主题：李曦 倪有鱼 吴啸海 尹齐 张帆 王子 范安翔 季大纯
新作：施少平 周韶华 洪耀 吕墩墩 严智龙 孟思特 童颜汝南 董继宁 韩方 姜淼
Issue No. 86 (2013)
Theme: My Reflections on the “Eastern Assumption”
Academic Host: Wu Hongliang
A.T: Li Xi, Ni Youyu, Wu Hai Xiao, Yin Qi, Zhang Fan, Wang Zi, Fan An Xiang, Ji Dachun
A.N: Shi Shaoping, Zhou Shaohua, Hong Yao, Lv Dundun, Yan Zhilong, Meng Site. Tong Yan Runan, Dong Jining, Han Fang, Jiang Miao
My Reflections on the ” Eastern Assumption ”
学术主持：吴洪亮 ACADEMIC HOST: WU HONGLIANG
On both rigorous consideration and casual thinking of ” Eastern Spirit” , I find it still there, not vanished yet. Is it wrapped in slurry due to the hardening of time, or concealed in the evanescence of worldly affairs, or reborn through the nirvana of the phoenix? No matter what, it is ” still” there, in whatever form it is ” assumed” to be. ” Still” is the core.
In 2010, I named a small sculpture exhibition in China Sculpture Institute salon in 789 Art Zone ” Eastern Assumption” . The preface began like this, ” What presented here are the quiet sculptures by six artists coming from the East or related to the East including Chinese, Japanese, and Americans who live in Japan. Is the temperament diffused from their works very Eastern or is it only an assumption?” This pretty directional and easy-to-think-of name surprisingly aroused my own curiosity after the exhibition. It seems that there are more to think and dig about on this assumed topic of ” East” . Therefore, I made a further statement around the theme ” East” on the Asian Art Museum Directors’ Forum later held in Nanjing:” Eastern Assumption, the assumption here is not the assumption of the West of the East, but the assumption of the Westernized East by the East, the assumption of the East with several thousand years by the East in the 21st century. This is a issue between the devil and the deep, yet one that has to to addressed” . This long tongue-twister-like statement is my questioning of the so-called Eastern spirit and way of thinking that I have on tradition, history and regions. With globalization, independent Eastern spirit has clearly become an assumption only. Whether we are able to accurately think of the East with an Eastern thinking mode is likely to be an assumption even. And if we look at the present artistic ecology in China, the proposal of the issue ” Eastern Assumption” bears actual meanings. Today, contemporary art from the East which we considered to be the freshest has grown in this land for over 30 years. We can vaguely feel that its liveness in forms to creation techniques is gradually aging. Consequently, a few artists start to consciously seek for new possibilities in the depth of this land. (Certainly, speculative followers including artists and exhibition planners have also showed up.) During the process, they will find that we are living in an Eastern world that has been Westernized due to historical issues and etc.. We are even employing the Western thinking mode to analyze, search for and present the East. The East that we miss so much is now beyond our touch, only existing in an ” assumption” . Is this a problem? Maybe these assumptions are not really targeted to find the pure East in the past, but rather to create an Eastern quality that can be shared or even construct a more confident cultural form with the help of the ” genius” status of art.This is because artists are the most sensitive and individualized group of people who either seek for the concealed East or create a East in their mind. Though the impetus is from the past, the aim is for the future. Therefore, when Fine Art Literature seriously invited me to introduce a number of artists and propose for a theme that matches their common quality, I rummaged this old case that I thought a lot upon and raised the theme of ” Eastern Assumption” to share with you. I see the publishment of Yin Qi, Ji Dachun, Fan Anxiang, Li Xi, Ni Youyu, Wang Zi, Wu Xiaohai and Zhang Fan’ s works as an exhibition on paper, a ” fine art literature” -style presentation of the unique scenery in the existing art ecology.
As specific to each artist, I prefer to take some time to elaborate on the Eastern qualities shown in their works, which is not the Eastern affectation. None of them are the favorites of the art market, yet all of them are good objects for artistic thinking and study.
