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Conversation with Gaudi

Author: Liang Shaoji Mar,2012

(I) Paradise of Dream

Ever since I first saw the Sagrada Familia designed by the Spanish wizard Gaudi in a foreign language bookstore in Hangzhou in the 1980s, I have been impressed by its “astonishing and haunting” shape, its romantic, sublime, primitive, mysterious, grotesque, wild, modern, exquisite, lascivious, luxurious and whimsical ecological form. In 2008 I finally went up to the building and visited the hall and the stone carving factory, where construction work is continuing. How is it that so many years after the architect’s death, it can still summon millions of devotees to raise funds to complete his unfinished business with the power of the people? Because Gaudi created a human “Paradise of Dream” - a “field” between heaven and hell, under the Adam, Eve and Fuxi on earth, contemplating, meditating, repenting, and uniting souls and hopes. It is a place of soul and hope, and a place of unconquerable power.
Gaudi’s works are dreamy, mysterious, and superhuman, just like a god, but Gaudi’s personality is extremely simple, mortal, earthy, and even socially inferior to the reality. As he was not good at showing his face, he was not a gentleman, so after he fell to the ground, the passers-by did not recognize him and finally sent him to the slums to recover from his injuries. When his family wanted to carry him back, Gaudi refused to leave the base of the vagrants. Not to mention the absurdity of the anecdote, but it tells the ridiculous truth, the drama of the world and the “truth” of Gaudi’s heart. Only the “truth” can create Gaudi’s artistic talent and his power to evoke “goodness” and “beauty”, and make the Sagrada Familia a success, so the image of Gaudi’s life is the “Paradise of Dream”, a symbol of the Catalan renaissance that stands in Barcelona, the eastern seaside city of the Iberian Peninsula, visible from any viewpoint from the heights, is a group of yellow and white buildings, a glorious tower of admiration for the world.

According to Mr. Carlos of the Iberian Foundation for Cultural Exchange, the decoration of the lobby of the Sagrada Familia is now complete, but there are still some criticisms that the interior of the building deviates from Gaudi’s original intention. This brings me to two points: First, there has been a controversy about how to restore the broken arm of Venus on the island of Milos, because the statue of Venus is no longer a solid, figurative object, but an abstract ideal of beauty in the human mind. Therefore, what Gaudi created is not a visual church of the Iberian Peninsula, but a fantasia in the human heart, a distant and mixed-up passage for mortals to bend towards heaven; the second is a reflection on the timelessness of art and the authenticity of history. Gaudi’s initial design was also several changes, and it is difficult to go back to the original point, not to mention that the times are different, and the mentality of contemporary people is different, so it may be impossible to fully understand Gaudi in the 21st century. Of course, the successor must not misinterpret the original at will, but must approach it. The distance between them illustrates Gaudi’s greatness, his excellence, and the fact that only one such genius can be born in a century or even centuries, which is the “eternal dream”.

A cluster of orange-colored architectural towers stands between the towers of the Sagrada Familia, interlocking with each other, their long arms forming a number of crosses that surround the chic mosaic decoration of the spire of the Chapel of the Cross. I think, if Gaudi, the genius who looked up to the rise of modern technology, is still alive, he is destined to like the iron flower of this new century.

(II) Transcendence

Picasso once said, “I’m not exploring, I’m discovering.” Then I think that Gaudi is not so much "designing" as "meditating". The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a product of the transcendental.

Tracing the lineage of Gaudi’s design thought, the artist was attracted to Nazareth and the medieval romantic concept of the Golden Age, the rational light of Gothic architecture and the primitive atmosphere of Moorish Africa, but the overall artistic effect of the Sagrada Familia is unique in the history of architecture. In other words, Gaudi’s art does not belong to any existing historical style, especially the imaginative treatment of building materials, textures, and decorations. The design of the ripened iron grille and scrollwork was a step ahead of similar explorations by the Art Nouveau movement. The four towers are covered with irregular grille shadows, which surround the shoots and form straight lines with curves on both sides, echoing the parabolic elasticity of the archy gate, forming a rhythmic contrast of point, line, surface and reality. And what is particularly striking is that the usual cross symbols on the top of the church are replaced by curly leaves of ears and sunflowers, and the bright and colorful mosaic seems to always reflect the holy light of the sky... Needless to elaborate on every detail, I visited the cathedral after the only trance “illusion” and dazzling: before my eyes swept through the curve of the abstract ecology, waves, plants, roses, dead bones organs of the flow of shadow, doubts and wonders encountered natural fairy scenery, there are doubts stranded in the steep cliff mangled forest, or is it a cave? Or is it the heaven?
Everything is transformed into colorful clouds crossing in the unique Gothic dramatic continuous repetition of the sublime rational upright structure, presenting a divine and quiet atmosphere. Thus, I perceive the holy light in the silence.

(III) Tower of Silk

In addition to the solo exhibition, another important plan for the 2012 trip to Spain was to fulfill my long-held wish to create a work on-site in Sagrada Familia, in direct dialogue with Gaudi.

The idea was born in 2008, when I first saw this ecologically conscious object, I saw the dark world of the East, the home of silkworms, the illusion of my work “Nature Series”, through its Gothic straight lines with graceful curved structures, through its full wall of reliefs, its primitive and bony volume, and through the reliefs of the wispy carved caves, like the square clusters of silkworms spitting silk on the mountain.

The shape of Nature Series No. 2 is also tower-shaped. It started in 1992 when I made many pyramid-shaped empty frames with rusty construction steel bars interspersed with iron spikes, on which silkworms lived, reproduced, spat silk and wrapped cocoons, while the triangles were arranged into a cross shape. A friend saw it and called it “Nietzschean thought”, and I said: “This is the mirror of all living beings, a monument to human will, human faith, the road to human salvation, and a relic tower.”

In 2009, I had taken the small pyramid to Paris, France, and placed it in front of the glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei (in the Place du Louvre) for a photograph. on the night of February 18, 2012, I drove it to Barcelona and rushed to the Sagrada Familia early in the morning with great enthusiasm, so that the top of the small triangle could be united with the arch shape of the gate in the shadow of the cathedral, and the incipient sun outlined the light contour and shape of both. Sunlight, Familia’s tower of stone and silk cone in the backlight although the connection occurred, but I still have not found the Holy Triangle of silk in my mind until nightfall, surrounded by dark blue, the Sagrada Familia, the large tower was bathed in the incandescent light like silk, not only radiation of silver, but also thin, pure, as light as foil, making people feel more sublime and mysterious. I was so happy that I hurried to shoot the main part of the Sagrada Familia through the triangular cone wrapped mostly in silk in the backlight. The silk cones in the shadows highlight the silvery shape of the church, and the cocoons next to its iron thorns, as if they were scattered on top of the arched doors of the opposite building. The “Nature Series” silk tower trails a long projection across the road, reaching for another silk tower in the distance...

At the moment when I was lying on the grass and working on my back, I suddenly got a shock and my backpack with mineral water hooked on my leg disappeared... In front of Familia, the gods are there and so is Satan.

March 23, 2012

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