WHAT IS “READY-MADE PAINTING” ?
AcademIC HOST: XIA KEJUN
现成品绘画（Ready-made Painting）？这几乎是一个“悖论”（Paradox）或“吊诡”（Aporia of Double Bind）的概念。绘画不是因为“现成品”（Ready-mades）而导致终结的吗？现成品的出现，如同德·迪佛（Thierry de Duve）所言，让艺术成为“艺术一般”（Art General），成为关于艺术的艺术或“元艺术”（Meta-Art），而绘画仅仅保持为“特殊艺术”（Special art）。而且现成品扩展了“物性”的概念，不再局限在二维平面的错觉以及物性的描绘上，而是直接让“任一物”都可以成为艺术，艺术可以接纳所有物，而不再仅仅是艺术品，而是物品、商品、器物、自然物，甚至非物或者无物（No-thing）。或者说，绘画对现成品的接纳，不就是美国“后达达主义”、抽象材质的绘画或者概念绘画以及日本的“物派”已经做过的吗？但似乎都过于脱离了绘画平面的限定性。因此，如何充分保留绘画的平面性与手感的唯一性，以及对现成品的接受与肯定？“现成品”与“绘画”的结合，是否已经改变了二者？如果塞尚是绘画大师的代表，杜尚是现成品的始作俑者，如何可能结合二者？二者的对峙不就是西方现代性艺术的内在症候或者根本危机？即“怎么做都可以”与“怎么做都不可以”之不可能的结合？这就是现代性艺术在“可能性与不可能性之间的双重束缚”（Double Bind between Possibly and Impossibility），但艺术不就是面对自身的“不可能性”而使之重新“可能”才有着新艺术的出现的？
其二，杜尚不是没有认识到现成品与绘画之间纠结难分的关系，这在《大玻璃》与《被给予》两个精心制作的大作品上体现出来。对于现成品与绘画的关系，杜尚主要还是集中在现成品的制作上，或者把现成品与雕塑相关，其实杜尚的小便器等等都是具有雕塑的特点，（1918年的《旅行雕塑》就直接如此命名）尽管又废弃了器物的雕塑感，回到纯粹的物感。《大玻璃》名为《甚至被她们的光棍们剥光了衣服的新娘》也是接续之前关于“新娘”的系列绘画作品，《新娘》与《处女》，尤其是1912年转折时期的《从处女到新娘的转换》（Transition of Virgin into a Bride）这个绘画作品，杜尚试图解决一个悖论：如何保持处女性，却又成为进入性关系快感的新娘了，这几乎是基督教童真女，圣灵感孕的现代艺术版重现，即如何通过第四维的时空折叠施行转换（Transition）或转化（Transform），既要保持物性的非人为制作（“处女性”），但却又具有绘画视觉的快感与已成事件（“新娘性”），杜尚已经开始面对“现成品绘画”的复杂问题。但总体而言，还是舍弃了绘画性，尽管在1917年他还是做出了《艾娜梅涂刷阿波利奈尔》（Apolinère Enameled）的“准现成品绘画”：这是以现成物、厚纸、油漆锌板、铅笔等绘制而成，涂刷也是对绘画的反讽。杜尚晚期的现成品也试图回到绘画上来，《被给予》就是模仿库尔贝《世界的诞生》的写实绘画，其充满色情爱欲的窥视、“观看”甚至就是直接实现女性阴道的穿越，但这并非其绘画性，而且丧失了平面性。因此，问题依然在那里，如何既要保持物的现成性，又要有着人为制作性？现成品是去除人为制作性，随意偶发的挪用或者游戏，保持处女性的梦想——这难道不是一个自然性的梦想或错觉？
（2）1950年代劳森伯格或后达达主义的很多作品，尤其是其《组合》系列或集成性绘画（Combines），似乎已经是现成品绘画了，看似有着绘画性，但更多地加入了现成物，或者拼贴物、复制品、个人照片等等，都被置于平面上，受到剪贴画的影响，接续了综合立体派的拼贴性，也有高度的抽象性，依附于墙壁但不再是二维平面，而是突出来，也不同于极简主义走向空间雕塑的场域化。这些物虽然是现存物或实物，而且物性的特征明显，但更多体现为装置作品，也许说成是一种装置性绘画而更为明确？或者说仅仅是现成品的复杂化与并置，这也与后来极简主义脱离绘画平面相通，只是还保留了些许的“绘画性”，但其实并非绘画，因为缺乏绘画性。这些作品或者过于图片化，利用摄影照片，不是从绘画性本身出发，更多是绘画的现成品（Ready-mades of Painting），其重点落实在现成品上。
对于杜尚，问题并没有如此简单，而是更为复杂，还有着另一种更为“复杂化的方式”来实行“转化”（Transform）：（1）尽管有着简单直接的现成品，比如《泉》的小便器或《折断之前》的雪铲，但是从1916年至1925年做了8年的《大玻璃》之为现成品，却并不那么轻易，而是为了传达第四维的幻象发生，是带有科学研究的现成品艺术，隐含有对第四维绘画的想象。（2）杜尚也并非没有想回到绘画，比如以绘画为隐喻的“准绘画作品”《艾娜美涂刷阿波利奈尔》有着现成品，有着绘画性，甚至针对绘画的动作，但似乎还是无法回到绘画上来。（3）在1937年之后，他写作隐秘的“次薄”（Infra mince）或“次厚度”（Infra thin）的笔记时开始了探索，试图连接现成品与绘画，在很多地方设想一种现成品绘画的可能性。（4）这在后来做了20年而不宣示的《被给予》上有所体现，这个作品无疑有着对库尔贝绘画作品《世界的诞生》的戏仿，但却依然不是绘画，而是装置作品。
因此重要的是回到那个1980年代后才被发现的“次薄”笔记，当代的艺术史家们试图去发现一个“尚未完成的杜尚”（如同这本出版于1993年的论文集《The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp》所醒目提示并且深入展开的研究），显然，这个“尚未完成”在于重新思考现成品所带来的革命性影响及其后果，尤其是次薄笔记对现成品的反思，如何保留现成品，又超越现成品的概念，还与绘画有着关系，这如何可能？因为笔记的第一条就是：“可能性是一种次薄。”“几管颜料成为一幅修拉画的可能性是可能作为次薄的具体解释，可能含有生成的意思——自身向着他者过渡，发生在次薄中。”“次薄是忘记的寓意。”
当代艺术一直面对自身的剩余与无余状态，即所谓的“余性”（Remains）状态。这乃是因为艺术面对的仅仅是自身的剩余（Remain）或者无余（Remains without Remains）状态，艺术不再直接可能，艺术必须面对自身的危机与合法性的论证，不再想当然地直接具有普遍性，现成品艺术也不能，除非展现自身的无用性，艺术必须承担普遍性的任务但又觉悟到自身的无能力，如何让无用成为大用？如同庄子的智慧所言的。
