Wang Zhigang 王志剛

b.October 1960


"Buddha is a celebrity, much like Mao Zedong or Marilyn Monroe," says the artist. A native of Xuzhou, an important political and cultural center in Jiangsu Province, Wang earned a degree in Stage Design at prestigious Shanghai Theater Academy and was recruited to the faculty, teaching from 1989 to 1996, when he became a full time artists based in the U.S.

Wang embarked on a new series of seated Buddha paintings that incorporate x-rays, and these contrast the permanence of form and impermanence of life. The gallery has four paintings remaining from a series of forty images. The palette of blue, black and grey is beautiful, calm, yet forcefully concrete, giving us a meditation on human frailty and the wish for permanence found in sari beads ("pearls" or bone shards that remain when a Bodhisattva is cremated).

Works from the "Sutra of Great Wisdom" Jin'gang jing) are Buddha heads, each 15 x 15 cm, which can cover an entire wall, with 1800 heads in the series--a cipher for completion. These small paintings are sculptural and delicate, each hand-painted, so that the color shifts and alters from dawn to dusk with the light.

An accomplished painter of the landscape, over time he came to feel that "there is the landscape, and me, and there is something in between the two that is Zen." His drawings of coiled forms in ink and color (1996-1998) moved him from realism into abstraction. From 1999 on he began to create stone textured fingerprints and images of the Buddha which test the line between what is illusion and what is real, what is permanent and ephemeral. 

Marina Walker reviewed his first solo show in Santa Barbara in 1999: "Emotionally subtle and delicately expansive, Wang's paintings reflect his Eastern origins. Even though a Millet-like classicism suffuses the pastoral imagery of his earlier works with a gentle, painterly richness, there is always the measured, self-contained style of an introspective nature..."

The dragonfly "Armed for Flight" has grown hands in the form of the mudra of Buddhist practice. The canvas is large, 170 x 150 cm, painted when Wang lived and worked in a 6 square meter flat in downtown Shanghai. The small format paintings, with seated Buddhas 30 x 40 cm and Buddha heads each 15 x 15 cm in dimension were created in his Shanghai studio, a factory space in Minhang.

Works from the two Buddha series feature in his first solo show in Hong Kong, opening March 8, 2016 at Art-Life Gallery Workshop. Artist talk March 25.  Wang will also give special classes for the IB Art Studio Intensive March 9 and 11th in our loft space. 

Flower and Pearls, 30 45
Wang Zhigang copy