Locus & Social as Still Life
Wang Chuan & Chen Liangjie Joint Solo Exhibition
In gold autumn season, A Thousand Plateaus Art Space is pleased to present Wang Chuan & Chen Liangjie Joint Solo Exhibition.
October 26 - December 12, 2013
Opening: 3:00 - 6:00pm, October 26, 2013 (Saturday)
Since the early 1980s, Wang Chuan (b.1953, Chengdu) became a representative artist of “Scar Art” on realistic oil painting Goodbye, Little Path and Lucky Survivors. In the mid-1980s, he decidedly abandoned narrative realistic painting and turned to new ink experiment. He organized Shenzhen’s first contemporary art exhibition “Zero”, and became a representative artist of modern fine arts in mainland, China. Early in 1990s, Wang Chuan began his experiment on abstract oil painting on canvas. After that, oil and acrylic on canvas, as well as ink on paper has been his main creation media.
In “Locus – Wang Chuan Solo Exhibition”, we will present Wang Chuan’s works spanning over 20 years between 1992 and 2013. Exhibited works include hard-edge abstraction “Vault of Time” Series (1992) in his transformation period, his representative oil paintings in 2006-2010 and ink paintings between in 2009-2013. From all the exhibited works, we can find Wang Chuan’s evolution in art. “Abstractionism” may be constraining the liberty of thoughts, but the “abstraction” is always liberating the perception and leading the audience to be aware of the width of their own experience. Wang Chuan's “Locus” has been built by all his experience of life, which is the motivation and result of his paintings. As the famous critic Huang Zhuan said, “A constant theme runs throughout Wang Chuan’s art: Something or Nothing, which is the way to express it in the language of Taoism. To put it in Confucian terminology, it would be official court or retreat in nature; in Buddhist parlance, attachment or void; and soul or flesh in the language of Christianity. Such are, indeed, the great or fundamental issues his art is concerned with…Art is secular, sensual, and a matter of this world, but Wang Chuan always tries in his own way to turn it into something transcendental, rational, and a matter of the beyond. …through his experiences of art, he is more intensely engaged in religious contemplation by endlessly tackling, resisting, and making moves against worldly desires. His experience of death makes this even more startling…it is precisely such contemplation and quest that have given Wang Chuan’s art its remarkable simplicity and transparency. ”
A Return to Original Purity:Wang Chuan's Post-98 Art
After June29th,1998,WangChuan began to passively experience a "return to original purity".It was on this day that he first underwent chemotherapy,and on the third day of treatment he began to loose his hair in its entirety.In the physical world,this consequence of the therapy is viewed as harm:normal life suddenly lacks completeness.we interpret it as a symbol of decay, a result of loss.At that very least,it is a perilous attenuation,a stark reminder of a life in crisis.
Perhaps this was foreshadowed some years earlier,when Wang Chuan began receiving the empowerment of the process of life.Years ago (1990),Wang Chuan pared his brush-strokes down to a single "point",choosing to eliminate all of those complex,earthly things from his work.He felt the search for the soul to be an expression of one's quest for freedom.Thus, in 1989-unconscious of what was to befall him-Wang Chuan used these words to defend his abstract watercolors:
In my encounters with the outside world ,I have experienced an expansion of loneliness,of solitude and of my own strength.Life finds serenity in the intensity of action,and this type of serenity is a state of selflessness that arises from a sense of interaction with heaven and earth.Moreover,it only exists within one's personal psychological reality,and this psychological reality is exactly what my abstract colors allude to.
By 1990,the influence of minimalism had sparked a return to traditional ideas amongst the Chinese painters.The degree to which this was true for any given artist was based to a large extent on his or her understanding of natural existence.Yet,when the artist minimizes his work to a single point,it is,at the same time,the beginning of a kind of expansion,which is the result of some abstract understanding or arises from the progress of the artist's own internal debate.If one were to delve deeper into the issue,then one would touch upon the relationship between You and Wu(Being and Nonbeing).It is in this kind of treacherous play that Wang Chuan started to move away from modernist painting.In 1990,Wang Chuan continued to refer to the "Ink Dot"as his intention to eliminate the role of brush and ink.However,this attempt to use dots as "the logical termination of the history of brush and ink"is mere speculation.In the following years,Wang Chuan continued his formalist experimentation in oil painting and water color.This experimentation consumed his time and energy,but in the end remained a game of the physical world.
And then one day the artist's sense of self resurfaced, the completeness of his physical body began to dissolve, "divyacaksus"1 appeared and the past came rushing back in the form of hallucinations.This is what we commonly understand as the boundary between life and death.And while it is beyond our comprehension and even beyond the full comprehension of the artist himself,it is exactly this state which allowed for Wang Chuan's physical body to survive .At the same time,he began to discover a new kind of "freedom",quite unlike the sense of freedom that finds expression in a space defined by reality (which the artist had once pursued).His brush and ink no longer engaged the questions of "possessing"or "lacking"form.Thus, the ink that Wang Chuan leaves behind on the canvas is no more than the trace of a process of self-cultivation;the ink is not employed for the sake of form or painting,instead it is a process of detachment,arduous at the outset,but which quickly leads to emancipation.He now works to eliminate his memories of the past,which once acted to support his artistic experimentations.However,in the course of fleeing the earth-bound experience s of the physical body,what state can be understood as not art,or is art simply another form of meditation?
