主题：黄一山 黄立言 韦路 林伟祥 许东生 秦晋 周钦珊 曾忆城
新作：古原 龚剑 刘大鸿 张立 申亮 蒋国蓉
Issue No. 76(2012)
Theme: Tristes Tropiques: Impressions of the Young Modern Artists in Guangzhou
Academic Host: Hu Bin
A.T: Huang Yishan, Huang Liyan, Wei Lu, Lin Wei Xiang, Xu Dongsheng, Qin Jin, Zhang Qinshan, Zeng Yicheng
A.N: Gu Yuan, Gong Jian, Liu Dahong, Zhang Li, Shen Liang, Jiang Guorong
IMPRESSIONS OF YOUNG MODERN ARTISTS IN GUANGZHOU
ACADEMIC HOST: HU BIN
In his Tristes Tropiques (or A World on the Wane), the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote with sharp descriptive force about the basic form of the tribal peoples in the tropical areas of South America, some Pacific islands and Southeast Asia that he visited. “It exposes a world without fate and destination, but only with vestiges” (James Boom). As some analyzed, the tristeness lay in its muggy weather and disordered and dirty environment. However, just like some cities of China in the subtropical zones, for instance, Guangzhou, it was this environment that made these cities look prosperous. Thus, one should say, “triste” referred more to the writer’s mood when he travelled in those places, while the local people usually stayed vacant and optimistic. By borrowing this title to display some aspects of the modern art in Guangzhou, I simply feel that it goes in accordance with the temperament of some young modern artists rather than associate this article with the title.
Think roughly: in the humid South, especial the flower city Guangzhou with its flowers blooming, crowds bustling, media developed, and fashion leading, modern art could become the cutting-edge trend or the fashion pioneer. But in fact, compared with cities like Beijing, Shanghai, etc., the civilian activities and collecting of the modern art in Guangzhou does not boast strong atmosphere; very few modern art institutions run on their own tracks with rare appearance of lively scenes or amazing actions; several naturally formed gathering places of the artists simply serve as stable places for the lives and creation of the artists without any demonstration effect in any cultural industry. As far as I can recall, in 2008, a seminar about “The Fever and Cold of Modern Art” was held in Guangzhou. Obviously, it aimed at the state of modern art under the situation of the financial tsunami. And as some conferees said, the modern art in Guangzhou had neither been hot before, nor could it be described as cold now.
If we look in turn, this state also means that instead of being incorporated into various groups, the modern art in Guangzhou creates with the inclination of the self-consciousness and individual choices of the artists as the precondition, while with less anxious state of mind in chasing interests in the central area of the artistic production. Of course, under the influence of the trend of modern art around the nation, the works of the modern artists in Guangzhou mirror some popular symbols. But in general, with diverse ways of expressing, the phenomenon of seeking quick success and instant benefits by imitating and copying others’ successful patterns rarely appears.
As for the young modern artists, their works, penetrated by the whims and jokes of youth and possessing certain liquidity and an unskilled sense are out of their own lives and interest choices. Based on the image schema of cartoon, and comic and animation, some of the works don’t aim at making delicate and novel signs to attract people’s attention, thus, they stay almost invisible in this narrow noisy era of schema. Committed to the inner tinkering of the artistic language and quiet meditation, some artists disdain the direct image description of the social reflection. And some of them, whose constant frontier spirits never vanish due to the restless popular trend of art as well as the market effect in the outside world, hold on to the experimental marginal exploration. With various non-assertive artistic approaches, the general effect of the modern art in Guangzhou does not stand out, just like the plants in the tropical rain forests, various and fantastic, full of vigor and vitality, but more or less too quiet.
The artists in Guangzhou have diverse ways of expression and different levels; they rarely gather together under certain labels; though throwing slogans out sometimes, they hardly sustain by collecting stronger forces. Satisfied by the usual ways of actions, the young artists in Guangzhou could still be made clear. Generally speaking, some of them can be classified into the range of “new cartoon”, even though they have nothing to do with the group of “the cartoon generation”. Most of them adopt an image with strong schema (and with the popular fashion symbols, especially the expression schema of cartoon, comic and animation as the body) in which the colors look splendid, and the technique employs Ping-tu as the mode of presentation. Their expression goes with the visual characteristics of the time and could also be found as the succession of the teachings from the modern artists of the last generation. Other young artists have close contact with “Guangdong Express” (a modern artistic representative group enlarged on the basis of the “Big Tail Elephant”) and its relevant groups (such as Libreria Borges and Vitamin Creative Space, etc.). Of course, lying in the similar approaches of artistic creation and interests, they prefer the intellectual transfer and concept exploration to the direct display of the visual characteristics. Between these two approaches, I attempt to find out some young artists who are hard to be classified, and whose individual creative methods are relatively special. By touching the coldness of the society and the body, they diffuse dim light here and there in the dense damp night sky. That stripping them from the approaches above doesn’t follow that they have nothing relevant. And it is also hard to use “triste” to summarize their characteristics. I only mean to reflect their calm hidden thought and the internal spirit of not following the trend.