Ready-made Painting ? This concept is almost a “paradox” or “aporia of double bind”. Isn’t painting ended by “ready-mades”? The appearance of ready-mades, just as Thierry de Duve put it, makes art the “art general” , the art about art or “meta-art” , while painting only remains as “special art” . And ready-made extends the concept of “physical property” . It is no longer limited in the two-dimensional illusion and the description of physical properties, but directly makes “anything” become art. In this way, art can adopt everything, no longer just artwork, but goods, commodities, implements, natural objects, and even non-object or no-thing. Or rather, the adoption of ready-mades by painting is just what has been done by American “Post Dadaism” , abstract material painting or conceptual painting and Japan’s “Mono-ha” . But all these seem to be too far away from the planar definiteness of painting. So, how to keep enoughplanarity of painting anduniqueness hand feeling, as well as the acceptance and affirmation of ready-mades? Whether the combination of “ready-mades” and “painting” has changed both? If Cezanne were representative of painting masters and Duchamp the initiator of ready-mades, how could they be combined? Isn’t the confrontation between the two the intrinsic symptom or fundamental crisis of westernmodernity art? This is just like the impossible combination of “right to do anything” and “wrong to do anything” . This is the “double bind between possibility and impossibility” of modernity art. But doesn’t new art occur when one makes it “possible” again when faced with one’s own “impossibility” ?
The proposal of “Ready-made Painting” is a chance for Chinese contemporary art to contribute new artistic principles when faced with crisis of contemporary art.
Ⅰ Ready-mades and Contemporary Art Crisis
The fundamental crisis of modernity art is brought by Duchamp’s “ready-mades” . The appearance of “ready-mades” has broughtfollowing several effects:
Firstly, the “simplified way” embodied in ready-mades: 1.abandons traditional visual arts, no longer resorts to retinal perception and aesthetic judgment, but rather turns to conceptual naming game; 2.breaks art category, forcing artists to do “meta-art” : the art about art, to be “general art” or “art general” , no longer be “special art” like painting or sculpture; 3.cancels the difference between genius creation andborrow from someone else. It is no longer the onlycreation of genius, but depends on a chance encounter and an impromptu name; 4.breaks the distinction among physical properties: any object and any ready-made can become a work. There is no longer distinction among creations, other implements, other artworks, even gift and natural objects, etc. All of them can be works of art, can be directly embezzled, even not leave a work. They are allowed to dissipate, and the works are canceled with them. 5.Ready-mades trigger the” useless” art, for these implements or artificialities have lost the existing functions, even the aesthetic function. They embody the “purposelessness” required by Kant even better, or to say, they meet the demands of nihilism or provide a new understanding of “nothingness” . Translating “physical property” into “nothingness” is the most fundamental appeal of modernity art!
