“Oftentimes, I experience a sense of alienation to my immediate surroundings, as if I am existing just a few milliseconds out of sync with everything else around me at any particular moment in time,” Shipei Wang tells It’s Nice That. Shipei is a visual artist working in Glasgow but has moved around a lot throughout her life. As a result, exploring nostalgia for past times and places forms a major part of her work, which she describes poetically as “memorabilia of fragmented memories.” Although sometimes alienating, feeling “out of sync” with the world has become an important aspect of her creative vision, allowing her to meditate carefully on “how wobbly the idea of reality really is.”
Shipei works in various mediums. “I think a good artist should always get bored of what they are doing very quickly, otherwise they are not progressing”, she remarks playfully. She recently began experimenting with ceramics, collaborating with another artist to give physical form to a series of anthropomorphic vase-like sculptures that she originally designed using 3D programmes. But her favourite material to work with is silk. The marbled texture which can be seen in the background of Figure With Elephant and the handling of skin in Miscellaneous Encounters is created by applying colour onto the reverse side of a sheet of silk. As she works, the colour seeps through to the other side, forming natural marble-like patterns. This method appeals to Shipei because it allows her to give up partial control to her materials and processes. She influences the design only slightly, through the pressure of her hands and the choice of brush. In this way, Shipei explains, “I am using the silk not only as a surface that carries my composition, but I am giving the material its own agency.”
Looking through Shipei’s work, we notice how forms often become repeated. In Next To You the repeated forms of two recumbent heads overlap, creating the wistful impression of rolling hills. Shipei’s interest in repetition stems partly from her use of materials – the duality of working on both sides of her silk canvas. She continues: “I tend to see certain elements in my visual language as ‘characters’ of a story, they each symbolise something and it just makes sense for them to appear, go away, and reappear again, much like you’d expect the personalities in a fiction.” It is no surprise then, that literature is an important influence for Shipei. She is fascinated by magical realism, citing the work of Frederico Garcia Lorca, Isabel Allende, Haruki Murakami and Mo Yan as some of her all-time favourites. She wonders at how these authors “use completely abstract symbols and scenarios to express overwhelmingly real human emotions with so much poignancy and grace.” Shipei sees parallels between the art of creating literary fiction and her own role as an artist – she uses paint instead of words to tell her stories.
In her work so far, Shipei has skilfully communicated abstract feelings of nostalgia and captured little “frozen moments” in her memory. However, for her next project, she plans to focus more specifically on the themes of loss and bereavement. She describes how her recent experience of grieving her beloved dog has led her to meditate carefully on feelings of regret, denial and guilt. She hopes that her practice will help her deal with her personal loss and “perhaps even reveal something more profound about humanity’s nuanced desperation for intimacy.”
Shipei Wang: Figure with Elephant (Copyright © Shipei Wang, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.