Wang Zhi Wu (b. 1984) is a Chinese pop artist, whose paintings and sculptures celebrate the life of children via whimsically caricatured animals. Although at first glance, Wang’s heroes delight the viewer with humor and innocent charm, deeper themes lurk afoot.
With sophisticated, scumbled brushwork and cold paint patinas, Wang uses color and texture to allude to global land masses, oceans, seas, mountains, weather patterns, skies, and national borders. The overall effect of his paint handling is to create a sense of geopolitical map making, rather than that of just mere ‘flesh and fur!’ On close inspection Wang’s seemingly innocent animal protagonists turn out to be subtle referents of power exchanges between mogul and maid, bad guy and bodyguard, the haves and havenots even to an array of geeks, nerds, and n’erdowells, seemingly striving to become calm, cool, and collected. Some of his protagonists haplessly go without the fate of the startled? while others fancy a social climb! In contemporary China’s topsy turvy world of instant billionaires, displaced peasants, newly minted capitalists, sorry slums by luxury condos, and bureaucrats puzzled by the mixed signals of free markets with the old, top down communist order, it’s no wonder that one of China’s most successful contemporary artists should take on such themes even if they are ‘masked over’ by his sheer love of ‘cute’ animals and the glorious life of children.
(It should be noted that Wang is, indeed, and animal rights activist in China an oxymoron, in itself?) Finally, from a recent generation so saturated by animated, popular media and an exploding global art market it’s again no surprise that Wang tackles mixing fine art technique and thematic gravitas with pop characters and ingenuous “cartooning.”