Secondly, the fact that Duchamp has also realized the entangled relationship between ready-made and painting is demonstrated in his two elaborate great works, namely, the “Large Glass” and “Be Given” . In terms of the relationship between ready-made and painting, Duchamp mainly focused on the manufacture of ready-made or correlated ready-made with sculpture. In fact, Duchamp’s works like urinals all embodied the characteristics of sculpture (the “Travel Sculpture” in 1918 was directly named so), though they again abandoned the sculptural sense of implements and return to pure substance feeling. Naming the “Large Glass” as “Brides Even Unclothed by Their Bachelors” was also to continue the previous serial painting works about “bride” . Through “Bride” and “Virgin” , especially in the painting of “Transition of Virgin into a Bride” created in the transition period of 1912, Duchamp tried to solve a paradox: how to keep virginity while becoming a bride that enjoys the sexual pleasure. This was almost the modern artistic recurrence of Christian innocent virgin and Immaculate Conception, i.e. how to implement transition or transform through fold of the 4th dimensional time and space, maintaining the non-human factor of physical property (“virginity” ) and in the meanwhile possessing the visual pleasure and completed event (“attribute of bride” ). Duchamp has begun to confront the complex problems of “Ready-made Painting” .On the whole, he still abandoned the painterliness, though he created the “ready-made painting-to-be” of “Apolinère Enameled” in 1917: the work was based on finished product, ground paper, oil paint rolled tin, pencil, etc., and the brushwork was also an irony to painting. Duchamp’s ready-mades of later period also tried to return to painting. “Be Given” was a realistic painting that imitated Courbet’s “Birth of the World” . It was full of erotic peep, and by “view” , it even directly realized the pass through female’s vagina. But this was not painterliness and it also lost the planarity. Therefore, the problem was still there. How to maintain the readiness of objects while possess artificiality? Ready-made is a random accidental embezzlement or a game without artificiality. Isn’t the dream to keep virginity a natural dream or illusion?
Thirdly, the effects of Duchamp’s ready-mades last not just back then. Though he gained responses from “Dadaism” and “Surrealism” in 1920s and 1930s, which was demonstrated in Picabia’s conceptual painting and Man Ray’s photography works, the major effects appeared after 1950s, which led to the emergence of conceptual art. Even conceptual art was mainly created with “ready-mades” : 1.the works or “non-works” of Warhol and Beuys possessed readiness with photographic lens fixed for several hours, and the embezzlement of a large number of commercial symbols was all affected by the concept of ready-made. Beuys used so many ready-mades that the painterliness was lost as a whole and planarity could not be resumed even when he changed them into social sculpture. “Everybody is artist” was also meant to eliminate difference. 2.Arte povera was also embezzlement of ready-mades, only that it destroyed ready-mades to a larger-extent and made them close to non-works, so as to endow the ready-mades with ethic “meaning” . 3.Minimalism turned to architecture type of painting. They returned to sculpture, but broke away from planarity. This was also stimulated by ready-mades or borrowed the concept of ready-mades, but they marched towards the “theatricality” according to Fried. This was more apparent in Japan “Mono-ha” , which entered plane as natural objects, but still basically lost the painterliness.4.Expanding to musical performances, for example, John Cage’s 4 minutes 33 seconds was also a parody of ready-made concept, the perversion of playing and not playing, undone and done.
The consequence is the disappearance of art’s boundary. Art is turned into the dependency of sociology, commercial capital and individual curiosity, or the dependency of technology. If we continue Duchamp’s more complicated direction, the art would depend on technology. Of course, we have lost Duchamp’s patience for continuous research on scientific problems. For example, Duchamp carried out complicated research on relativity and the fourth dimension through “Large Glass” , and he even wrote a lot of notes.
ⅡThe Problem of Meta-painting
Back to painting, painting as a special category, how can it get rid of its own particularity? OncePollock starts dribbling, painting is no longerparticular. Allowing the input of individual life’s unique energy, he body seems to be another kind of ready-made. Once the American abstract expressionism is faced with the possible condition of art, painting no longer has any objects for recurrence, but expresses the plane, frame boundary and color itself. With such meta-painting of painting “possibilities conditions” , painting is temporarily rational, but the appearance of monochrome paintings (color is cancelled, this is also a conceptual painting) leads to the end of painting.
Actually painting hasadopted “ready-made” to some extent long ago, not finished product, but all kinds of existing materials. Material is not ready-made for the later has its own complete physical property and one can see the physical property itself, rather than a part of painting or be subject to the modeling of painting.
Three stages of arthave accepted such existing objects:
1.Synthetic cubism in around 1912 directly pasted newspapers on the canvas. Many of Picasso’s works were just like this. But still it became part of the painting as painting modeling and the independentphysical property of newspaper itself was invisible.
