METROPOLIS. Japan Today (Art: Wusheng Wang 每 Huangshan)

January 18, 2002

Art: Wusheng Wang 每 Huangshan

"HOW...HOW!!!" That's not a question but a thousand Chinese tourists greeting the sunrise on the top of one of China's five most sacred peaks〞Huangshan.

Mt. Huangshan,
1490 x 890mm,
1984 (printed 2001)

As the sun breaks the horizon, sharp claps and hearty shouts of "GOOD!" are as rousing as the stunning scenery.

Wusheng Wang has heard this greeting countless times〞photographing Huangshan is his life's work. Over the last 27 years he has made numerous trips, spending 6-8 months at a time hiking and shooting in the churning mists and veils of its high granite spires. Wang grew up in Anhui, the same province as Huangshan. His childhood wasn't exactly in the shadow of the mountain, but near enough to hear its siren call when he traveled around the province as a photojournalist for the local newspaper. "It was love at first sight," he says.

The scenery of Huangshan〞pine-topped rocky spires, sheer cliffs enshrouded in drifting mists〞is pure Chinese brush painting. A complex of peaks, Huangshan (Kozan in Japanese) is a popular tourist attraction〞something like China's Mt Fuji〞about 350km southwest of Shanghai with hotels, restaurants, and gift shops on top. A few rugged tourists〞and thick-legged porters hoisting cement bags on bamboo poles〞climb the multiple stone stairways up and down through the forests of the 1841-meter-high mountain. Most people, though, ride the cable car to the top, spend one night, and watch the famous sunrise through cloud-swathed stone towers.

Mt Huangshan,
995 x 1485mm,
1984 (printed 2001)

But capturing the mystery and serene power of the mountain is impossible with a short trip and a snapshot. And so Wang has returned again and again. Using only a Canon 35mm camera, he produces crisp, dramatic wall-sized black-and-white prints, the power of the high-contrast images matching his strong personality.

Wang usually prints his own photos, like those seen at the Tokyo Museum of Photography in Ebisu in the spring of 2000 and at Vienna's Kunsthistoriches Museum in the summer of 1998. The photos here are drawn from the same body of work, the main difference being that they're made from computer files, not film negatives. Epson, the sponsor of epSITE gallery, has a special ink-jet printer capable of astonishingly clear and brilliant colors.

Though only black-and-white, Wang's photos were still a challenge: a team of eight technicians spent six months on the 30 prints in this show. Wang's demanding eye, especially his insistence on the deepest impenetrable blacks, paid off in these vibrant images.

Wang cites Zen and Ansel Adams as two of his artistic influences. He also acknowledges the visual reference to traditional Chinese painting and sumi-e, but says his photos are new and different. For one thing, he says, only photography can capture the graphic quality of his saturated darks and evanescent whites.

And though he's done color images, Wang says that the main reason he sticks with black-and-white is that it captures the inspiration he feels from the mountain and clearly expresses it in prints. "Simple is best," he says. "It has the most power." Three books of Wang's Huangshan photos are also available from the publisher Kodansha.


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