This subject will introduce several artists Huang Yishan, Wei Lu, Lin Weixiang, Huang Liyan and Xu Dongsheng whose major works are paintings. The most impressive feature of Huang’s works is to show a programmed world in an extremely cold and detached way. In his painting, everything—whether simply an object or lively animals or human-being with flesh and warmth—turns out to be an “guinea pig” with the boundaries between them obliterated. From presenting the objects to forming the image schema, to the highly rationalized stylization, Huang brings us a cold and extremely absurd world of the mixture of historical classics and bodily experience and social phenomenon, and thus deeply alludes to the mentality of people in the technical and controlled time. Wei Lu’s works seem as a treasure box of his personal interests which contains his favorite component parts of various kinds, such as comic, animal and botanical specimens, mechanical models and movie clips…He could combine these things of great difference together with his magical imagination and agile techniques. Right in the beautiful visual spectacle can we perceive the inner secrets of the author and the social mental mechanism behind the world of pictures. Lin Weixiang spares no pains in displaying the pictures of trivial life which is full of emotions and desires in his forest of “colorful canvas”. Under the splendid and secretive atmosphere of solemnity, serenity and depth, the complicated emotions of enchantment, persistence, void, slight mock, doubt and uneasiness get tangled. Compared with certain noisy and mixed expression, Huang Liyan’s works seem more secluded and serene. Those objects which are said to have come from movies, books, music and trivial life details appear to have a closer relationship with the images in the sub-consciousness and dreams. By linking and illustrating the psychological feelings of melancholy, pride, fear, sadness and loneliness with special pictures and individuality, he attempts to escape from the superficial description and to stare at the current circumstance of the time like a philosopher, and to get involved into the serious attention of the will to life and the superficial world by his inner experience. Though still and static, the paintings of Xu Dongsheng usually express some unknown and sudden momentary situation and present a strong sense of drama on the stage, which, however, seems to be dreamlike, shadowy, misty and shocking in each step. It looks as if he tries very hard to look at this world in an uncontrolled dizziness; in the poetic atmosphere full of divinity and cold temperament, his works see through the reflection of mortal body in a state of change while the spirit goes nowhere.
The characters of the two women artists in the subject differ a great deal while sharing some similarities on the creation purport. As for Zhou Qingshan, we could see that her works, might they be the abstract paintings arranged by the structured fine threads which are more of self-improvement, or the devices and videos interwoven by tender and cruel feelings, write some understanding mingled with pain and purity. This understanding directly derives from the individual experience in this chaotic and broken era. Another woman artist Qin Jin, also mainly chooses topics of secret personal experience, for instance, burning clothes of individual memories presents some tragic beauty. Her works usually reveal uneasiness in the tender feelings, or hold anxiety and conflicts in serenity, such as hanging the swing on the curtain wall of the tall buildings, repeatedly ironing the clothes to be sallow, or instilling two gleaming fodder chopper under the antiqued chairs, which, as she says, embodies the pink violence and cruelty in the delicate emotions. The last artist to be introduced is Zeng Yicheng who has a longer working experience in the media. He mainly adopts the creation method of photography and extends to some other fields now. In his works, we can perceive the change of emotions and ways of thinking. When working in the media, his “fashion photography” reflects the entanglement and confrontation of fascination, desire and discipline, on which basis he constructs an illusory dream of a “beautiful city”. Later, as he becomes milder and more indifferent, his works gradually reveals some meanings of Zen. From a love story without result, and some visual poems with the adolescent restlessness and sadness lurking, to the ethereal, leisurely and philosophical expression of common objects, he more and more hopes to “observe the world and his inner world through photography”.
This, then, is another version of my introduction of the modern art in Guangzhou. Of course, it still serves as one of many versions. Or perhaps what matters is not the version, but the fermentative art and thoughts in this land.