2.Many works of Rauschenberg or post-Dadaism in 1950s, especially the “combination” series or combines, already seemed ready-made paintings. They seemed to have painterliness, but they added more existing objects, or collages, reproductions, personal photos, etc., and all these were placed on the plane. Affected by clip art, they inherited the collage property of synthetic cubism together with high degree of abstraction. Attached to the wall, they were no longer two-dimensional but stood out, and they were also different from minimalism’s field domain towards space sculpture. These objects were existing objects or material objects with obvious physical characteristics, but they were more embodied in installations, or rather installation paintings. Or to say, they were just complication and juxtaposition of ready-mades. It could also be interlinked with the abandon of planarity by minimalism, only that it maintained slight “painterliness” . But in fact it was no painting for lack of painterliness. These works had too much images with photographic works, they didn’t set out from painterliness itself, but more about ready-mades of paintings with focus on ready-mades.
3.So there appeared a large number of installation paintings, for example Kiefer’s works pasted plenty of ready-mades such as roses directly on canvas and they were presented as installations, or broke painting planarity. But they still emphasized too much texture to have enough painterliness, while our ready-made paintings with their focus on “painting” , rather than ready-mades.
-The adoption of physical property is another attitude of western art, so as to expand thepainterliness. But here is the problem: the plane for painting is not sufficientlyexpanded; while the plane is interfered by these supplementary things and the planarity of painting itself has not been respected.
Both Fontana’s cut pictures and S.Hantai’sfolded pictures reflected their pressure when faced with ready-mades or impromptu accidental actions. Or they returned to the characteristics of the canvas itself and their works were already close to ready-made painting.
ⅢDuchamp’s Infra Thin or Infra Mince
Neither the sculptural ready-mades nor the textured paintings combined ready-mades with paintings, and of course there was no infra mince transformation.
For Duchamp, the problem was not so simple, but more complex. There was a more “complicated way” to practice the “transformation” :1.despite the simple and immediate ready-mades like urinal in “Spring” or snow shovel in “Before broken” , his ready-made work of “Large Glass” , which took eight years from 1916 to 1925, was no easy thing. It was a ready-made artwork with scientific research to convey the illusion of the fourth dimension and it had implied imagination of the fourth dimensional painting. 2.Duchamp also sought to return to painting, for example his “Apolinère Enameled” was a “painting-to-be” which took painting as a metaphor. There were ready-mades, painterliness, and even actions for painting in it, but it still seemed couldn’t go back to painting. 3. After 1937, he started secret explorations in his notes of “infra mince” or “infra thin” , trying to connect ready-mades with paintings and imagining the possibility of ready-made painting in many places. 4.This was embodied in his work of “Be Given” , which took 20 years with no declaration. This work undoubtedly imitated Courbet’s “Birth of the World” ; still it was not painting, but an installation.
So, what is important is the “Infra mince” note founded in 1980s. Contemporary art historians tried to find an “Unfinished Duchamp” (as the in-depth studyreminded and carried out in the memoir of The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, which was published in 1993). Obviously, the “Unfinished” was based on the second thoughts of the revolutionary influence and its consequences brought by ready-mades, especially the “infra mince” note’s reflections on ready-mades. How could it be possible to keep the ready-mades, go beyond the concept of ready-mades and in the meanwhile be related to painting? The possible is an infra-thin: The possibility of several tubes of color becoming a Seurat is the concrete “expression” of the possible as infra thin. The possible implying the becoming: the passage from one to the other takes place in the infra thin. allegory on “forgetting”.
In the reflection of this motto: it involved painting, but stressed that the painting itself already became industrialized preparations, for example, the pigment was no longer secret modulation in workshops but be squeezed out directly. The reason why it mentioned only Seurat’s painting was that it had the most obvious stippling, and the infra mince in his sketch works was fascinating, but how could it have anything to do with ready-mades? Previous ready-mades could no longer best reflect the possibility, and ready-mades could no longer thoroughly realize the transition and transformation from themselves to others. The transformation in “Large Glass” was just illusion. The transformation of previous ready-mades was not infra mince, but direct conceptual naming and it had not yet shown the implied meaning of forget. How to forget? It happened to be the conceptual game to remove names and to suspend concept of previous ready-mades. This was also why Duchamp began his “Suitcase” series in around 1936, and why he narrowed and assembled previous ready-mades. It was the thorough summary and personal settlement of him, the monument of ready-mades and the “cinerary casket” of the little ready-made art. This also explained why he stopped produce ready-mades later. So, Duchamp’s note about “infra mince” could not be used to explain ready-mades, on the contrary, it meant to go beyond the crisis of ready-mades. Duchamp tried to maintain ready-made’s appeal to the “futility of physical property” and “universality of art” , and in the meanwhile open new possibilities of art, yet it seemed he failed to realize it in the end. The work of “Be Given” took him 20 years, yet didn’t fully embody the “infra mince” .
Duchamp tried to reconnect ready-mades with painting with “infra mince” or in an” infra Thin” way. We understood it as infra minces, which added the “weakness” aesthetics of Chinese culture, which made it with more imagination and more thin. It keeps the naturalness (just like “virginity” ) and painterliness, and in the meanwhile adopts ready-mades.
