Chang An Exhibition of Contemporary Art
Chang An Exhibition of Contemporary Art
Artists：Wang Guangle‧Shi Jinhua‧Qin Yufen‧Xu Hongming‧Zhang Yu‧Liu Xuguang
I have decided to hold an exhibition on the theme of Chang after constant reflections on methodology and the theory of knowledge. Most people take Chang to mean “scene,” or perhaps they may connect it with “space” and “boundary.” They may form “relationship” from knowledge of Chang and “human” and “object.” Then, there are some that see Chang as: sky, earth, and human; or “the way of the Tao.” Today, however, I do not wish to discuss Chang with the Tao.
I have invited eight artists, whose artwork relates to my ponderings on Chang, to participate in this exhibition. They are: Wang Guangle, Shi Jin-Hua, Liu Xuguang, Li Huasheng, Zhang Yu, Song Dong, Qin Yufen, and Xu Hongming. These artists’ art—regardless of differing perspectives, media used, levels of awareness, and methods—possesses an intimate connection with the multi-faceted Chang. I believe this to be very significant. Here, I outline what I believe Chang is.
The descriptions just mentioned above are somewhat distant from the Chang that I am discussing. In my opinion, none of them firmly grasp the key thing about Chang. Hidden within the state of being that is Chang, lies an easily ignorable problem that few have considered. It is an internal problem of the core. Chang equals process. Because all problems manifest in the process. In the process, Chang not only includes “space,” but also “connections” and “speculation.”
I want to talk about Chang because it is an important problem that cannot be avoided nor ignored when looking at aesthetics from the point of view of the Asian world view.
Chang is not “scene.” Chang is the “process” of artistic expression. Mainly, this process reflects multiple relationships and connections. In these multitudinous relationships and connections, “speculation” is formed. And because there is “speculation” this process constitutes a form of expression. In other words, Chang can act as a cut in point for artistic expression. In looking at the concept of Chang, my goal is to explore possibilities of artistic expression beyond representational art and abstract art.
In truth, wisdom comes from knowledge. In the same way, methodology is confirmed by theory of knowledge. Methodology is born of knowledge; it originates from concepts.
In regards Chang, I take particular note of: first, artistic expression obtained through knowledge and method, which shows up the artistic process itself that this method reveals; second, the speculative nature of the connections and knowledge of the artistic process; and third, the intuitive reflections of the medium used in the artistic process.
As I see it, “process” is the core of Chang, as well as the core of the artwork. “Speculation” is the deepness of Chang, as well as the deepness of the artwork. Therefore, I believe that Chang equals “process.” It wants to be linked with “space” and “boundary,” and to be connected with “man” and “object.” “Process,” “connection,” and “speculation” form the basis of Chang.
Due to different methods, Chang can manifest in different concrete forms and substances. The participating artists each have their unique methods. What their art has in common is purity, even simplicity or repetition. Through repetitive interpretation of the significance and speculative nature of the process itself, a formless deepness is obtained.
I am certain that Chang is not simply the concept of observable space. Rather, Chang is the knowledge and concepts of which the artist is objectively certain. This concept is open and opened up. The process of opening up is establishing the certainty of the connections of Chang; and it is the most intriguing aspect of this Chang of the artistic process. Therefore, I see Chang as a concealed method of showing an artistic message.
In other words, Chang has no in between; it is the sum of the seen and unseen. This Chang is revealed to us when we use our own methods to experience and know the reflected intuition of human, object, and expressive media in the process, and realizing or manifesting the speculation and boundary within it.
In one way, Chang is the artist’s expression of disdain and repudiation toward representational art, as well as an expression of doubt toward Western abstract art. In another way, this kind of thinking and expression further shows the world view, epistemology and artistic view of Chinese culture and art, which transcends time and space. We advocate the originality of artistic work and promote intellectuals’ aesthetic theories. From this, an aesthetic knowledge system of contemporary art can be attained of our own initiative. Perhaps, contemporary Asian art can open a new window for the art world once more.
Below I give a brief outline of each artist’s methodology:
Wang Guangle’s “Coffin Paint” (Framed acrylic, started in 2004, ongoing work)
Wang Guangle’s “Coffin Paint” was inspired by a tradition he witnessed as a young boy. Older people would prepare their own coffin at a time they thought appropriate, and each year they would apply a layer of bright red paint to it. If they were fortunate, they might apply up to 10 or 20 layers. Wang named this process “coffin painting.”
Placing his canvas flat on the ground, Wang applies, in an upward direction, a layer of acrylic paint each day, each layer a different shade. After one layer is dry, he applies the next, and so on and so forth. Each application equals one layer, with each layer having a smaller area than the one below, forming a pyramid-like effect. It is very clear that Wang’s method originates from his theory of knowledge.
