Yiwei Leo Wang

Wang-Yiwei—ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2024 Emotion call for artists.

How exciting and, at the same time, wistful can a party be? The disco ball is still spinning. However, the lights are on, and the party is over. Yiwei Leo Wang investigates these dizzy peaks of emotions through visual arts.

Imagine a long night of partying in a club. What mixed emotions flow as we dance? The loud music, the flashing strobe lights, the feeling of being in another dimension…but suddenly, the euphoria vanishes. Lights come on, and only the leftovers remain all around: bottle shards and remnants of a night that has ended. The dance hall is empty. The club is a refuge but also a cage. From a state of grace detached from the rest of the world, it plunges you violently back into reality. Leo (Yiwei) explores this nocturnal dichotomy. He embodies mixed emotions characterized by peaks of excitement and disconsolate melancholy through art installations. His works are visual metaphors for the intricate world of feelings, and they precisely dissect their psychobiological roots, telling us about dopamine and its effects, from euphoria to loneliness. Dopamine causes pleasure, distancing us from the anguish of everyday life, but, like a dark club in which to lose ourselves, it is only a momentary relief. Soon, reality returns to overwhelm us.

The connection to clubbing culture is apparent in Leo’s (Yiwei) works. Everything hints at a party aesthetic, from the disco ball-like quilts to the confetti of glazed stoneware to the silkscreen prints inviting caution on the dancefloor. Yet, something doesn’t feel right. The confetti has now fallen to the ground; the caution signs create a lively phosphorescent grid, but they seem a distant mirage. As in ancient Chinese fairy tales, euphoria and joy are ephemeral and go hand in hand with melancholy.

The complexity of emotions also comes through materials. Even in the medium, there is a substantial dichotomy: Leo (Yiwei) uses unconventional materials with traditional techniques. Textile elements and found materials mix with ceramic crafting. Tradition and pop culture create new visual narratives. This approach, capable of skillfully mixing high and low, ancient tradition and consumerism, recalls the style of great contemporary Asian artists. The ceramic confetti echoes Ai Weiwei’s handcrafted porcelain sunflower seeds. At the same time, the use of repetitive patterns recalls the immense work of Japan’s Yayoi Kusama and her immersive installations of flashing polka dots.

Leo Yiwei Wang’s art is rich and blends different languages and disciplines. As a “world citizen of the digital age,” art is his primary form of expression. An artist, curator, performer and raver, he skillfully draws from his Chinese roots, mixing them with his education and career in Chicago, United States. His work has garnered several merit awards and has been showcased in five solo exhibitions and various publications. Capable of mixing clubbing and pop culture blend and the contradictory nature of emotions, his works are bold and impressive.

Yiwei Leo Wang is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Emotions call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Emotions issue.


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