Ⅳ Paradox beyond Contemporary Art: Infra Minces Transitivity
Contemporary art has always been faced with its own state of remains or without remains, known as the remains state. This is because art only faces their own state of remains or without remains; it is no longer directly possible. The art has to confront with its own argument of crisis and legitimacy, and it doesn’t have direct universality. Neither does ready-made art, unless it shows its own futility. Art has to undertake the task of universality, but also to realize its own disability. How to make futility useful? Just as Zhuangzi’s wisdom told us.
This is not because art is not good enough, but rather it is too easy. In classical age, it’s “no right to do anything” (just like Cezanne’s puzzlement to continue classical painting master’s “Unknowable Masterpiece” , painting is the failure to enter chaos), for man is not god, and art is infinite; but contemporary art is too easy, it’s “right to do anything” (this is the “relax” and “easiness” started by Duchamp), and it only needs the burstiness of one-time name and accidental wit. Of course, there is actually a reversal between the two, for when god is dead, everything is possible, but it also means that everything is no longer possible, for there are no standards or rules. “Right to do anything” also means the loss of their own standards and everything seem too easy, while “no right to do anything” means there is no absolute criterion for art, thus losing the association with absolute.
In fact, modernity itself is the breakage between finite short transition and infinite eternal solidness. To make up for the breakage, art starts turning to “meta-art” , trying to become art itself, but it cancels itself in the unity of “meta-art” . The more the art wants to become “art general” and tries to finish art itself one time, the more it cancels itself. Just like the continuous abstraction and monochromatization of painting are also forced by “meta-painting” , and in this way, painting ends and cancels itself. Therefore, if there is any possibility of art, it is in the face of this extra “remains” : facing the state of without remains between “right to do anything” and “no right to do anything” . When there is nothing “remain” in “between” , how to open a scope between the two and make impossibility coexist with possibility, rather than eliminate tension, otherwise, there would be no modernity. If contemporary art embodies the typical contradiction between Duchamp and Cezanne, then the contradiction is the mutual deviation of ready-mades and paintings. But both the ready-mades and painting have to face their own state of without remains, and only in this way can they become again the “art general” .
The emergence of ready-mades brings the immediate appearance of “art general” , while the process of painting becoming meta-painting brings the end of painting. Then, is it possible to combine the two and offer bearable “remains” ? Is it possible to let Cezanne make peace with Duchamp, attend the same exhibition, or even appear in the same work? Isn’t it the biggest “paradox” ?
How to keep physical properties of ready-mades, and in the meanwhile return to theplanarity of painting? The question is: why to return to planarity? Planarity marks limitation, and returning to it means going back to limitation, to the primal instinct when mankind first encountered with the world. Ready-mades are casual without limitations, so we need to combine the two, namely, the unlimited conceptual art and limited planar painting. And to keep the planarity of painting is to keep the connectivity with tradition.
Of course, such ready-mades are no longer the previous ones, and such painting is also no longer the same as that in the past. How could it possible for a new artwork to be: originated from ready-mades and have the subtle material touch of ready-mades, yet without any evidence; be indeed a painting and with all the “subtleness” of a painting, yet looks not like a painting? And the two are internally integrated, i.e. there is a fine and subtle transition between the combination of “infra mince” and “remains” .
Then, what are the preconditions for the combination of ready-mades and paintings? One is Duchamp’s concept of “infra mince” , and his note has implied the possibility of connecting ready-mades and paintings: since “Infra mince” is the possibility of transition from oneself to the other, ready-mades can transit towards painterliness, and vice versa. Only that the transition needs to be more “natural” and more “weak” , thus emerging the contribution of Chinese thought, for the art spirit of ink painting are more natural and more weak. Adding the weak breath into the ready-mades and paintings, this is the penetrating of Duchamp’s “infra mince” into Zhuangzi’s “infra thin” ! The connection of the both is beyond the dreams of Duchamp and Cezanne. Just like Cezanne tried to connect solidness of classical with vagueness of impressionist, but he never succeeded to achieve the overall completion, while his watercolor works in later period became more weak; also Duchamp emphasized that art was a metaphor of forget, and that painting should visually embody the state of forget, and in the meanwhile reflect individual skills and close to meta-painting. These problems have not been solved yet.
Ⅴ Ready-made Painting
It is possible for ready-made painting, then, how can ready-made be combined with painting? In this regard:
On the one hand, how to be “ready-mades” yet different? This has to accept Duchamp’s reflection over “infra mince” . Ready-mades are no longer a simple embezzlement of ready-mades or a conceptual game, but work that demands long time, just like complicated ready-mades, but it also needs further remaining process of products, not complete finished products, but the products that go through “remains” and even “remain-less” process, or to say thinner products, just as Duchamp puts it: “The picture on the glass generates infra mince when looked from the unpainted side.” This means it tried to be close to painting and yet wanted to be never been painted.
