Portrait of the Artist

Chao Wang

The Science of Dreams

By Noelani Kirschner | September 7, 2020
A Knight in the Sea Garden, 2020, oil on canvas
A Knight in the Sea Garden, 2020, oil on canvas

Chao Wang paints surrealist worlds that are equal parts science and fiction—visions of the artificial grounded in the biological world. At first glance, her “Imagination of the Future” series centers around the microcosms of nature: amoebic spheres float above the fray, and vegetal forms creep around the corners of the canvas. But upon further inspection, there are as many references to technology as to organic matter. “In most science fiction, people like to create grand visions and gigantic artificial intelligence,” Wang says. “But for humans, a large part of the threat doesn’t come from the universal, the giant and unknown things, but rather from the tiny, the microscopic, and seemingly insignificant microorganisms.” Wang’s work, then, combines influences of Chinese literature, which she associates with nature, and Western culture, represented by mechanical structures.

Wang’s artistic process begins with the simple act of drawing lines and circles—one of the most frequent forms found in nature—and then stepping back from the canvas to let her subconscious fill out the scene. She looks for any unusual hints of forms, or “monsters,” as she calls them, then transforms these initial markings into a scene of inherent juxtaposition in which technology and nature elope in a dreamlike duality. “Since these lines were drawn by my whole body (as I move my arm and legs), I like to call these lines that were created by nature,” she says. “I always like to find creative objects from nature.”

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