主题：陈苏平 魏青吉 李彦伯 雷子人 曾健勇 阎盈汐 李佳 杨大治
新作：曾梵志 张强 史金淞 王卫 高虹
Issue No. 62(2009)
Theme: Ink Painting in Post-Experiment Era: A Special on the Contemporary Ink Painting
Academic Host: Peng Lai
A.T: Chen Suping, Wei Qingji, Li Yanbo, Lei Ziren, Zeng Jianyong, Yan Ying Xi, Li Jia, Yang Dazhi
A.N: Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Qiang, Shi Jingsong, Wang Wei, Gao Hong
Ink Painting in Post-Experiment Era：A Special on the Contemporary Ink Painting
By PENG Lai
The contemporary exploration of the ink painting originated from a creative current titled “Experiment” in the 1990s. The artists then made attempts on the experiments of ink painting language and modern transformation of its meaning, through the means of joining conceptual forms such as abstraction, devices and even behaviors with the traditional media of ink painting. Though under all sorts of attacks, the exploration of the so-called “experimental ink painting” made great efforts to inquire about the trend of Chinese contemporary art from the cultural origin and strived to bring the ancient Chinese language system of ink painting into contemporary cultural context, all of which still maintains its practical significance in today’s world. Once the confusions and controversies have finally quieted down, we find out that the journey of ink painting is far from hitting its end.
The contemporary expression of ink painting, or rather, the expression of the experiment and cognition of contemporary existence through ink painting – a language immersed in traditional culture, has gradually become the new subject in the field of ink painting. The “Experiment” generation of artists broke through the traditional aesthetic value system of the ink painting, and their exploration to rebuild the way of ink painting language through borrowing modern artistic concepts highlighted a cultural criticism, while the next generation of creators have vaguely presented a value orientation rather alien to that of the “Experiment” generation in their expression of contemporary emotions, experience and cognition as well as their construction of sensitivity and criticalness of contemporary cultural expression through the language of ink painting. From this perspective, the varied creation in the field of contemporary ink painting could be perceived as the deepening of the contemporary subject of the ink painting in the“experiment” period.
Yet how could the ink painting express the contemporary experience of existence and cultural spirit? As for now, the subject is still open for discussions and opinions. It’s far from easy to offer an objective combing and evaluation for the complicated situation of current ink painting creation, which maybe more appropriately described as “a surging undercurrent” and “obscure future”. Therefore, the title “post-experiment” referring to this special period of the development of contemporary ink painting does not mean the official declaration of death on “experimental ink painting, nor that the ink painting art has already established some bright direction. As a matter of fact, the contemporary practice of ink painting is still set on a road with diversified directions. It’s just that as far as this period is concerned, it presents a rather rich post-modern color in the tendency of awareness, as shown in the 8 artists recommended by this special. Their styles and approaches differ from each other, thus disabling a clear classification, which may properly reflect the diversification of creative reality in the filed of contemporary ink painting, representing the diversified aesthetic pursuit of contemporary expression of ink painting after the “Experiment”.
What needs to be noted is that the artists born in the 1960s and 1970s have started to become a force of new practice in the field of ink painting, and their language of ink painting has begun to show different appearance from the “Experiment” generation in values and meanings. This generation of artists is experiencing the dramatic change of historical and artistic contexts – the elitism has quietly bowed out, succeeded by the deconstruction of modernism and the wave of skepticism; the diversified co-existence has now gained the upper hand since the cool down of all sorts of debates over the ink painting and the noumenon of Chinese painting since the 20th century. For this generation of artists, the pursuit of ink painting creation is more a need of expression concerning individual growing up background or emotional orientation, than a career burdened with a sense of mission. It is not important anymore that whether the future of the ink painting is good or not, or present practice connect with or betray from the traditional. Most important of all, they choose ink painting and enjoy it.
