Alessandro Albanese, Milan
Caroline Wong’s women are languorous, voluptuous, intoxicated, and excessive. They are saturated in the feminine: feathers, sequins, warm colours, revelling in this costume of campness. We encounter these figures in acts of consumption, centralising the pleasures of smoking, drinking, and eating. Far from historical expectations of restraint and smallness, these women, like titan temptresses, fill up the canvases.
Artifice has long been seen as a feminised art. ‘The painted face’ once treated with suspicion, the adornments of jewellery and clothing have been associated with deception, female performance and prostitution were formerly inextricably linked. Nature, on the other hand has been considered absolute and honest. Artifice has been cast as nature’s antagonist, so the title of this show Artificial Paradises presents an intriguing tension. Paradise conjures images of nature: a prelapsarian space.
Yet the paradises depicted in Wong’s work are entirely artificial, yet no less dizzying and delightful. They conjure a Baudelairean drug-infused state of pleasure: something deliciously fleeting. They are artifcial too in their celebration of the manmade or synthetic. Wong is seduced by all things shiny and plastic. She herself delights in nocturnal excess, which stems partially from her time roaming Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok, places she considers Artificial Paradises in their own right. She recalls shopfronts, market stalls, billboards, and bright neon signs all engulfed with a clashing swell of sounds and smells.
This has inspired her protagonists’ environments. Basking in electric neon lighting, Wong’s women are enveloped in a mess of manufactured junk and ephemera: crisp packets, makeup compacts, glittering purses, kitchenware, bottles, books and tarot cards. They don embellished, seductive fabrics: feathered robes, sequined dresses, slippery satin shirts. Instead of rejecting the associations of artifice, they revel in them. Like her women, Wong’s canvases are at once beautiful and base, romantic and trashy, championing the cosmetic and chaotic.