New Perception New Trend
——About Ji Dachun’s art
We are kept busy for a living in this era. The creative imagination for the future has given way to the actual need, which brings us down. Is this age a glorious one or a mediocre, unpromising one? Every contemporary Chinese artist is puzzled with this question. When they want to extend their field of vision to the world, they will find disappointedly that they have no foothold at all. Very ironically, when they desperately crouch into their small area of art, they win fame in the world, accidentally and passively. This is not a problem about the interpretation of art but to interpret artistically. That is how to explain art according to the ways and degree of social acceptance. In this sense, the contemporary Chinese art is social or mundane in character. This is particularly obvious at the beginning of 1990s. Since middle 1990s, contemporary art’s reliance on its cultural and geographical aspects has turned into an active cooperation relationship, which link it up assertively with the reality. At the same time, it keeps the distance from reality. This distance keeps contemporary Chinese art on its own track. We can perceive this trend in some artists’ works in which Ji Dachun played an important role.
In 1989, Ji Dachun was enrolled in Central Academy of Fine Arts. During his studies, he went through a drastic period, which is neither “glorious” nor “mediocre”. However, he avoided making a choice by being ignorant. Instead, he experienced the dramatic blending of glory and mediocrity with his abundant feelings. His interest never goes beyond painting and he realizes his ideal on the canvas. “Glory” and “mediocrity” were minimized to some abstract feelings, like the two sides essential to a game. In order to maintain continuity, he tries to develop a tiny, capillary-vessel like feeling to control the earthy ethnics and spirit. In the same way, the contemporary Chinese artistry will outgrow from this continuity.
After his undergraduate studies, the paintings of Ji Dachun had a more minute affiliation with the outside world. He kept using little color or abandoned colors completely, and intentionally turning away from coarse and obscure elements. Meanwhile, he took to some seemingly informal skills (e.g. creating a mixture of random and accurate by drawing elaborately with a pencil, spraying tea onto the canvas to show an ambiguous color of tea and the canvas) brought about a new form and then clarified it. This new form of his is not merely abstraction, but a ponderable object he took as a medium for imagination, a process of secularize the original feelings. In this way, he not only ensured the space need of the new form but also accredited it into an inseparable relation with reality and history. It is a kind of conscious misplacement. Ji Dachun tries to obtain cultural initiative through the new form because this initiative guarantees both self-expression and a global perspective.
Since 1990s, although contemporary Chinese art has effectively built up a vital relationship with the society, that is to say it has found the basis of its existence and influence, this pragmatic relation, like structure, is also self-contradicting. At the beginning of 1990s, extreme egotism and pragmatism showed themselves in large quantities in forms of self-portraits and political emblems. These phenomena tell us that coping up nervously cannot lead to a clear direction of future development. A distinctive comparison is that some artists who were aloof from the society at that time displayed their self-initiative silently and crudely. With his self-continuity and a selective view of reality and history, Ji Dachun expressed this initiative extremely open and free in his works. For example, in his paintings like “Come and Go the Secrets” and “Untitled”, some objects that resemble a stick or Chinese herbal medicine or root appear boldly at the center of the painting. Ji Dachun describes with the indescribable. He uses the small tip of the pencil to rub, dot and tinge in the unit of millimeter. This technique reminds us of the traditional Chinese wash painting skills. Driven by speciosity, he seeks to express the partly accepting and partly rejecting relationship between reality and history. Ji Dachun’s works are not nonfigurative lines but an organic part of the indescribable, which grows and develops in a natural and unrestricted way. In a sense, his paintings symbolically forebode the changing situation we are faced with and our attitude towards it.
If art at the beginning of 1990s is characterized by unconscious resolution and self-contradiction, for artists like Ji Dachun, who came to the front in mid 1990s, nothing is more suitable than to characterize their works with conscious speciosity and self-rearrangement which is for the purpose of achieving a kind of continuity. Sometimes in order to emphasize his consciousness, he shortened the distance between the history, reality and the images. In his works such as “Keep the Secret”, we can find that the objects are obviously in accordance with the traditional Chinese Taihu stone. They minutely but concretely twisted in different parts where pervades the elements they are comprised of. It is not so much the Taihu stone as the expression of Chinese history in reality that gives it artistic charm. This is the most remarkable aspect of contemporary Chinese art since mid 1990s. Because of the need of history in reality and its active return, we don’t have any mirage about the restoration of the past but rather to have some realistic and romantic hopes about our future cultural prospect in the world.
