatic points of entry: nouns, times, places and dates eclipse indulgent density. The paintings that comprise The Year of the Tiger by painter Jeffrey Wang concern themselves with contradiction, autobiography, hostility, obsession and the general post-cliché distortion of the seven deadly sins, trajectories that dictate and frame our pursuit of domestic and personal virtue.

Antidotes for this malaise of self are far and few between: Vancouver artist and novelist Michael Turner provided some levity with his rent novel 8x10, a book which tells a story about the lives of eight people — and the lives they come in contact with. The narrative device is devoid of character or city names, a book without race, religion or nominal indicators, a book in which the character's actions — not their identity — moves the story to its dramatic core and nervous system.

Memory distorts and indulges; reflects a given moment of recollection with acuity, abstraction and sometimes falsehood. Jeffrey Wang’s newest work suffers as much as it reveals. In these six paintings, life is portrayed with deliberate vulnerability; yet wrought with confidence, even aggression. Based on his memories growing up in China before moving to Canada in 1999, these pieces continue his exploration of personal inventory, and the global clutter the individual endures on a daily basis.

The portrait format is re-contextualized into 21st century personal tableaus, teetering on the brink of science fiction, delving in to corrupt dream state and personal hysteria.

With subtle textures, visual layers and soft colours, creating an alchemical personage, the title piece Year of the Tiger is a storm of humanity and anxiety. A confluence of humanity and life splayed out, almost in a taxidermy state, with not so hidden objects perhaps favourite objects, proudly on display within arms reach or as vaporous backdrops in the distance. These mirage like asides act as poetic accessories to amplify the subjectivity of personal and global inventory.

Much like the narrator of Yukio Mishima’s novel Confessions of a Mask who is possessed by his storybooks and childhood dolls, these coveted objects are scrapbook objects the protagonist covets, like a secret Christmas morning obligatory portrait, self conscious, gratuitous and rare.

The obsession is transferred to the palate, and the viewer is lured into smelling the instance, absorbing the warm colours and frightening pathos. The work's power indirectly transports the viewer to the memory that previously never occupied their mental quadrants.

Diplomatic, original and vastly engaging Wang’s re-imagined throwback portraits incorporate human, industrial, economic and environmental turbulence beyond the singular or group human focus. In Girl with the Knife, the feminine gaze is captured in a relaxed metaphor of cat rose and slouched pose, almost anticipate anything from love, death, sex or the uncertain arm of the truth extending itself to its subject. In Wang’s Wang Yi, a formally dressed man attempts tranquility with his pet dog in front of a window with an overcast sky. Both animates look disenfranchised, early in the process of smiling, but not quite achieving the muscular act. His face is maudlin, while the dog appears frail yet content in the arms of his master.

On the Cloud snaps at a biting instant of chaos and exchange with a carnival-like underpinning. The hints of a house filling with smoke; a horse with bleeding eyes is positioned against human forms, forms that act as mute witnesses to the pending conflict on the abject horizon.

Taken on their own or together in a colossal family album, the figures all appear caught off guard, perhaps representing moments never spent, always spent, yet to be spent. A confidence exudes in contradiction. Four Gusalis revels in a group gathering around a table with a notebook blowing in the wind. The terrain here is disruptive, foreboding: behind them an angel, lanky human and a horse frolic with manic strides in the distance.

Seamless in its transit from spectacle to focus, alchemized with biography, the rectitude in Jeffrey Wang’s paintings display passion, intrigue, conformity and narrative destiny.

Nathaniel G. Moore

  • Year of the Tiger 1
  • On the Cloud
  • Four Gusalis
  • Portrait of Cao Yi
  • Chong
  • Wang Yi
  • Girl with the Knife