Yin Qi should be seen as an early artist who touched upon the concept of contemporary art. With the background in oil painting, he used to teach in the Central Academy of Fine Arts. His ” expression” -inclining works were demonstrated on the Modern Art Exhibition and Body Art Exhibition held in National Art Museum of China in 1989. Later on Yin Qi went to study in France, where he learned about installation and graduated from Paris Academy of Fine Arts and Paris Academy of Plastic Arts. He even got his own studio by the River Seine. Yin Qi didn’t come back to China until after 2000. The focus of his creation shifted from spatial multi-media back to shelves. When he washed off all the blazing colors and went back to black and white, he abandoned the earthly bustling and devoted his attention into things like a bed or a group of sofa indoor. From the development of Western art, Yin Qi has found a means to internalize the object. It is this West-to-East artistic combination that constructs the elite quality in his works.The coldness in his works, just like the elegance in Ni Zan’ s alienation, has distanced many. So his works are always here and far away for the audience. However, this may just happen to be the reason why Yin Qi has a group of loyal minority fans including me.
Ji Dachun became famous very early in his life yet his heart is always wondering out of the earthliness. He is a secluded ” tall person” (expert) who is not tall. His personalized picture composition, brain-teaser literatus’ s humor, pretentious liberty even influenced the tiny and sensitive hearts of a generation. However, in the recent five years, Ji Dachun-style banter has turned into Ji Dachun-style seriousness. Equipped with the wings of cold and unforgettable dots, lines and planes, he can look down from above the sky. The Inner View dedicated to Dachun by Mr. A Cheng begins like this: ” I regard Ji Dachun’ s paintings as landscape paintings. The landscape here is seen from above and I’m the bird.” It ends with: ” the growth relationship of the marks in Ji Dachun’ s paintings resembles the creatures in nature, which does not develop according to the conceptual logic but rather, as Confucius has mentioned, ‘follow the heart yet not breaking the rules’, meaning freedom without trespassing.” I have no further comment on the statement of Mr. A Cheng, but to joy for Dachun at a distance.
Fan Anxiang is an Eastern archaeologist with the Western rigorous quality who truly applies the ” archaeological” mindset in the ” assumptive” graphic demonstration of the Eastern civilization. His unique style is presented in everything he does, whether to regard a big cabinet as an antique shelf to put in some old belongings that can only be identified through guessing, or to paint a book of Heart Sutra in mind’ s forest, or to move the imagined archaeological site onto the canvas. In conclusion, with concentration on the methods for artistic conception creation, Fan Anxiang is writing the holy songs one after another played by the work itself with him standing by, watching.
The presentation of thinking in Li Xi’ s works starts with philosophy and ends with images. The reflection triggered by the change and birth in her latest work The Mountain of Change and Birth is likely to point to some ultimate questions of the universe. It takes bravery and power to explain on such themes through an visually artistic way.
Li Xi is the mother of two children. Though her background is in oil painting, she chooses to express her recognition of the world through Chinese ” lines” . She has been exploring in this aspect for 12 years. The fun in brush and ink, the enhancement between brushes, the realm without the external or self are what Li Xi practices to achieve every day. The lines flowing from the brush are connected to the hand, the heart and all manifestations of nature. Only after 12 years’ polishing, did Li Xi gain her insight on change and birth: ” Between change and birth (of new things), birth happens in change; changes take place in the object’ s form at its time; what is the birth of a change and what is a birth from change; If there is no change or birth, life remains the same; If there is change yet no birth, this is a birth from change.”
Looking back at Zhang Fan’ s artistic pursuit, what floats to the surface of my mind is the letter ” pin” (good character or trait). Zhang Fan is an artist who expresses the rationality in Chinese ideas with oil painting. His interest in brush and ink, his respect for traditions and his demands for details are all included in the framework he designs. In the 20 years from his entrance to the Printmaking Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts to his graduation and to being a professional artist, all he ever cares is one thing: does my painting have ” pin” ? It is simple yet complicated pursuit that has been externalized into the three themes of his works in the recent three years: ” shuijuan” (paintings of water), ” zixu” (self-narration) and ” caiwei” (paintings of flower). Zhang Fan’ s perception of ” pin” is demonstrated in these works bearing the Chinese attitude of modesty and self-restraint.
Wang Zi is an artist living among us. He is so close to us that I didn’t observe his talents until one time I saw a pile of small shining stools polished by time and heard the tender sound from the music box installed to the stool in the East Station Gallery. Being thin and lean, Wang Zi has his own strength. He can put things that don’t relate to each other so simply together, yet surprisingly creating an integrated rationality. For this, the relaxation in him as an artist of the 80s generation has brought to the contemporary art circle a breeze that blows away the outdated beliefs.
