2004.11.5 - 11.14
Place: Fuxingmen Hall
Curator: Tang Xin
Artists: Ding Yi, Hai Bo, Hong Hao, Ji Dachun, Liu Liping, Liu Ye, Song Yonghong, Sun Liang, Wang Guangyi, Wei Dong, Xia Junna, Xia Xing, Xie Dongming, Xu Le,i Yang Feiyun, Yang Shaobin, Yang Yang, Ye Yongqing, Yue Minjun, Zeng Fanzhi, Zeng Hao, Zhan Wang, Zhang Xiaogang
By Yang Yang
The process of creating a print requires the precision of a flawlessly executed chess game. There is no room for error and no tolerance for retracting a false move. One ought to look at it as a holistic project, demanding a high degree of concentration and precision in order to project and anticipate every step and detail along the way. The entire process requires discipline, coordination and determination. In other words, no errors are allowed.
So-called 'non-graphic artists', i.e. artists that traditionally have Been trained as oil painters, sculptors etc., but who are now also using the medium of print to channel their creativity, are a rather recent phenomenon. Since the late 1990s, these cross-disciplinary artists have produced many marvelous prints and significantly enriched the Chinese artistic landscape. Their accomplishments have contributed not only to the fusion of art media and materials, but have also triggered a melding of thought and approach, broadening and deepening the discourse of art production.
Whether in China or abroad, these artists have established themselves as an influential and highly successful force to be reckoned with. Representing a distinctive feature of contemporary Chinese art, their passionate approach has engendered a novel pattern of esthetic interpretation that opens up a space for a multitude of artistic expressions and possibilities.
The pieces in this exhibition are unique in every aspect, transcending the framework of traditional graphic prints. The difference is not only superficial, but also structural, testifying to the applied method of transforming two different artistic languages - print and oil painting. The latter allows for revision and offers the painter a considerable degree of flexibility, simply because the evolution of an oil painting is in constant flux, permitting changes along the way such as intensifying color and straightening out shapes. On the other hand, graphic prints are characterized by the superiority of exact lines and bright colors. One might argue that in many ways graphic prints are able to supercede the expressiveness and richness regarding color and shape of most oil paintings. In other words, non-graphic artists focus on how to translate the expressive value of oil paintings, while at the same time exploit the inherent technical value of print, including issues such as 'management/composition' and color combination, to their own benefit. Of course, as already mentioned, the disadvantage of graphic prints is that there is no tolerance for errors during the production process.
That the printing process does not allow for even the slightest error or misstep to occur seems to be at first sight a technical challenge. However, such a superficial point of view overlooks the fact that errors are the result of mismanagement and faulty plans. To put it differently, errors are designed in one's head, well before the artist actually lays a hand on the printing machine.
While recreating an image or idea into print, there are several factors that come into play. First and foremost, one needs to choose appropriate materials. The right choice of paper is of paramount importance, because inferior paper quality will impede artistic expression. Second, only a carefully calibrated plan delineating each stage of the printing process and the arrangements of colors and shapes will guarantee success. Third, mental wavering is not allowed while going deeply into details. Fourth and the most difficult condition to meet is the combination of suitable techniques that can consummate the individual style while simultaneously voicing artistic imagination.
Basically there is only one barrier to artistic expression and that is the ultimate line set by the materials themselves. Herein lies the appeal of art - art is about stretching the limits of expression and self-realization. Based on this premise, artists have created individual prints: Some of them are characterized by simplicity, while others are unimaginably complex; still others exhibit elegance, playfulness, etc. But all of the works on display have one common objective - to create an exact replica of personal imagination and to simultaneously extend the limits of that imagination in order to break through the limitations of graphic art.
It is important to note that support from Asian and international galleries, as well as investors and print studios have greatly contributed to the success of graphic art. Based on international standards, they have provided artists with a suitable working environment, and offered invaluable support in the form of cooperation at every level. Zhang Xiaogang's prints, for example, were finished in French and Korean studios; Liu Ye's work received its final touch in German, Dutch and Chinese studios; an Australian studio has worked with Ding Yi, and many other artists such as Yang Feiyun and Yue Minjun have created their prints in Chinese studios. These artists have made major contributions to the field of contemporary Chinese Art, and will certainly attract much attention. Their greatest contribution, however, is that non-graphic artists have encouraged a new esthetic viewpoint - that can be characterized as: Forget about categories and techniques; what counts is the outcome, i.e. the overall artistic effect. Simply put, nobody cares about rules, categories, or even intentions. What is important is the artistic value and radiance of a certain piece of art.
Without any predetermined plan or intention, these artists constitute a collective appearance, imprinted by the 'Zeitgeist' of contemporary society. They have reconfigured the arena of graphic art, which is no longer an exclusive playground for graphic artists, but has turned into a carrier of artistic expression across disciplines.
Anticipating the future development of contemporary Chinese Art, there is much reason for optimism. There is every indication that art will flourish and escape the restricting boundaries of professional categorization, truly penetrating all levels of social life. Once art is understood as art for art's sake and embraced spontaneously without authoritative standards, explanations and rules, it will mark the beginning of a new esthetic age - an artistic age that truly belongs to everyone.
24 September, 2004
translated by Hilde Becker and Yang Yang