Wenqing Zhai (b.1998) is a contemporary painter who works mainly in acrylics. She was born in Dalian, and currently lives and works in Beijing, China. She earned her BFA degree from Pennsylvania State University in 2021. She is concerned with issues surrounding the problems that the rapid development of population and technology brought to human lives. Her works are often described as “ironic” and “humorous” under influence of surrealism and pop culture. As a young emerging artist, her work has been included in several exhibitions and articles from Zoller Gallery, Artsinsquare, and Overstandard magazine.
Wenqing’s work explores the possibilities of paralleling the anxiety people in the contemporary world have about the accelerated pace of ongoing events. She finds her chaotic experience of frequent relocation since childhood to be an echo of the depressed and detached individuality in emphasized social norms and development.
She is interested in depicting the phenomenon of people constantly wandering between drifting away and redeeming themselves during the aftermath of rapidly developed high tech. Her primary inspiration comes from her own self and her recurring conflict of mind about turning into a Luddite and refusing to be abandoned by society. She chooses to use vibrant colors and a loud composition in her work to create a sense of insecurity.
Wenqing continues to explore the connection between the social and mental status of individuals who are controlled and guided by “tittytainment.” She also believes that a combination of collage and dark humor in her artwork can help demonstrate the temporary pleasure that “tittytainment” brings while also fulfilling her ideology of self-awareness and self-criticism.
What sparked your love of art? When did your artistic journey begin?
To be honest, my journey as an artist began quite late. Prior to my senior year of high school, I had no experience with any aspect of visual art. It’s interesting to note that, in my home country, art was not considered an important subject unless you were part of the upper class or were not good at science. As a result, I tended to avoid pursuing art when I was younger, due to social and peer pressure that often discouraged art as a viable career choice. However, after completing my first painting in high school, I became hooked. Eventually, I transferred from engineering to fine arts in my sophomore year of college, despite facing significant opposition from my family. I simply felt a strong drive to pursue what I love, and this passion has brought me to where I am today. While I cannot pinpoint a specific event or inspiration that sparked my love of art, I am driven by an unexplainable desire to create, and I find a sense of flow and fulfillment when I paint.
What part of your life influences your work the most?
In my artistic journey, I find that my work is profoundly influenced by a combination of different facets from my life experiences. These elements include the everyday occurrences, significant traumas and vivid dreams that I’ve encountered, as well as the subtle yet impactful glances or interactions I’ve shared with others. All of these moments, woven together, serve as an inspiration that continually shapes and informs the essence of my creations.
What materials are you drawn to and why?
Lately, my preferred materials have been acrylic and spray paints, primarily because they offer a quicker drying time compared to oil-based mediums. Because I find that I tend to lose motivation when a painting takes longer than I expected, which may not be an ideal characteristic, but it drives me to persistently work and make progress over a long-term period. Consequently, I choose not to linger on a single piece for too long, and the use of acrylics help minimize the likelihood of me getting stuck on a particular painting.
Tell us about a time that you would consider a turning point in your practice.
A significant turning point in my artistic practice came when I finally learned to accept a piece as complete. I had a habit of overworking my paintings, which prevented me from stepping back and viewing the bigger picture. I realized that the “imperfections” I perceived in my work might only be visible to me, and by attempting to cover them up, I risked losing the distinctiveness and personal touch I brought to my paintings. This realization allowed me to embrace my art in its entirety and made it easier for me to move forward in my practice.
How do you overcome a challenge, whether it’s in the studio or in the business side of art?
Hard work and patience. I think that’s the only answer to almost any challenges. I often consumed myself with worry and anxiety over various concerns, such as the reception of my work by different audiences, achieving financial stability through art, or attaining visibility in the art world, along with many potential future scenarios. I discovered that not dwelling on these uncertainties and instead focusing on my work has proven to be highly effective. Embracing the reality that an artistic career may take time to yield substantial results and permitting myself to immerse in the process and accumulate experiences has significantly improved my mental well-being throughout my artistic journey.