Female Self-Presence

Xiang Jing x Zhu Zhu

Zhu Zhu: Your piece Virgin in White was recovered at an auction. How did you feel when the shipping crate arrived and you saw it face-to-face again.
Xiang Jing: I felt a mixture of surprise and strangeness.

Zhu Zhu: By “strange” I take it you mean “long time no see” — in the sense of having gone beyond that creative stage. I see that piece as an archetype of sorts.
Xiang Jing: By “strange” I’m referring to the existence of more than one white virgin — the original one (which was lost), the one I heard people talking about (an icon subject to literary interpretation), and the one facing me now (having passed through the tides of time). The key factor here is surely a change in creative mode. I am struck by the raw, strong expressiveness of my early period; I feel glad to see that the creative process is borne out through my pieces. Whether or not it’s an archetype, I do not know. I have never known who I am or what I’m about, which is why I make these pieces.

Zhu Zhu: Well then, what have you come to understand about yourself and femininity, beginning from that saintly icon up to the piece Are a Hundred Playing You? Or Only One?
Xiang Jing: That’s a big topic. My art-making has its inception in seeing the world. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger said that we never simply gaze at something, because we are always evaluating the relation between thing and self. When we speak of the world, we usually refer to the world as it relates to self. This starting point relates to experience — what I have seen and gone through. There is a process of repeatedly affirming one’s own existence. I like to compare an artwork to a mirror: whoever stands in front of it is reflected in it. Likewise when I stand before my piece, it reflects an image of me. Viewed from that angle, what you said about “archetype” makes a kind of sense, namely that each piece holds an archetype of its maker. But as I grow in years, the scope of my world expands like a piece of territory, due to changes in my way of knowing the world. For instance, in Virgin in White stage, my world was dualistic. What I wished to convey, and what gave me power, was the