Richmond artist finds rapid Instagram success

The kid’s got passion, and talent. Sitting in the living room-turned-studio of 22-year-old Russell Wang, evidence of the artist’s skill and rapid rise to Instagram fame is clear.
Tucked behind a TV stand are dozens upon dozens of finished canvases, neatly stacked. A handful more hangs on the walls, while yet another one sits on an easel awaiting completion. The sizes vary, but all are in his signature cartoonish style of bold colours, textured brushstrokes, and deconstructed faces — a la early Picasso and George Condo.
“I like the quote, ‘Find your passion and just let it kill you,” says the Richmond secondary graduate, his voice betraying his love. “This is my passion. I wake up thinking about it. Go to sleep thinking about it. Since I was a kid, I’d always be doodling. I just couldn’t help myself.”
Wang owes his near overnight success to his friend and digital marketer Jacky Chou, and Instagram. Since posting his first photo of one of his paintings on the social media site about a month ago, he’s had more than 50 inquiries from art collectors and galleries, both locally and internationally.
“I didn’t really think it would gain so much traction so fast,” he says. “I never thought this would actually come to reality. Social media is a big portal for any business or anyone who wants to cement their name and brand. It’s very accessible.”
Wang sees social media’s role as positive for emerging artists, placing the power in their hands, rather than the gatekeepers of the art world. True talent no longer faces traditional barriers. Now, he hopes to see exhibit space in Richmond grow, as well.
“I know a lot of fellow artists who open up their garages for artists to work and exhibit,” says Wang, who took graphic art at UBC. “There’s only so many public spaces here, but the art scene is growing a lot, so hopefully more will open up.”
Growing up in a traditional Asian family, Wang says his parents guided him towards more “practical” pursuits, resulting in a banking job at TD. However, once they recognized his talent, they were nothing but supportive.
He sites Picasso and Condo as his biggest inspirations. Similarly, his work studies representations of human expression, deconstructing the body, particularly facial expressions. He strives to evoke emotion and wonder in his viewer.
“As you grow older, your imagination dissipates,” Wang says. “I want to relive those days when I just thought random, crazy thoughts.”
Since his sudden fame, Wang has sold four paintings, ranging between $500 to $900.
Before pursuing official representation, he wants to build his portfolio with pieces that best convey his unique style.
He has since quit his job at TD to find work in the creative field, possibly teaching visual arts.
“Art brings people together,” Wang says. “It’s a way to ground everything, to stop for a moment and admire and inspire. It creates a collective experience for people who might otherwise be wrapped up in their hectic lives. Just take a pause and appreciate what’s going on. Art serves that purpose.”
See more of Wang’s work at www.rslw.net or follow him on Instagram at instagram.com/rslw/.

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