Evelyn Taocheng Wang: Four Season of Women Tragedy
Galerie Fons Welters
24 November 2017 - 20 January 2018
Review by Helena Julian
Evelyn Taocheng Wang’s second solo show at Galerie Fons Welters flaunts references to Wang’s wardrobe of Agnès B. clothing, her background in traditional Chinese painting techniques, her daily life in Rotterdam and Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel ‘To the Lighthouse’. Contemplative excerpts by the novel’s main character, Lily Briscoe, who questions her identity in relation to her parents and gendered conventions, form annotations that are featured in and around the individual works.
The walls of the gallery space are painted in a lush shade of pink that verges on terracotta, suggesting the hue of porous soil, where the four seasons become apparent as a metaphor for cycles of womanhood, interposed by personal tragedies.
Wang trained in traditional Chinese painting techniques, specifically the refined practice of Gong Bi Hua, before she relocated to Europe to pursue postgraduate studies at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and De Ateliers in Amsterdam. With her rice paper paintings and repetition of the Agnès B. garments draped throughout the gallery space, Wang assembles narratives whose elements frequently refer to classic Chinese storytelling. Knowingly misremembering the narratives and associated imagery, Wang generously amplifies certain narrative aspects to sensuous proportions. In ‘Yellow Rose Dress Walking in Graveyard’ (2017) a woman wearing a luminous floral summer dress and pink strappy sandals hastily leaves a garden that contains tombstones filled with Chinese cabbages. In front of the painting we find the pictured dress draped across the gallery floor, as if already put in place to accommodate an anticipated escape.
Throughout the exhibition the paintings and garments seem to rouse parallels of each other in their use, depiction and signification. For Wang, the designs and brand identity of French clothing brand Agnès B. allude to the archetypal imagery of sophisticated European femininity, providing an understated elegance to middle class customers. Furthermore, the Agnès B. garments and the fantasies and promises of European womanhood they invite, become a uniform for everyday assertions of Wang’s identity. Additionally, the included garments all stem from Wang’s personal wardrobe, therefore encompassing her intimacy of wearing and cherishing these clothes.
Several garments are suspended by four wooden sculptures that resemble clothing racks, each of them referring to one of the four seasons and as such, propose a suitable outfit to wear in that given season. The ornate sculptures respond to a reoccurring argument that Wang recalls between her mother and stepfather, where her stepfather would call her mother out for her excessive spending habits, exclaiming that a body is not a clothes hanger. Two augmented garments shown hanging from a gallery wall could be seen as a spirited response to this concern of vanity, where Wang provided an inner lining to existing Agnès B. designs.
A cropped black leather v-neck jacket, ‘Jogging on Rotterdam Harbour’ (2017), is lined with a pencil drawing of references to the Rotterdam harbour, involving cranes and scaffolding. Next to the jacket hangs ‘Reading on Rotterdam Harbour’ (2017), a delicate sheer black full length dress from which a slice of paper with another quote from ‘To the Lighthouse’, slips out from under the dress like an elongated petticoat. The two augmented garments are a sensuous play on the interiority versus the exteriority of identity and identification, much like the narratives surrounding femininity that Wang assembles where the body can be (a)dressed, molded and modelled, to negotiate its cultural and gendered identifications.