After growing up in China with two famous artists as parents, Shaun Wang ’15 published a book, Motive: 23 Art Individuals, in both English and Chinese last August. The book covers the interviews of 23 widely respected Chinese artists. Initially, Wang’s purpose was to “focus on the attitudes each artist needed to achieve success,” but as the interviews progressed, he realized that the day-to-day life of an artist and the artist’s social influences were crucial, because they ultimately affected his or her artistic philosophy and approach to art.
Wang acknowledged the fact that he would not have been able to conduct the interviews without his parents’ connections and even compared this privilege to “heirs of business tycoons inheriting material wealth.” Even though Wang was born with the opportunities available for a child from an “artistic aristocratic family,” he stated, “I have to prove myself worthy to become the person I should be.”
An important aspect of writing the book for Wang was attempting to discover what he wants to do in the future. Wang said, “As a teenager living in this age of information, where all kinds of Internet resources and social media overflow, it’s extremely hard for me to grasp the profession or major I would like to pursue.”
Like many teenagers, Wang faces a daunting decision-making process: there are too many options. Shaun even said that sometimes he would “rather be forced onto a path with a definite direction, instead of looking into the vast sea of possibilities.”
Wang respects the fact that so many of the artists he interviewed had limited career opportunities—with art a riskier alternative— but they still chose art in order to explore their creative passions.
Wang attempted through his interviews to satisfy his curiosity about the artists’ ultimate choice. “I wondered,” he said, “how these artists, with no previous role models to follow, gathered enough courage to venture into the realm of contemporary art. I am curious if they were politically and economically suppressed while doing art. What was their state of mind and what was the motivation that pushed them forward? How did they develop their own perspectives?”
For Wang, the hardest part of interviewing the artists and composing the book was convincing the artists that he was not solely a child, but an artist capable of discussing complex topics in art. “A few of them,” he said, “treated my interviews as if they were inferior to a professional’s.”
But Wang also acknowledged that many of the artists “answered my questions without any barriers, and advised me on matters they wouldn’t discuss with other professional interviewers.”
Wang was able to discuss topics including “the difference between western philosophy’s influence on western art and that on the Chinese art community; self-identity and multi-cultural identification; feminism and other political subjects and finally, artists entering the market.”
All in all, Wang was able to gain many intriguing perspectives and ultimately noticed that all the artists had one thing in common: they possessed the multi-disciplinary skills that everyone will need in order to succeed in the future. He concluded that, in order for our and future generations to thrive, people will need to be adept in multiple disciplines and activities.