Little Girl No. 3 by Zhijie Wang. Oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm, 2012.
“Crossed Signals ”
Curated by Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos
October 4 — 30, 2012
Wang paints young girls in alluring stylized poses in fashionable clothing that in their pouting manner totally win our hearts. They invite us through their sexy demeanor and colorful attire to share their constructed spectacle. They are a cross between fashion models and Barbie dolls with porcelain skin. Their huge eyes, reminiscent of 1960s Keane figures, are heavily made up with long eyelashes, plucked eyebrows, and pouting lips in red lipstick. It can be said that Wang is stereotyping the fashionable consumerist modern female, but in reality he's engaging in tongue and cheek humor. Girl #5, #6, 7 and 11 are dressed in military uniform perhaps as an excuse to juxtapose the soft femininity of their painted faces against the rough army garb. Or, perhaps as a way of punning military dress that has become appropriated by the fashion industry today. Perhaps even to compare the sameness of this fashion icon repeated over and over in different costumes, with that of troops. But, though her morphology is similar, her moods, makeup and dress change to produce lively sexy females aware of their own power. These girls are not afraid and they're not objectified females because they're not vulnerable. They invite and warn us at the same time as seen in Girl #4 who holds a gun in her left hand while a parrot sits on her right arm. Girl #6 wears a red army hat and carries a pink backpack while smoking a cigarette. She turns away from us protecting her nude right breast with her left hand, all while she looks behind her. This is not an innocent little girl but rather a dangerous siren that Wang depicts. The devil wears Prada in Girl #9 who is highly made up, with bleached white hair and, except for a pearl drop earring and a purple pocketbook that conceal her body, is nude. This is not a vulnerable creature available to the male gaze but rather one who warns us through her demeanor-- crossed arms over the chest and head turned to stare at the viewer.
Wang's fashionable females are reminiscent of the 8th Century Chinese master Zhou Fang's many depictions of women as models of ideal feminine deportment as seen in his scroll Ladies Wearing Flowers in their Hair. Indeed it was very common during the Tang Period to create ideal female models in art because real women were forbidden to appear in public. A similar situation took place in ancient Classical Greece. Rather than paint individual personalities artists painted, women's roles. And as seen in both Fang's, and Wang's paintings, women have been rendered with meticulous detail in their wardrobe and make-up. The ancient models of deportment have now become fashionable femme-fatales.