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Issue 212

Evelyn Taocheng Wang Finds Pretentiousness Underrated

The Rotterdam-based artist answers our questionnaire 

BY Evelyn Taocheng Wang in Interviews , Questionnaires | 29 JUN 20

Evelyn Taocheng Wang, Medusa Got a Hard Time!, 2020. Courtesy: the artist and Antenna Space, Shanghai; Carlos|Ishikawa, London; Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam.

What was the first work of art you loved?

When I was young, I didn’t know what art was, or what was beautiful. I first loved a snail’s slimy trail on the muddy ground of my grandmother’s garden. Later, I discovered many artists whose work moved me. I loved Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres for his expressive distortions of form and space; he was an important precursor to Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Barnett Newman credited Ingres as one progenitor of abstract expressionism: ‘That guy was an abstract painter [...] He looked at the canvas more often than at the model. [Franz] Kline, [Willem] de Kooning – none of us would have existed without him.’ I loved the ink landscape paintings of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), because they were made with the same brushstrokes that were used for handwriting. Those artists were scholars.

What’s underrated?

Being a ‘control freak’. Or being a ‘let-it-go freak’. I can’t decide. Maybe pretentiousness?

What’s the most important book you’ve read lately?

Seigensha Art Publishing’s A Dictionary of Color Combinations (2011), based on Sanzo Wada’s lectures from the 1930s. It accounts for every colour and names them, too.

What surprises people about you? 

​I’ve been a Buddhist vegan since I was 11 years old. When I experienced puberty, I grew up light as a plant. My friends would always say: ‘Evelyn! Why do you hold your breath? We are talking, but you are holding your breath.’ I would reply: ‘Because I am an elegant plant!’

What do you like to do when you’re alone?

Clean my house.

What do you miss?

My first flight, which was in 2007. It was my first trip out of mainland China, the first time I saw Europe. I said to the attendant: ‘Did you know that Europe created body culture?’ 

This article first appeared in frieze issue 212.

Evelyn Taocheng Wang is an artist. Her solo exhibition at Antenna Space, Shanghai, China, is on view from 15 September to 2 November. Her monograph will be published by Dancing Foxes Press later this year. She lives in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.