Tweety Shiwen Wang’s paintings are concerned with the concept of dusk as an ominous, empty space. The work creates an atmosphere of hidden cues that explore the mysterious nature of imagination. The artist views the gap between dusk and night as a space where human and “non-human” life blend together.
Kelly Foster – I’m really interested in learning more about your work, since your Artist Statement sounded a bit mysterious. Could you start off telling me about the works you submitted for this exhibition?
Tweety Shiwen Wang – These three works were all made in the same time period during summer in London. I think it’s the most beautiful season and time of year because of the gorgeous dusk that occurs. It stays light out so long here, and there’s a long period of time to really observe the colour of everything. I look at the light and how everything fades and looks into the shadows. It’s an open space where my imagination flows endlessly. It represents how I feel towards life; that time is dissolving, day by day and returning to night. I’m really obsessed with this moment of light and want to capture it in my work.
KF – How long have you been interested in the topic of dusk and light? Was it something that interested you after you moved to the UK?
TSW – After I moved to the UK it definitely became more obvious for me and I started to pay attention to it more. It’s not really normal in China, so when I moved here I really noticed how pure the light becomes. I’m also interested in light because of my background in stage design. It’s a different use of light – artificial light versus natural light, but my interest in light became more obvious after I moved here.
KF – Your work also appears to have objects floating in this space of light and atmosphere. What do the objects represent for you and how do you choose what to depict?
TSW – I was reading a lot about manmade objects and I found it really interesting that our existence is entirely dependent on them. Culture is constantly changing and is entangled with objects. I’m really drawn to certain things and I noticed that I wanted to possess and own them. I wanted to depict these certain objects that I was attracted to their colour and texture.
KF – Are you always drawn to these kind of old antiques or do you also depict contemporary objects?
TSW – I’m more interested in antiques because they show the passage of time and have a sense of history imbued in them. I think about how people created and designed things in the past in a slow process. I really like the spirit of making things.
KF – Do you think that comes from your background in stage design? It’s very tactile and you’re making objects for sets. Is that incorporated in your painting?
TSW – With set design, it’s more of a representation of reality in a more exciting and memorable way. Painting does the same thing for me. I use the canvas as a stage and I try to employ the subject matter and direct the work. I also really enjoy thinking about the title of the work as a title of a drama.
KF – In one of your works, titled Midas Touch were you thinking of a specific story while painting that scene?
TSW – After the painting’s finished, the work reveals itself to me and I see if it tells a story or reminds me of anything.
KF – Would you say that you have an intuitive approach to painting? Do you contemplate specific objects and an atmosphere and then put them together to create a scene which will remind you of a narrative?
TSW – I start with an abstract idea of a certain atmosphere, and then I rely on whatever I’m thinking about at the moment, which changes really fast. Sometimes you can recognise the objects and sometimes it’s just relics of many things that are combined together.
KF – I find your painting, Quiet as a Mouse really interesting. It seems different than the other two as it’s spread over two canvases that almost look stitched together.
TSW – I like the background radiation of the colours and I think a lot about the light. In this piece, I wanted to depict the passing of light from day to night. This work is more figurative than the other two, but I had the same thinking process where I just first paint what comes to mind and then later I’ll create a story around it.
KF – Yes, this work feels more figurative with the crow than the more loosely abstracted paintings. Even though the other works also have figurative elements, they are always somehow floating in this surreal atmosphere.
TSW – Yeah, I like to give a hint of something that could happen and I try to balance the abstract and figurative elements of the painting.
KF – I really like the way you paint the atmosphere and details of the work. It feels almost pointillist and impressionistic with your use of colour. Do you always paint works on this smaller scale?
TSW – I just follow my intuition. If there is a really big object in front you, it has this monumental effect. I don’t really like to explain, I just follow what I like. When I paint on a small scale, it gives me the impression of a page of a fairytale in a book.
KF – Do you have any other influences besides the concept of dusk or is this something that you continuously explore?
TSW – Right now, I’m still exploring this idea. I only started really focusing on painting exclusively when I came to the Royal College of Art. Before that, I was doing a lot of other experimentation with materials. I’ve really narrowed my thinking down to the idea of light and objects.
KF – Do you use photographic references when you’re making the work, or do you just absorb the sensation of light and these objects from your observations or your memory?
TSW – One place that I really like to go to which influenced me a lot is the Wallace Collection in London. My tutor recommended it to me, and ever since I’ve become totally obsessed with it. I watch their YouTube channel where they have videos talking about the specific objects in the collection.
KF – It’s kind of like you’re excavating and seeking out these antique objects that have been taken and brought to London from around the world. You’re giving the objects new life through your work.
TSW – Yes, it’s kind of my way of owning them. The history of the objects also really interests me, and the idea of progress in civilisation. We are always trying to progress in some sort of direction that is better than our past selves.
KF – Do you think that we aren’t developing forward?
TSW – I don’t think so. We create so many things to help us develop and continue civilisation, but we depend on them so much. We always need to create more and solve problems. This continuous need for progress doesn’t always make things better.
KF – There’s an obsession with continuously progressing even though we might not necessarily need to. It also frustrates me a lot thinking about the amount of waste we create.
TSW – We make and build everything up so much so that it just all becomes really complicated. Then we get entangled with those objects and we are never separate from them. It becomes normalised to take that for granted.
KF – Yeah, we definitely take it for granted but we are also so complacent.
TSW – We are always changing our paradigm because of these things. Steve Jobs created the iPhone, and now we can’t live without our phones.
KF – We become slaves to our stuff. It own us more than we know how to manipulate it. We rely on it so much. It’s an interesting dichotomy to paint the balance between something that’s so pure and organic like light versus manmade objects. It’s interesting to see them together in this new world that you’ve created.
TSW – It’s always too complicated to explain the relationship between those things.
KF – We don’t always need to explain everything in painting. The painting can just exist in that space without the need to understand everything on a rational level. The object always has a specific use, but the artwork doesn’t.
TSW – The process of creation is a state that goes from our bodies, to mind, to creation, consciousness, and then digestion.
KF – It seems like painting is something that doesn’t really always have a direct evolution – there is no specific rule that one painting style has to evolve in a certain way. Somehow painting can stay technologically neutral and exist on its own timeline.
TSW – I always think about the trending quality of fashion, and how in one or two years that style isn’t going to be popular anymore. With painting or sculpture I see works from 100 years ago and it still looks beautiful.
KF – Art can be timeless, whereas materialistic things like clothing or technological objects don’t speak to the soul in the same way.