Alone,I carried weighty luggage as I ambled along the Himalayas.To feel your breath in a forest alive with ten thousand creatures is to scratch the surface of what it means to live as a human being..I find the greatest satisfaction,not in the beauty of my abstract works ,but in my enjoyment of a life that transverses heaven and earth.
At this point in his life, Wang Chuan thoroughly abandoned his pursuit of freedom, for he discovered that freedom only exists in abandonment. When one chases freedom, one is no longer free. Color, form ,tone and even the meaning of these qualities carry little importance. Instead, the crucial question becomes whether, in the process of painting, art and life can merge as one.Wang Chuan has stated that "life has always been a significant form of art,"this ,As art starts to become a propound skill, a process of cultivation,the artist no longer leaves ink on the page for the sake of his audience,but for himself.Thus he allows his loss of control over the forms on the page to become his mode of overcoming the boundaries of his profession.
In 2000,the vibrant, floral, but nevertheless deeply meaningful qualities began to disappear from my work along with the disappearance of my center,my possessions and my concept of my own body.This,in turn, allowed my soul to grow.I again began to paint with white powder,and in a fashion that was even more difficult,yet lacking the brash, exaggerated qualities of red dust.Everything is "dying by the minute and second,"and everything is simply a process.Being an observer gives you control,but to let things go is to reach a comprehension of life and escape death.It is fundamentally like painting with white:rich and subtle details emerge that are at once unfinished and complete.
Wang Chuan has always accompanied his acts of abandonment with the language of automatism.But his abstruse writing can easily leave us mired in contemplation.In terms of the logic of art, this is a change in abstraction.However, as we are already cognizant of the artist's intentions,we need not dissect his work.Of course we can look at Wang Chuan's art without an awareness of his practice,and can think of him as an "artist-monk".
Pollock's free-expression is an act of "increase",for his automatism has the effect of further complicating the physical world.One's true intentions are laid bare, but they take shape as a maze-like web.Self is thus expressed in freedom,but is also bound up within it.Wang Chuan's total abandonment of freedom, on the other hand, allows him to truly attain freedom.And so there is no need to rehash the history of art,because the history of the soul is of far greater importance;there is no need to ponder the meaning behind language, because to approach "nothing"requires no words;there is no need to provide the traces of ink with the function of meaning, because the act of painting itself-except as a means of spiritual cultivation-is utterly meaningless.In this way, Wang Chuan has escaped the common language of painting and has allowed his state of being and his practice to converge as one, taking the form of a "return to original purity."
"The Chinese Spirit"has never been well-defined.After Buddhism entered China, people bound it together with the ideas of Lao Zi.Later, people would invoke the words of Chuang Zi to explain its tenets.It is commonly understood that endless change and reinterpretation occur during these processes of explication.Chinese Buddhism tells us that our pursuits take form from our deeds and words, and that if the heart cannot cutoff its own world,no matter what kind of world,the result will be bitter.Wang Chuan hopes to escape the boundaries of his profession;through travel,writing and observation he seeks out the true nature of things.And ,in that way, maintaining contact with everyday life can be a form of observation.We cannot derive completeness from that which belongs to the essence of the physical body.Yet, no matter what ,abandonment can be seen as a kind of cultivation,and life in the temporal world forms a continuous barrier to enlightenment.Those wisp-fine lines along with certain unknown reasons constitute an "intent-less"movement.The goal of human life is to overcome obstacles.In this way,Wang Chuan's work is nearly impossible to analyze from the artistic logic of form and image.
Wang Chuan manages to preserve the mystery of existence.However,earlier practitioners have explained:a dot is a dot,a line is a line;nothing can be added and nothing can be taken away.To seek is a riddle,for which even enlightenment will not provider an answer.Sometimes, or perhaps often, if one only lets go, then one can ford the crevice of two cliffs.Wang Chuan clearly understand this , and so he often plunges into these earthly games.After Wang Chuan has cleared this crevice we face the true conflict:how can we (and the artist himself)prove that he has attained enlightenment? Perhaps it is simply proof that"enlightenment is fundamentally unattainable."
Through the written word we know that the attainment of enlightenment cannot be proven.As Nyingmapa stated:the return to original purity requires no examination.
"To attain Buddha –hood in this life"is unbeknownst to all.
12 July 2005(Tuesday), revised 21July 2006 (Friday)
Translated by Xu Bing and Mark Meng
Dr. Mark Meng, executive member of American Library Association, curator and professor of library of St. John's University.
