Liminal Space
Karen Smith
    The choice of "liminal" as the titular adjective for this exhibition said more about the position of Wang Sishun's art than he might have imagined. The definition of a "liminal space" as representing a threshold of the senses一liminal meaning the point beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced一was certainly applicable to the works included in this show. But it also spoke to the nature of Wang Sishun's art, which, surveying the works he has produced thus far in his brief career has proved subtle to the nth degree. His pieces are quiet, slight even, and not always visually stimulating. They are perhaps more Zen than minimalist, and centre on similarly cerebral
conundrums. In this context, with Liminal Space, Wang Sishun did not disappoint. Well, not unless the viewer was hoping for the kind of visual extravaganza provided by the likes of Madeln or Zhao Yao.
   Entering the gallery, most viewers probably stopped in their tracks, gazing around the expanse as they tried to identify exactly what it was they were supposed to be looking at. The exhibition space contained several sturdy white pills. Partly concealed behind one was a large charcoal-steel-grey form, which vaguely echoed the shape of the white pillar adjacent to it (although it was less than half the pillar's height). The silent steel box did not immediately say "art". Over to the left was a streak of cobalt blue. All else was grey. At this point, a less patient visitor might have turned tail and moved on, especially as there was plenty of energy evident in the adjoining space where performance artist Hu Xiangqian's Protagonist was in full flow. The space in which Wang Sishun's exhibition was sited suddenly felt very luminal indeed.
    If curiosity pulled visitors in just a few steps forward their sense of the exhibition would have been altered. More sensibly aware of the geometric grey solid now, and having registered the thin blue line angled against the wall, their visual senses were thus suitably prepared to see a third work. On the floor, to the right of the path into the space, lay a plastic bottle cap with a synthetic yellow tone that perfectly complemented the cobalt blue line on the far side of the room. It was but a tiny spot of bright colour, set against the expanse of the gallery's grey floor, and therefore easy to miss.
    We might notice such things on the street, but rarely give them a second thought, other than to blame a careless passerby for missing the trash can again. This yellow bottle cap was obviously special since it had a white circle chalked around its perimeter as if to mark a no-go area, a boundary over which a casual bystander should not pass一impossible here given the diminutive scale. White chalk lines are habitually associated with police cordons and accidents. In a gallery space, if the intention was to keep viewers away, you'd expect a railing or "do not touch" sign, not a thin chalk outline all the way down there on the floor. But now it was clear that, in his choice of objects as mediums of expression, this artist had something very specific in mind.
    In fact, the works of which the exhibition was comprised all came with a point that was not immediately obvious in the actual installation. The bottle cap was titled Desire and One of N Points. When creating this piece, Wang Sishun first threw the bottle cap on the gallery floor in a random fashion. He then drew a circle around it and re-threw the bottle cap over and over again until it landed perfectly within the chalk circle. Ah, so not as easy as it might have at first seemed. That was the artist's only performance-related work, although he provided a second for the audience to conduct: a single white rose pinned to a wall, its bloom hanging downward, so that the correct way to enjoy it was, in Wang Sishun's words, to 'bend down, and look back between your legs'.
    The subject of legs spread apart was also related to that mysterious, looming, steel-looking tower一of granite it turned out一that stood near the pillar, its darkness silently static and menacing in the otherwise empty space. Closer examination revealed it to be an upended triangular form, more specifically, for the artist, 'an isosceles triangle with an angle of 105 degrees, which is the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand of a clock at exactly 2.30am', he explained; a random association that played with rational logic. But, as the artist pointed out, it was a 'nice angle', one that 'does not incite the anxiety and nervousness of a sharp acute angle, nor is it as inevitably solemn as a right angle. It looks like the nerves have been relaxed一sluggish legs are spread apart.'
    So, finally, what was the point of the blue pole leaning against the wall? It transpires that it was the perfect imitation of a similarly steel pole that Wang Sishun had noticed incidentally 'leaning against a shed in the Heiqiao area'. The artist called his work Angle of Sadness, because, to his way of thinking, 'there is sadness to the blue colour of the rod and the angle at which it is placed.' Wang Sishun's works might appear minimal, gestural, or antithetical to what is thought of as art, but understanding the inspiration and impetus behind the handful of works in this exhibition ultimately reflected back upon the titular reference to 'liminal"一an artist standing on the threshold of something rather promising.