And it’s because of this that the grand narrative did not become the mainstream of the creations of this generation, instead the individual situation and experience of existence serve as the starting point of ink painting. Along with the establishment of individuality, the contemporary ink painting highlighted its aesthetic and graphic concern of daily experience and individual cognition, a tendency of which progressed the contemporary ink painting to gradually step out of the concept-supreme creative idea of the “experiment” period and the cultural stand of elitism and idolization, substituted by a post-modern stand of respecting the fun and differences, with more delicate and diversified individual expression becoming a potential feature of the contemporary ink painting. What corresponds to that is the open gesture of graph and language. Under the circumstance that the traditional aesthetic value system has already been smashed, a great many creators of contemporary ink painting are more prone to a more unconfined attitude to break down the barriers of art and to understand and use traditions in a broader sense, rather than the roads taken by the traditionalists who maintain the ink-centered aesthetic standard and by the experimentalists who stick to the road of concept-supreme. In their creations, the excavation and discussion of the expressive force of ink painting language is different from the imitation of traditional ink experience as well as a simple grating or deconstruction of forms, but rather a project closely related to the experience, cognition and fun of artistic expression; it points to a more open concept of forms, upon which is constituted the graphic language in accord with individual temperament and experience; instead of avoiding the association of the contemporary and the traditional, it has even made its ideal to establish some sustaining “association” among individual, contemporary and traditional visual forms.
LEI Ziren and WEI Qingji could be fairly regarded as two examples of contemporary ink painters searching for this “association”. Both their works’ individuality are highlighted because of some fun or “artistic conceptions”, which respectively stand opposite at the two ends of tradition and modern – the former enjoying some natural affinity to the traditional visual forms, while the latter possessing the feature of symbolization of more post-modern visual forms. LEI’s works, which show a close link to the metropolitan experience of existence, have to a great extent preserved in forms and techniques the purity and aesthetic implication of ink of the material of ink painting, without hindering him from employing his unique talent to manipulate the images and endow a fresh contemporary feeling to the ink painting. He paints people immersed in the intense lives, creating the absurdity and vividness of life through imagination, transformation and even substitution, which I call “a feeling of life.” On the contrary, WEI steps totally out of the traditional graphic system to recreate a symbolized world of ink painting with a more open horizon of artistic history and a variety of graphic elements both ancient and modern, Chinese and foreign. His works contain the individual experience’s cognition, judgment and summary of the mass culture, the light, humorous and meaningful features are a perfect interpretation of the post-modern detached and independent cultural spirit.
CHEN Suping and LI Yanbo are both graduates from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts as well as representatives of painters in search of expression of individual experience through the form of ink painting out of the “experiment”. Human and landscape form a strange and uncertain relationship in CHEN’s works. He produced a mental mirage using the grey tint of ink and the texture of lines, and the space structure of traditional landscape painting could be faintly detected in the reproduced landscape of his paintings. LI’s ink paintings employ the striking pattern of “people on the tree” to subtly combine the conceptuality with the poetic tradition of ink painting patterns. He transplanted the images of “broken branches” and “cloud mountains” in the traditional art into the description and ridicule of the state of existence of modern people, deconstructing all sorts of absurdity and feeling of crisis in human existence against a reconstructed strange circumstance. Both their patterns maintain some connection to the traditional form of ink painting while pointing to the subtle concern for the experience of existence of contemporary individuals, the difference being the former expressing in a sentimental way while the latter is more inclined to sensibility, highlighting a critical awareness.
Unlike LEI’s preference to use the identity of “other” to state the differences in lives “on the spot”, YANG Dazhi and ZENG Jianyong are more used to constructing spiritual tracks in the first person. Their works are all about a “broken-hearted power” or rather memories concerning childhood. ZENG borrowed some cartoonized and stereotyped graphic elements in contemporary art to create a lot of similar yet different “little buddies” using the skilled rendering technique of ink painting, in which is entrusted a feeling of childhood which seems to serve as a metaphor for the painter’s cognition of a particular time. In contrast, the childhood images, cartoon rag dolls or angels in YANG’s works gave more prominence to the timely and delicate expression of personal perception. The materials of his works are not limited to the traditional ink painting, instead he tried to transform the texture of all kinds of materials into tactile sensitivity of forms. He deconstructs the authority of life through fairy tales and mirages while replacing the“heaviness” with “lightness”.
The artistic styles of the two ladies LI Jia and YAN Yingxi are distinctively different. The Wedding Series and The Pedestrian Series by LI adopted the form of colored ink to present the lives of others with a calm, clear and chilly feeling. She used a pure style to paint the close and alienated relationship of modern people in the metaphor of a distant world in memory, a tolerant and stable world of hers. YAN’s works, on the other hand are soaked with acuminous premonition, The Series of Lying on the Rail is a fine expression of the delicate nervousness and anxiety in the female experience of existence.