Diary of a Reflective Life
By Chang Tsong-zung
There is a mellowed charm of Wang Chuan's recent paintings; rhythmic and leisurely paced, they are neither emotional nor detached.They depict a scenery of the mind that registers subtle changes under different weather conditions.Sometimes sad and meditative, sometimes joyful, the rich tonalities of these works demonstrate the possibilities of abstract brush painting as a spiritual exercise.
Wang Chuan ascribes his new artistic development to breakthroughs in his spiritual well being. He is now able to “let go” completely to focus on the present moment, and feel truly free. Every marking of the brush becomes the starting point of a fresh life. The art of painting is turned into a tool that helps the mind to dispel or fix the fluid imageries of fantasy, to keep rein on hallucination, providing anchor to the artist's volatile heart.The rhythm of brushwork gives order to the imagination, and gives form to the landscape of the mind.The content of non-representational art is dependent on the consistency of its vision, but it is not a static image simply transcribed from the mind. A painter's vision must be articulated brush-stroke by brush-stroke. In traditional painting, the aesthetic emphasis on “flavours” of the brush mark refers precisely to this focus on the movement of the heart while the brush makes its way across the sheet.
Wang Chuan is a creature of dialectic inconsistency. He is in the habit of overturning the results of previous endeavours for the sake of the current moment; yet he is also one of the most adamant among Chinese artists in his pursuit of philosophical truth, and he has a fatal attraction to the endless labyrinth of dialectic arguments. He is equally repelled and seduced by the material world, not being able to find his own position within the order of things. Philosophy and art are the two buoys that have kept him adrift over the years, even as these buoys shift in shape and purpose. Wang Chuan has been devoted to abstract painting for nearly twenty years, and is one of China's most dedicated and experienced veterans of the genre. In the late 1970s he made his reputation with realistic oil paintings in the Wounded Art movement; in the early 1980s he started to make formal experiments, reflecting his passion for philosophical and existential enquiries. Works from the 1980s relating to southwestern China's burial customs were the results of him reflections on death and transcendence. His early brush paintings, which were subsequent to the southwestern works, were often loosely based on human features and were accompanied by colophons of his own philosophical thoughts. It was in the mid 1980s that Wang Chuan decided to move to the newly developed special Economic Zone of Shenzhen. A wild west by all standards, standards, materialistic Shenzhen in the 1980's was the total antithesis of a transcendental philosophical mind. However, one may perhaps point to the underlying connection between abstract dialectic philosophy and worldly consumer materialism as two sides of the same coin. Either extreme, from traditional Chinese view, has deviated from the Middle Way and has undermined the importance of human social life.
These dilemmas were in fact good for Wang Chuan's art. Painting, however abstract, is not suitable for heavy loads of intellectual ideas, and this created consistent tension in Wang's art. In the several years leading up to his famous “Ink/ Dot” exhibition, he experimented with expressive free forms, geometric abstraction in oil, and rigorously structured ink paintings, reflecting the different aspects of the artist's temperament.
Intellectual burden prompted WangChuan's monumental structures in ink in 1988 and 1989, which he suddenly abandoned to create a series of single circular ink dots. It was as though he decided that however rigorous an abstract structure, it was ultimately incapable of sustaining his spiritual being. “Ink/ Dot” condenses the mirage of forms to a minimal statement, and if we compare this to certain well known traditional ink painting theory which states that Form originates from a line, then Wang Chuan seems to suggest that the dot is at the root of modern abstract painting. For him the dot is not just a form, but the concentration of mind and spirit. In retrospect, this intense concentration became even more than art or spirit, and mirrored the artist's physical being as well.In January 1998 Wang Chuan was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach, a concentration of insoluble, diseased cells that first announced its appearance in the insoluble concentration of the dot in these earlier paintings.
Since 1998 Wang Chuan's paintings have started to relax and open up. He claimed that he used painting as a means of focusing his spirit and to cure himself. The pictorial elements of these paintings mirrored what he saw introspectively as his bodily being. Rich tonal variations of ink have now started to replace that of stubborn blackness, and rhythmic musical brushwork has taken precedence over that of assertive structural lines. Wang Chuan's many years of philosophical meditation has helped him to face his bodily trauma with courage, and by facing the threat of death he has learned to modulate its manoeuvre by exercising the painting brush.
Wang Chuan's recent paintings have truly become the records of a meditative life. Having closely encountered death, simple gestures such as tracing a brushmark across a page shines with the preciousness of life. From the monumentality of structure to the fragility of a breezy line, Wang Chuan's art enhances the richness of everyday experience by turning fleeting moments into landscapes of the mind. Not forgetting the masters of ink who have spoken to us across the centuries, we have in Wang Chuan a contemporary who has kept this spirit of the ink brush alive, working in a language that belongs very much to our time.
Hanart Tz Gallery