b. 1945 in Rudong, Jiangsu province, lives and works in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province
Wang Dongling's artworks ground the modernist engagement with gestural abstraction and the post-modern skepticism of language and power in the pre-modern practice of embodied action and performance originally developed in Chinese calligraphy. Wang Dongling himself is widely recognized as China's greatest living calligrapher and is perhaps the only artist to have been granted three solo exhibitions at the National Art Museum of China. Although he is perhaps best known for public performances of monumental "mad" cursive script calligraphy, his artistic practice can be highly experimental and includes "enormous, swashbuckling abstractions" (Roberta Smith, New York Times, [December 12, 2013]) and calligraphy in new media, such as chemical photography, in which Wang's calligraphic actions are directly captured on silver-gelatin photographic paper.
Wang Dongling's innovations notably reinterpret for a new era two aspects of historical calligraphy practice-its creation through performance and its embrace of gestural abstraction. In his performances writing monument-scale calligraphy or abstraction, he lays bare to the public the connection between brush-and-ink and the body; he exposes the work of art as shaped directly by the artist's reach, stamina, and physical movement. In his calligraphic abstractions, Wang liberates calligraphic gesture, form and space from the bounds of text. The history of non-objective painting in twentieth-century Modernism and Minimalism is rife with references to calligraphy and its early embrace of gestural expression.
Wang Dongling is currently Director of the Modern Calligraphy Study Center at the China National Academy of Arts, Hangzhou. He graduated from the calligraphy department of the China National Academy of Art in 1981. His calligraphic work found rapid recognition in China where he exhibited in solo shows at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing (1987) and at the China National Academy of Art (1987). In 1989, Wang traveled to the United States where he taught the practice of calligraphy to Western art students and began his own exploration of pure abstraction. While in the United States, he exhibited in solo shows at the University of Illinois, the University of Kansas and the University of Minnesota (1989), again at the University of Minnesota and Montreal University (1990), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (1991). Wang was welcomed back to China for his second solo exhibition at the National Art Museum of China (1994) and throughout the 1990s participated in group exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery in London, which showed works that had been collected by the British Museum (1990), at the Yale University Art Gallery (1993), and at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing (1997). His work was featured in the New York exhibitionChinese Art & Civilization of Five Thousand Years at the Guggenheim Museum (1998), the Konsthall Gallery, Malmö, Sweden (1998), the British Museum (2002), the World Exposition, Nagoya, Japan (2003), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2006), The Louisiana Art Museum, Denmark (2007), the Art Academy of Rome (2007), and the Third Chengdu Biennale (2007). Wang had his third solo exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in 2007 and a solo exhibition at the Zhejiang Museum of Art in 2011.
Most recently, his works have been exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art (2014), and at the Metropolitan Museum's Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China show (2014). He is the subject of a documentary film, The Enduring Passion for Ink, and a forthcoming monograph, The Origins of Abstraction, edited by Dr. Britta Erickson.
Wang Dongling had his opening exhibition at Ink Studio in November 2013 where he showed his latest calligraphy-based, abstract ink paintings including One's Own Way (2013), his most ambitious abstraction in terms of scale to date, and his most recent experiments in "photographic calligraphy."
Wang Dongling's works can be found amongst others in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the British Museum, London, the Palace Museum, Beijing, the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, the Zhejiang Museum of Fine Art, Hangzhou, the Yale University Art Gallery, Harvard University, and the University of California, Berkley.