Interview with Christine Wang
Crypto Rich, installation view at Nagel Draxler Kabinett, Berlin, 2018.
Gwen Hollingsworth: What’s your process?
Christine Wang: I keep a sketchbook. I’ll write in it or think of funny phrases in the car, and put it in my sketchbook later. They’re pretty rough but I have it clear in my head what I want. I use really cheap newsprint. I just kinda print stuff out and use Google searches, and there’s also Instagram.
GH: How often do you think about your audience?
CW: I worked really hard to not care. Because I used to care a lot and I still care a lot, but I’ve worked really hard not to. Because it’s really embarrassing to make a painting that says “I just want to be a white girl.” A lot of my paintings are so embarrassing and if anything, it’s like a sign. If I feel embarrassed it’s because I’m onto something. But it’s hard because I’ve had to unlearn a lot. I’ve had to unlearn a lot of caring but at the end of the day, it’s just a painting. So I try not to think about my audience at all until it’s done. I look at stand-up comedians because they’re good at making fun of themselves. The good ones can at least make fun of themselves: Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey.
GH: Why do you make art?
CW: It’s nice to be able to talk about what I think is true. Because there’s so much stuff that’s not real or true or are a distraction. Maybe it’s still a distraction but I’ve been thinking a lot about meditation, like what’s useful about meditation? Meditating and painting help me grow because they let me see these nasty, racist parts of myself and then once I think about it long enough and make nine paintings about it, I can let go of these feelings. I started making these paintings that say, “I wanna be a white girl,” and then it transitions into, “I wanted to be a white girl,” and it’s pretty funny. I can see me healing myself by making these super depressing paintings.
Johnny Depp, 2018
GH: Is most of your work self referential?
CW: They say that artists make the same paintings over and over again. And that every artist is a complete narcissist. I’m self-referential, but I also try to think about how I fit in with everyone else and how I am a product of my environment. It can’t be just about me, it has to be about me and other people too.
GH: Talk about your aesthetics.
CW: I’ve learned from Mary Kelly that everything has a signifier. Every color you use, every surface, it all has this meaning that’s assigned to it vis-à-vis art history. So if I’m trying to make one painting and it looks like another painting, it’s because they have different meanings. So right now, I’m making photorealistic paintings and that kind of fidelity to the photograph, I think brings up a lot of ideas about mass culture and mass media and how ideas about celebrities are transmitted. And at the same time because it’s handpainted, the juxtaposition of mass media in the form of a photo with this hand-done technique leads to this boring, melancholic feeling. My painting hand is physically trapped in these images of celebrity and it adds to the meaning of the painting because it says, “I just wanna be a white girl”, so it adds to my feelings of being trapped as a Chinese person in a white supremacist culture.
The Issues Are Too Important to be Judgmental, 2016