“Surreality can only come from artworks. […] It’s kind of like going to the sea, if you swim deep down into the water, you can see creatures down there that are beautiful.”
- Wang Ruohan
A versatile artist, Wang Ruohan works across a variety of mediums including painting, animation, clothing, prints, illustration and large-scale murals. She uses bold primary and neon colors to create her own whimsical world, borrowing elements from daily life and exploring what she calls “the surreal world of images in the deep level of human consciousness”. For Wang, the pursuit of the surreal is Art’s prerogative.
She describes her work as being about “the simplistic nature of humankind”, which is reflected in her playful simplification of objects and human behaviors. One of the most recurrent items in her vocabulary, a pair of walking legs, is evocative of the Chinese character 人, meaning Man or people, and acts as a symbolic shortcut for human nature and activity.
Signposting, with its condensed semantics, is one of her major sources of inspiration, specifically in the city of Berlin where she lives and which she often cites as a positive influence: “There’s a very bold aesthetic here that is different from other cities. Whether it’s the typography on the highway or posters on the street, the words and symbols are clear and big enough so you can understand the information being communicated quickly. This informs the way I use shapes and colors in my own work.”
Saturated colors, facets of city life combined with elements of nature floating in an abstract space, the universe of Wang Ruohan has a virtual quality that recalls the digital space, and indeed her paintings and illustrations seem perfectly at home when displayed on a screen. “Online is an ideal way to show my work.” Irrespective of the medium, whether flashing on her Instagram feed or soaring high on the facades of tall buildings, Wang’s playful scenes always feel like one continuum, one gleaming and unbroken fresco, with an endless supply of fun. “Humor,” she says, “allows me to connect with my audience.”
Wang Ruohan was born in Beijing. She graduated in 2017 from Berlin University of Art. Her work has been presented in important institutions like the Art Museum of Nanjing University of Arts, the Scotland's National Centre for Design and Architecture, the Yuan Art Museum in Chongqing, K11 in Shanghai, and the Deutsches Museum in Munich. She has worked on many collaborations with brands like Nike, UGG, Off-White, The New York Times or The New Yorker. She is currently a professor at the Peter Berens School of Art in Düsseldorf. She lives in Berlin.