Shi Jin-Hua’s “Pencil Walking” (performance and framed, started in 1996, ongoing work)
Shi Jin-Hua had a definite concept in mind when realizing his work “Pencil Walking.” Shi took a pencil and, pressing it against a white board, walked back and forth for hours on end, leaving thousands of horizontal pencil lines on the board. Both the pencil marks and the action of pencil walking itself made up his work.
Shi probably took inspiration from daily life when completing “Pencil Walking.” As children, we have all done something similar. Perhaps on the way to school, you might have picked up a stick and aimlessly scrapped it along a wall as you walked along. Maybe it was just a way of passing the time, or perhaps it was a subconscious way of measuring the distance from home to school. In sum, Shi’s “Pencil Walking” is the result of a theory of knowledge.
Liu Xuguang’s “Ink Drop” (Video, 2004)
Through natural observation of everyday life, Liu Xuguang has rediscovered culturally important ink and wash, and the significance of the way, due to its special material qualities, it can be used artistically. Starting out from a particular concept, Liu records on video the process of wet ink drops on special paper completely drying over three hours. Material changes both static and moving going on in the surrounding environment are reflected from the point of view of the drying ink. At the same time, the passage of time reveals the changes taking place as the ink drops dry.
Li Huasheng’s “Grid Lines” (Framed ink and wash, started 1998, ongoing work)
When realizing his ink and wash paintings, Li Huasheng pushes the hairs of the brush so far down that the barrel of the brush almost touches the paper, contravening traditional brush and ink techniques. In terms of method, Li employs the zong feng pen technique to draw fine zong feng lines. Drawing inspiration from the experience of writing daily diary entries, Li repeatedly paints his grid lines, never tiring of drawing the horizontal and vertical crossing lines. Li’s method is rational and unambiguous.
By intentionally steering away from traditional ink and wash concepts, Li releases his work from the bonds of convention, giving his lines independence. The lines represent the marks of time, but the lines are also the marks themselves.
Zhang Yu’s “Fingerprint”(Performance and framed, started 1991, ongoing work)
The fingerprinting featured in Zhang Yu’s “Fingerprint” is akin to the action of signing with one’s fingerprint. This shows that the artist is aware of a theory of knowledge. In regard to method, there are two aspects involved in the use of fingerprinting: one is the action of fingerprinting itself; the other is the traces left by the action of fingerprinting.
There are two further levels to the action of fingerprinting on paper: one is the red ink marks, and the other is the traces of water. In regard the traces of water, there are three elements involved: 1, the continuous, repetitive action of fingerprinting. 2, Rice paper. 3, Longjing mineral water and Mt. Laoshan mineral water. Zhang Yu dips his finger in water and presses it on rice paper to leave raised and depressed round marks, taking advantage of changes in natural light to highlight different qualities on the paper. The traces of ink left, the action of the artist, and his use of process and time all combine to tell a narrative.
Qin Yufen’s “Silent Wind” (Instillation, started 1997, ongoing work)
Qin Yufen’s instillation piece “Silent Wind,” like a woven floral arrangement, features many cattail leaf fans wrapped in white silk. Each is suspended by copper wire from the ceiling at different lengths and sways gently in the air. The fans—Qin’s medium—all previously belonged to different generations of people, who used them to cool themselves. The fans bound in a simple fashion, this artwork is wrapped with both a concept and unique delight—Qin is not merely wrapping up the cattail leaf fans themselves, but also the memories of several generations of people.
Xu Hongming’s “Non-cloud, Non-mist, Non-chi” (Framed mineral powder paint, started 2008)
Xu Hongming is fascinated with uncertainty. For this reason, he has abandoned the paint brush, and instead uses a sieve to sieve powdered mineral paint onto his canvases. How his paintings turn out is affected by how he shakes the sieve in his hand, which in turn is affected by how he moves and his breathing, all in all emphasising unpredictability, uncertainty, and vagueness. Uncertainty and vagueness have become the way Xu expresses himself.
Through repeated sieving, Xu drops paint on the canvas in a controlled manner, leaving his canvas covered with layers of paint that permeate, mix, and blur together.
Song Dong’s “Breathing” (Performance art, 1996)
Song Dong’s “Breathing” was realized at two separate locations. The first was Tiananmen Square, where the artist, in minus nine Celsius conditions, lay on the ground for 40 minutes breathing onto the same patch of stone pavement until it iced up. On the second occasion, he repeated the performance besides Beijing’s Houhai Lake, this time with the temperature at minus eight.
Though the same method was used both times, the results were different due to the fact that that the ground was made of different materials in the two locations. This piece is an expression of the artist’s knowledge and understanding of nature.
Song Dong’s piece is not featured in the exhibition.
Each of these artists uses their own knowledge, wisdom, method, medium, and levels to express aspects concealed in the creative process. These everyday, experiential, simple, and speculative aspects reveal themselves in the Chang, allowing viewers to compare them to their own everyday experiences and feelings, and get a grasp of artists’ knowledge of and attitude to the world, as well as what they know and think themselves.