Ready-mades are indeed on hand and have been manufactured, not first created by artists, and they have to keep direct link with reality and daily life. Modernity is a materialized age, and also the respect to the objectivity and qualitative property of objects. But it is not Duchamp’s simplified ready-mades, but has been made thin. The so called “infra mince” or “infra thin” is to further reduce the substantivity of ready-mades. The ready-mades are taken to undergo some kind of process, such “process” is the weakening process of ready-mades. It is not direct embezzlement, but need to be processed in the relation with painterliness.
On the other hand, how to be painting but not the traditional painting?Painting is the unity of material-base-object, but contemporary paintingis to solve the problem since Pollock: how to leave the canvas and also bring new painting plane?How to retain some characteristics of ready-madesin painting, such as canvas, material and so on?
Chinese ink art can bring inspiration for the transformation, which can no longer be realized with only western painting. This is associated with the doubts Cezanne faced with: how to get natural weak breath? Cezanne is the father of western art and the subsequent cubism, expressionism, abstract painting are associated with him. If it is painting, it need to have painterliness and a new scope of plane, which has to be non-dimension, for the non-dimension is the real open: the approach of infinite: the the embodiment of the meta painting. Painting also need to change itself to have the concept of general art, i.e. it is no longer just drawing a picture or forming a particular style, but to be meta-painting with generality, but not abstract paintings or conceptual ones. How to do? It is to accept ready-mades, as well as naturalness, for nature has the most generality. It is to generate new naturalized image. All human’s products actually don’t have generality due difference of labor and hierarchy, they only have particularity. This is also why ink art has possess generality, just like the landscape painting is not a painting genre, but to rebuild the general relationship between human and nature through painting, for there is internal growth in it. What’s more, the texture of ink painting, with water as its ready-made, is a natural thing and can be transformed into anything.
Here is a triple conversion: one is related to lasting work and philosophy or general topic, finding the remains; one is the transition towards “infra mince” and “infra thin” , and this is an expansion of Duchamp’s “infra mince” ; the last is the new relationship with painting, i.e. changing the painting while maintaining the characteristics of ready-mades.
Ready-made painting, on one hand, has to see and recognize the physical properties of ready-mades, and reflect it in paintings. Yet the physical properties are not part of paintings, especially natural things. This is the new oriental property and the possibility for the start of infra mince, for nature provide possibility for chaos and grammaticalization. The naturalness of things is also the maintenance of Duchamp’s “virginity” . On the other hand, ready-made painting need to keep “painterliness” , recognize the necessity of plane itself, which has to open new non-dimension and keep the difficulty of the painting. At the same time, the two must also achieve internal integration, with subtle correlation and transition: this is the virtual thin touch.
Ready-mades are ready-mades due to the fact that they are physical objects with material properties. On the other hand, new painterliness is required. It would be no painting if there is no painterliness. Would it be painting ready-made or ready-made painting? The former prefers device field, while the latter tends to painting.
Ready-made painting embodies both physical properties and painterliness. But it is not external collocation and embezzlement; otherwise,it would be either the conceptualpainting, or abstract painting expropriation of materials. Synthetic cubism, American abstract expressionism and Mono-ha are all like this. So, it has to be the combination of infra mince with internal subtle transition, and mutual transformation.
In other words, new ready-made painting art has several changes: first is to have week breath; second is meta-painting, not abstract painting or conceptual painting, but to accept naturalness with growth and naturalness. It is different from Japan’s Mono-ha, and it reactivates the inherent spirit of the whole traditional ink painting art; third is to open a new non-dimension infinite plane, and rediscover the relationship between texture and ready-mades, rebuild the relationship between texture and spirit, this is the open of Zhuangzi’s space for “purifying the heat” .
Ready-made painting is the art to be rediscovered. Infra thin painting is just like this. On the one hand, ready-mades seem inaction of the name stimulated by unique improvisation and encounter, but now we need to make it act, for example, ink can best demonstrate the inaction, but we need to inspire new rich form, especially timeliness writing; on the other hand, the promising painting embodies the most visual operation and individual skills, but we need to turn it into inaction, the more “active” it is, the more “inactive” we need to make it. Make the painting skills reflect inaction; we need to make emptiness and nature active. And these two sides need mutual infra thin transition. “Right to do anything” : ready-mades: need to be transformed as wrong to do anything, which needs active elaboration; “no right to do anything” : painting: need to be transformed as right to do anything, which seems casual, yet more intangible.
Ⅵ Cases of Chinese Ready-made Painting
Ready-mades as material remains, non-dimensional open of plan itself and the internal growth of nature are basic features of ready-made painting; otherwise Damien Hirst’s “butterfly painting” also belongs to ready-made paintings. The “butterfly painting” takes the natural butterfly as ready-made and has visual fold of painting plane, yet it is not infra thin and hasn’t opened non-dimension, and too fanciful with too many conceptual diagrams.
