Curator: Zhang Yu
Artists: Dai Guangyu, Liu Xuguang, Qin Chong, E Herder, Yu Jidong, Zhang Jianjun, Zhang Yu
Date:2014.10.31 ~ 2014.11.03
By Zhang Yu

Contemporary art is not forms existing in isolation. Although one may say it is travelling a different path in the face of tradition, it definitely goes through tradition on its way towards the future. What it seeks today is a through-way with a constructive character, and one that is meaningful in the sense of inspiring cultural advance. This cultural significance no longer belongs only to ourselves. It includes the culture of others. The opening up of the world tells us that the world of today no longer is about “you versus me”, but is about “us”. Accordingly, the opening of the through-way that we are talking about today is not about a simple one-way relationship. Through it we may discover that this through-way links many relationships, and each relationship has the potential to lead you to go towards another possibility. This possibility is that in ceaselessly understanding the development within the process, and in the new cognitive understanding within that constant opening up, it is possible to achieve that we express ourselves in a new way every time. Consequently, as we move ahead ceaselessly along this through-way, re-opening and re-understanding things, we open up the tradition and the treasury of thought. Only once we have opened it up can we achieve discoveries and continue to move forward.

Open is not just about the opening of a form. It is a conscious opening of thought. It is also about how we look at the relationship between art and artwork. Expression is no longer just a logic of art history, but rather, potentially, a textual logic expressed in the artwork itself. Therefore, what I rather feel I express is a presentation of the process of becoming enlightened, the realization of an individual experience of an inner world, and of thinking and cognitive understanding. As I see it, for every artist, it is about whether or not you can offer the world an independent, inspirational way of thinking and cognitive understanding. This thinking is a method by which to cognitively understand the world.

There is a strange phenomenon these years of so-called contemporary artworks matching existing expectations, of simply using Western methods or forms of presentation so as directly to collocate traditional symbols and elements, such as calligraphy, Chinese characters, taihu (eroded limestone) stones, shanshui landscape painting, huaniao flowers-and-birds paintings and so on, and simply using modern or contemporary media directly to represent these traditional symbols. There are also direct representations of traditional literary references, producing illustrated-style creations in an apparent representation of the traditional notion realm (yijing, 意境). If this is the way contemporary art is to develop, we really cannot look our ancestors in the eye.

We absolutely cannot carry on today understanding the use of symbols and elements in a simplistic way. It is no longer possible to isolate Chinese from Western contemporary art. Both in culture and media, they mutually influence each other. They inter-penetrate. It is not a matter of you versus me, but of “us” and “we”. In using cultural symbols and elements we must transform them through intermediate links, from which we derive inspiration and enlightenment and thus open up and express relationships. The ink-and-wash of China can be used in the same way by Westerners as the way in which we might gain insights about life by reading Western philosophy, and just as we gain insights about life from the Chan (Zen) school of Buddhism, so too may Westerners study Chan, and gain insights from it. In fact, we can all find inspiration in various cultures, and discover through-ways of opening and transformation.

The seven artists of the OPEN exhibition through their own formats and their understanding of this world, for the associations of the expressions presented by the artists all open up channels, and are laid before the viewer with clarity. It is easily apparent that all these works have their own conceptual character, everyday character, and cultural character. Therefore, the expressive formats employed in each case are also natural, simple and pure. The process of expression is very spare. The works have the morphology of art, of artworks, and of being natural.

When we cognitively understand things and can trace them back to their original morphology, we may achieve instant enlightenment. This has always, and invariably, been the case, even though it has been through the channel of the experience of, and thinking about, human existence. Returning to original basics, we return to the works, we read them and become aware of the transitory quality of human life and the changeability of circumstances. This is not aesthetics. It is a force.

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