Wu Xiaohai is a schoolfellow about the same grade with me in the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Though we didn’t have much contact, we liked each other. Whenever we meet, it’ s just like we have met yesterday. We never need warming up for the topic and content of our conversation. What I like best among Xiaohai’ s works is a piece of work called Is It True demonstrated in his solo exhibition planned by Zhou Yi in 2011. It a piece of work that made the circular hall of the cental art museum into a space-time tunnel, a piece that provided us with multi-layer, multi-angle and artificially natural experience. I quoted here a small part of the long dialogue between Wu and Zhou to serve as both the illustration for this work and a conclusion remark for some ideas in this essay.
Wu: I want it to have as many distractions as possible. Actually I’m creating a realm. To observe this realm, a certain environment must be built. I often think of traditional Chinese paintings such as those hung at the central wall of the living room for which the position of hanging, surrounding environment and lighting are all related to the (visual) effect. So are the appreciation for hand scrolls.
Zhou: Exhibition and appreciation should go hand in hand.
Wu: Right. It needs to move and you need to participate and appreciate it in limitations.
Zhou: The scroll for the 100-meter tunnel can be a long one.
Wu: I do have some direct associations, but I don’t know how to design the way of seeing it, so I adopted this little method with limitations. Hand scroll also bears limitations with width or the direction of extension. But it is more gentle than many Chinese contemporary artworks we have seen, thus better complies with the Chinese traditional spirit of seeing things.
Zhou: It is an important prerequisite that you choose traditional material or places that reserve old living habits as objects of your creation. From my perspective, in modern period, China has been receiving a lot of Western ideas hastily with theory grafting. A heap of fashionable vocabulary has caused great changes to the language of the elite class. However, it is more challenging to change the living habits and thinking mode of ordinary people. Your ideas are not at all conservative, yet your methods are slow and based on memory and senses.
Wu: If things get professional, intentionally or not, it exclude many people. I don’t want it to be too professional.
Zhou: For example you didn’t do the tunnel dyeing yourself and instead you asked the women to do it so as to avoid being too professional. Bamboo strips craftsmen were professional, but what you asked for is something beyond their profession, thus you again made them unprofessional.
Ni Youyu is an excerption who falls to the category of a ” managerial” artist. The East in his creation is not ” assumption” but ” construction” . He plans and organizes his works in a way that makes conscious unconscious. Therefore, when you read his works, you feel as if you saw it and were familiar with it, but upon second thought you would realize you’ve never seen it before. In his work The Galaxy, he flattened the coin and scattered them like stars upon the black background of the miniature painting of Chinese landscape, in which roughness and fineness, close-up and distant view, extremes of details and delicacy and the acme of grandness and width are brought together into integration without tangles. In his another work Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara), Ni Youyu send a small guanyin to friends of different professions for use to collect their experience. This ceremonial creation has allowed him to borrow the wisdom of many to talk about ” Yu” (fish) with Zhuang Zi.
Such an assumption itself, as long as it is rigorous instead of being only the formalistic imitation of the so-called Eastern minor sentiments, is creation. Naturally the experiential statements of the assumption are also creation. The perception of it in the 21st century belong to the 21st century and we should not entangle ourselves over the issue whether it is not innovative or not accurate. This status may also secretly coincides with the general development theme of Chinese art over the last millennium, which is the respect for the past and expression of the truth of oneself if there is and inheritance of it otherwise. Correct when mistaken and stand up when fall down. Do not be addicted to material gain or entangled in comparison, then everything will be natural and smooth. The East is not an object, but ourselves.
Knowing not how to conclude such a theme, I again quote Mr. Feng Youlan’ s Zen story at the end of his book, A Brief History of Chinese Philosophy.
There was a monk called Ju Di who answered everybody’ s questions only by putting up a finger. On hearing that the chore boy in his temple also put up a finger at people’ s questions, Ju Di cut off his finger and the boy ran off crying. Later on Ju Di called at the boy and put up a finger at the boy as he looked back. At the moment, the boy got a sudden enlightenment. (Sayings of Cao Shan)
Mr. Feng Youlan concludes after the story: ” He who reaches the purity of philosophy must first go through the complexity of it. People only become silent after they speak enough.”
And so is the case with the reflections on the East.
(Note: This part is quoted from the author’ s essay for previous exhibitions)
Nov. 10th, 2013
Completed on the flight from Dunhuang to Lanzhou