Make active inactive and make inactive active. It takes “vacuum” and “delicate things” and mutual transformation of the two. This is a new philosophy we named “useless hermeneutics” and “remaining philosophy” , which can open the possibility between modernity paradoxes, i.e. when faced with the Derrida’s double bind of impossibility and possibility, it can open a “between region” or scope for survival in middle room, just as the modernity open of regions said by Zhuangzi “put thin product into room, there will be surplus room” .
The possibility of the combination of ready-mades with painting brings the formation of infra-image, which has the real substantivity and physical property of ready-mades, and also undergoes infra thin process and is only the rest of things. It need to have a opened painting plane, yet is not confined to the plane, and the painting shall have internal growth, which seems yet complete, remains to be done, thus pointing to mata-painting.
Currently,there are already several artists in China, whose works have some characteristics of the ready-made paintingand their own open understanding of the possibilities of ready-made painting, and whose works embody the subtle transformation between ready-mades and painting.
1.Jiang Ji’an silk scroll tea-leaf works want us to carry out wandering appreciation of the classical poetry embodied in the slight curl of tea-leaves in the “painting works” and the “literati life space” opened by ready-mades:on the one hand, Jiang Ji’an soaked rice paper with tea and made it dark brown and pasted the used tea-leaves on the plane of soaked rice paper with gluedtea powder, and all the branches of tea-leaves were also dyed by tea powder, which gave sufficient play to the physical property of ready-mades. It was associated with the breath of individual daily drink, yet underwent remaining process, thus having the painterliness. This is the same with his previous “painterliness” work of “surplus value” series, which burnt silk into ashes, mixed it with minerals and painted in traditional Chinese realistic painting way, and in the end the leftover presented a concavo-convex infra-image. The infra-image of the paintings corresponded tothe leftoverplaced next to it (i.e. the mixture ofpigment and silk scroll), so Jiang had already made painting plane corresponding to ready-mades. On the other hand, the painter put the tea-leaves of Pu’er Tea and dark brown works into the device space, and the direct presentation of tea set and writing and painting implements were just like literati’s study room. The works had both the planarity and seriation of painting, as well as the open and read of field domain. Jiang Ji’an’s works have ready-mades, which have undergone remaining treatment, and also painterliness, which used the poetic form of the curl and used tea-leaves.Beside, his works have open space, which have more field transition and practical and meaningful poetry between the ready-mades and painting. This is exactly what Japan’s Mono-ha and Minimalism lack.
2.Qiu Shihua’s blank painting requires us to walk back and forth, repeatedly keep near and far away from the work, and “transform” between the “appearance” and “introspection” . Take a direct view of the “appearance” , it is just an abstract painting, all blank without anything, and only the trace and texture of coarse linen cloth, which retains the fabric’s features as ready-made, but it also makes use of the infra-thin feature of ink, which is more virtual and weaker, just as the “infra mince” dreamt by Duchamp, for the permeability of ink after conversion makes linen a piece of paper, which has the properties of absorption and permeability. This is the remaining treatment of linen as ready-made. In terms of “introspection” : one can see the non-dimension in the painting with a random and cursory glance. The profound and lasting artistic conception doesn’t have any dimension or fixed view-point and perspective. It takes moving and repeated view to see the fusion of classical landscape and modern landscape, which is growing, reflecting the integration and endless growth of nature. Qiu Shihua’s works are not existing paintings, but painting general, for his works deal with the painting and vision. The works are blank without anything to view, yet you can see more as long as you watch. The emptier means the more real. There are innumerable mountains and valleys, endless growth of nature and reversion of painting: the more abstract the more specific: The more specific the scenery is, the more endless growth and changes it retains. The more a conceptual painting looks like a ready-made, the more it seems an impressionist landscape painting; the more it looks like a modern landscape painting, the more infra-image of ancient landscape painting it has. It goes beyond the western opposition of concretization and abstract, and realizes transition back and forth, which is exactly the infra mince art in Duchamp’s dream, a new art that keeps the “subtle transition” and “oblivious moral” of natural growth.
3.Liang Shaoji’s silk works, especially the “Planar Tunnel” , require us to experience it in a finest and most fantasy way between nature and human: on the one hand, it is silk, the natural object produced by silkworms; this is the presence of natural thing in painting. But on the other hand, it is a planar work with collocated circles and squares, looks as if Minimalism. His works are neither painting, nor ready-made, but seems to be both ready-made and painting, for there is rich poetry in the generation of natural objects, pierced filaments and cloud shadow, which the western ready-mades lack. They are not paintings for there is no painting handwork, yet the combination and collocation of circles and squares show the beauty of abstract painting. It gives full play to the nature. In Liang Shaoji’s silk images, wriggly silkworms demonstrate the poetic movement of characters, which seems unconsciously automatic writing by nature.
