Wang Yishu’s photographs permeates a cautiously ambiguous atmosphere, derived from reality yet simultaneously divorced from reality; independently established yet integrated as an entirety. The tone of Yishu’s photographs is neither pretentious nor exaggerated; its form reflects the subject matter and is also an appropriately subtle representation. All these paved way for his core narrative: possibilities of human physique and mind – possible identity, possible relations, possible circumstances, possible motion, possible vestiges, possible transformation, possible plight, possible conclusion, destined possibilities.
This air of intrigue originates from Yishu’s profound knowledge in photography, “Our lives are encircled by at least two worlds, perhaps even more. We are familiar with the world that orbits according to the laws of the world, regulated by social relations; the other world is on the contrary, unnamed and obscure, which shows up in a flash of light and slips away unnoticed. I may be dependent on the former, but it is uninteresting and unable to quench my inquisitive thirst. In photography, I am mostly absorbed in the latter.”
Most photographers are still caught in the mindset where photographs are expression of clarity and lucidity. This is partly associated with the nature of photography, but largely due to people’s notion of photography. To most people, photographs are images of what they have envisioned or expect. But clearly, Yishu is dissatisfied with that depth of understanding. Rather than articulating on behalf of his pictures, he lets them speak for themselves.
Yishu’s photos are unable to be differentiated nor apprehended by our unconscious habits that are guided with deliberation; rather it is a reversal of position. It is not that we see them, but rather, they capture us. Debris like photographs that enable us to feel huge. It is not about ownership of them while we enclose them in our vision, but that we are resided within them, like the face of nature that was swiftly exposed for once, like the mysterious mirage, like sleepwalking in a dream; they are unable to be read in the manner of most photos that usually entail some form of social clues, antecedents restrict our interpretation of situations, which remains as a possibility to be complete. Yishu’s photos are not girdled with elements of “things” that are commonly present in most photographers’ work. “Things” that exist in piecemeal or in the whence and whither of “things”. This is photography that is truly depictive of temporal and spatial elements. Permeated yet disintegrated by time and space, thereby worn away. His photos are “solitary” or “one-off”. Hence, escaping from the domination of time and space. Perhaps, viewers have always felt the urge to unravel his images, to extend it, by for example positing it in a scenario of a summer afternoon with thunderstorms or sunshine, what happens before that, what happens after that, who was involved at what point and what were they doing? But in Yishu’s mind, he is clearly aware of the subject, the cause and that they will not whittle amidst suspicion and speculation that have emerged spontaneously. All these suspicion and speculation contradict its intuitive facade; this is just a single performance, and a possibility. It is incomplete.
Yishu’s photographic world resembles a retreat to a place far-removed, pausing somewhere in the distant. At times, it moves to the point where it is only visible from the corner of one’s eyes, when one attempts to stare directly at it, it hides under the back of one’s eyes. But at times where it remains motionless, it becomes clearly visible. Like a still portrait with its details peculiarly amplified. Therefore, photographs featured in this exhibition are neither purely analogous nor mechanical. Rather, they are penetrative, intuitive and realistic, so they naturally aggregate as a substantive metaphor; the metaphor stretches as far as your capacity in deciphering it.
姜纬 Jiang Wei