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Wang Qingsong: The Glorious Life

Born in Daqing, China. Currently lives and works in Beijing, China.


“Photographers need to learn anything beyond photography, to know about the society. Only through knowing more about this society, your photography can bear some warmth of humanity. (…) Most importantly, don’t go ahead to take photos without thoughts and purposes. In particular, at this epoch of digital media, one must cherish each opportunity to click the shutter.”   Lu Hong, Constructed Images: The Art Odyssey of Wang Qingsong.

China has changed. The long march of economic development to realize the ideal Chinese world has resulted in the dazzling achievement of super-speed growth. China’s dramatic economic transformation can be likened to the advent of a whole new world: ‘the glorious life’. But, there is no flawless utopia on earth, and China also has to pay a price for its glory. Construction sites take over myriad corners of the continent, livelihoods become plagued by pollution and the people roam like vagabonds to find jobs amidst the urban jungle of skyscrapers. Wang Qingsong reflects upon the true nature of China’s ‘glorious life’ transferring the countless dissonances that he has witnessed into motifs in his works.

Wang Qingsong is an indispensable figure in contemporary photography of China. His works conceptualize the chaos of values denoted by ‘the glorious life’ in a hilarious yet cheerful, critical manner. The works enrich and expand the concepts of Chinese contemporary photography through novel approaches and cultural significance. Qingsong began as an oil painter but believed that photography, which was recognized as a legitimate new media, was the most precise medium for creatively documenting moments of turbulence in China. Qingsong develops and edits the large-format photos that seem like scenes from theatres and movies, to alternate reality and demonstrate a sense of intricacy in capturing the details of images. Therefore, he achieves a comprised, constructed reality, which enables the viewer to understand and experience the society and humanity in his photographs on a larger level. Wang Qingsong lingered long in the periphery of the stable boundaries that society had set, and this is why his portrayals of the other side of the ‘glorious life’ exude shades of intense mockery. All photos featured are from his long term project The Glorious Life (1997-).

Wang Qingsong studied at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. His work has been presented at prestigious galleries, museums and art fairs across the globe including the 55th Venice Biennale China Pavilion, Italy, the International Centre of Photography, New York, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the 42nd Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, the Daegu Art Museum, Seoul, MOCA, Taipei, the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.

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Edited by Nikolaj Ahlefeldt Andersen