4.Chen Guangwu’s Yin-yang Calligraphy requires a separated and comprehensive view from four sides, namely, the relationship of painting and space, and the infra-thin combination of active and inactive: the “Yang” calligraphy is painting, yet it opens the non-dimensional imagination of characters and it is the surplus writing of Chinese characters and calligraphy, and is more and more close to the integrated state at the emergence of the universe; while “Yin” lays under the first layer and is invisible and inactive, it is ready-made with the permeability of ink and infra thin principle. It can’t be controlled, and is actually just an abandoned piece of ready-made paper as the bottom of painting, but it is generated into a more anonymous work, neither the abstract painting nor character painting, but with unspeakable traces. Besides, the collocation and separation of Yin and Yang also combines pen and no-pen, and solves the standoff since Pollock and its possibility to cancel the paintings. The interval and integration of Yin and Yang are also different from the traditional inner conversion of Yin and Yang, but a collocation after interval and spatialization and yet is combined with internal infra thin. This is the establishment of gap between infra thin and retains the subtle transit from itself towards others.
5.The device painting of Xu Bing’s “Background Story” requires us to see from the front and the back sides, using a frosted glass to divide the two: from the “front” side of the work, it seems an ancient landscape picture, green and elegant, but in fact there is no painting; while viewed from the “back” side of the glass, they are some trash bags, some usual things or ready-mades. The dye and light make the incredible combination. It is a classical and elegant painting on the front—but actually it is not painting, actually embodying enough inactiveness; and there are some ready-mades, trash bags, residual broken things, etc. on the back side. This is a wonderful inversion from the poverty art, rubbish art and useless things to noble painting visual art, a transition from residual to surplus. This is another way to combine the ready-mades and painting with device, inversion and irony. This is another expansion of Xu Bing’s pseudowords and futility treatment of Chinese characters in his early work of “A Book from Heaven” in 1980s, and his transformation from unreadable Chinese toward readable English in his “Chinese and English Calligraphy” in 1990s.
6.Yu Tao’s ready-mades from the combination and cutting of books give us a clear touch of the dualism of ready-made painting, i.e. the surplus meaning of the books and the physical form of the books. It allows the inversion of inner content to external forms, and it is a triple inner transformation of picture, items and painting. First, it needs to keep the “article properties” of items, rather than describe an item; second, it need to be a “picture” with lasting work of painters and retains the physical properties in the meanwhile; third, it need to have “painterliness” , giving people the first instinct of painting plane yet not traditional painting way. Yu Tao’s unique invention of ready-made painting is based on the cutting of “items” such as collected book, brochures, newspapers and daily notes, then make them present as seemingly both material type of abstract works and device painting works after repeated color and screen color. Yu Tao’s work let us see another style of ready-made painting. He makes ready-mades items that seem like paintings, he emphasizes items yet looks like paintings. It seems that the ready-mades are books and also paintings, for there are abstract complex texture and trace on it with metaphor of the wound healing ethics. But still it is item, i.e. in repeat manufacture and play and in inheritance of ethical attitude towards tradition daywork and physical work, it becomes a thing covered by time just liked unearthed antiques. Only when ready-made painting takes enough timeliness, can it be different from the one-time production or time accumulation of western paintings.
7.Xiaohua’s works let us see the inner relation of manual line and painting tools. Ready-made painting seems the first appearance of the world and nature from the void in a weak and casual form. In Xiaohua’s works, on the one hand, those fine manual suture and wire lines on black plane seem shinning starry sky in the night with the sound of tearing yet is internally removed; on the other hand, those painting frames are useless and don’t provide planes for painting, and they are delicate as association of natural scenery when pierced by artist. Just as the imagination triggered by traditional stones, it is not painting but seems painting. This is the revoice of the aesthetics of “between resemble and not resemble” . Ready-made painting stimulates us to rethink the relationship between human and art, and Xiaohua’s works retain the vulnerability and uncertainty of boundaries, letting viewers’ hearts shiver.
8.Zhang Lei’s ready-made painting is a kind of oneiromancy transformation. On a seemingly normal quilt canvas, there are two pieces of different textures; one is the normal auspicious patterns on the existing canvas, while the other is a microscopic simulation of painting. This is the collocation of daily life and dreams, and also another poetic conception of ready-made painting. Zhang Lei’s ready-made painting also fully embraces the timeliness. He exposed the quilt under sun and let the color of ready-made change, allowing the painting to return to planar inactiveness, and in the meanwhile strangely accept delusion, realizing the mutual conversion of gorgeous color and the rust of time. Zhang Lei’s ready-made painting embodies the inner desire for memory and caress. Between others’ stylized handwork and his own humblepainterliness, between the silent effect of nature and artificial concession, and between the seemingly ordinary and insipid life and expectations full of daydreams, Zhang Lei’s ready-made painting let us return to the original relationship of body and the world and let us go to touch the trace of time at the fuzzy boundaries.