Striding across time periods and cultures, Wang Haichuan’s fractured window of realities offers questions to what were assumed to be answers to fragments of our existence. With an unfinished polish, his show The Fortuitous Encounter of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella on a Dissecting Table (at Art + Shanghai Gallery until October 29th) adorns our minds with flashes of what has been, what is, what could be, and what might be. A latent metamorphosis boils under the surface of our consciousness, and the ambiguity of our world is spun into an unsolvable web of acrylic.

Haichuan’s paintings of seemingly disconnected images visualize the various realities imbued in the mundane and their fluctuation with place and the passage of time. What is the world but a series of images in motion? Each temporal juncture has a norm, and our perception of it is both dependent and influential on the world around us.

Each juncture has its node of disjuncture, and in Entertained to death we see examples of entertainment from various time periods that are highly subjective, some controversial. We call into question what is entertainment and how its definition changes so drastically. Similarly, in Frog and Modern Women we are confronted with standards of societal norm around women, views and constructs that perhaps rest on the poles, representing worlds removed from one another, sometimes misunderstood, but which are no less real and interconnected. Projecting a dubious verisimilitude, Haichuan creates a visual version of Jacque Derrida’s theory of différance – the idea of inherent fallibility of the spoken word in presenting specific meaning. Errable systems of communication represent our world, and within the spaces of translations lost, we find even more imperfect truths.

Time and change follow neither rhyme nor reason, and a master of chaos might be Haichuan’s effect, but it’s certainly not his aim. It is the presentation of the lack of control, of boundless configurations, that so tenaciously paint the picture of mercurial being in his show. Created on traditional canvases, Tibetan paper, window panes, and pieces of wood, the paintings of The Fortuitous Encounter of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella on a Dissecting Table themselves, even devoid of their content, contribute to the architectural composition of the experiential story in progress; the impressive volume of paintings flood the mind like free verse poems.

We find ourselves in the midst of a narrative that is both familiar and obscure, one that we feel to be our own, and yet we’re watching from the outside. Consider Mansion, mixing symbols of multiple cultures against street signs of “PRIVATE ROAD” and “NOT A THROUGH STREET” the piece brings forth ideas of ownership, but whose ownership? Is ownership just a temporal moment in history along a winding, undefined path through spatial existence? It’s as if we’re bulldozing through the nature of being itself in order to construct an ephemeral and spurious semblance of dominance. We lose ourselves in such folly. We do not control, we only perceive, and we can quickly become lost, or found, or simply misunderstood.

Our constructions and perceptions are dichotomous in their simultaneous reality and surrealism. Like the woman in Bath we extricate ourselves, if even for just a moment, or perhaps for a sequence of moments, from the world. We survive, live, and thrive in our almost pointillistic weaving of life, an amalgam of images building off each other. The world though as projected through Bath’s singular, unblinking eye never loses us. In The Fortuitous Encounter of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella on a Dissecting Table there is no definitive answer; there’s no universality, only the puzzle of perceptual coexistence - unrestricted by time and place.

Wang Haichuan is a visual artist from Jilin Province, China. His work is influenced by his background in landscape and architecture.