At the beginning of 1990s, contemporary Chinese art won the attention of the world; in mid 1990s, contemporary Chinese art tried to transform the attention to a kind of interactive one, that is what we usually say the cultural exchange or dialogues. After so many years’ development, we have put what we hoped and asked for into practice. In this sense, Ji Dachun’s ongoing effort in art is particularly important.
A Pondering Stone
——-Interpretation of Ji Dachun’s Works
Dachun’s art is by no means the symbol of our times, but it can never be neglected. His works are about “boring” while they never concerns about passion, anti-sarcasm, pain or morality. He expresses his personal ideas instead of dealing with social affairs, so it’s hard for his works to evoke tremendous repercussions. “Boring” itself is the most stubborn block in life. Dachun has already adjusted himself to it ,savored it casually and transformed it on the painting cloth intelligently, just like a cicada singing.
In fact , you can find this kind of phenomenon in every past times. There is a kind of painters who only exist for testing the flexibility of sensory organs. During the process of creating, they will only accept the exclamation and admiration from the air and the spectators. Fortunately, Dachun, taking the similar role in the art circle, is regarded highly time by time.
His influence is just like ripples, starting from the point of the critical painters. They admire Dachun’s artistic talent, e.g. relaxation, sensitivity, delicacy, freedom and the “decency” which has been long lost by us. Of course , to Dachun, this kind of decency often lies invisibly inside the coat of “mischief”.
That is a problem of disposition ,which interestingly brings sadness to Dachun for a period of time. His description is so perfect that leads some seemingly casual scribbling to a decent interest, even making people feel that he is showing of himself just like dancing happily on the point of a needle. No wonder, Dachun’s hands have magic power which makes him easily to get what other painters pursue in their whole life. But to Dachun, there is neither uncertainty nor suspension in every tiny part, which is a great pity. If a painting only looks beautiful visually like an extravagant banquet, it is feeble and transient in the sense of the nature of arts.
True transformation means the modification of the style. You can find some clues in many manuscripts of Dachun. Tea water, ink and pencils gently rub the paper, so vague and inexplicit, leaving us an scrupulous impression, but you can feel the simple and pure inspiration and intelligence and the haunting uncertainty. By the way ,among the contemporary artists who record visual inspiration , I haven’t found out another person whose manuscripts are more than Dachun’s. He paints every day just like doing his homework. His flow of creation is just like the air going through the holes of a flute which becomes the melody immediately. What lies behind the gorgeous surface after wandering several years. Only a small movement ,the problem can be solved. Dachun chooses drawing back instead of expanding . He crosses his own wall invisibly like a magician and comes to a place unknown to him. This is the critical step for Dachun to move from perception to rationality, from noisy outside to peaceful introspection.
Dachun accomplished several pieces of works in 1996 which look like dung or plants. From then on, he formed a funny idea, that is , the mysterious quality can be created through one’s proper confusion or some materials. Put in the blank world where Chinese paintings often are set , you will feel some isolated loneliness. These objects are connected with the mysterious “source nature” between the earth and the heaven. The stone will grow up like a thread of smog or a plant.
Dachun expresses himself with an uncertain tone, but tends to be peaceful and contemplative in language situation, which is an important change . If his former works can be called “full”, today, his works are quite illusory ; the same conception of rigorous painting, but dreary meticulousness is added into it. Flavour, embroidered shoes, mildewed spots, rubbing mark , word characters are all scattered on the painting cloth looking like only some remains or the vestiges in life or memory. Though they cannot tell us the exact meaning but always remind us the abundant untangled mysteries.
Quite often, these paintings are connected with “Zen”(a kind of doctrine in Buddism) .The image of subject , the stains and spots similare to subjects, are in a concrete existence. They are almost the same as the attributes of human noumenon. For Dachun, the subjective visual language which leads to enlightment is totally the result of experiencing. It can be naturally connected with “Zen” from viewers’ reflection. Zen, is to have an insight into minds’ true aspect by means of exercising . Zen is everywhere. “See through your mind and know clearly your character” in daily life is also “Zen”. Dachun, has erached the state of Zen arts, even the painting’s name is inexplicit.
But in my view, this is not the only definition with regard to the relationship between people and the world. Actually similar thoughts exist in other different cultures, e.g. Fande, a Holland religious phenomenologist, takes everything as God, everything is is just what you think to be. Maybe in others’ mind, Dachun’s contemporary artistic style is so mysterious that it’s suitable to scholasticism philosopher to savor. Anyway, a kind of spiritually belonging makes you feel at ease . We will enjoy more if we lean against more chairs during our dreaming.
Of course ,viewers can appreciate with knowledge while knowledge is rathere flexible in artists’ creation. Dachun says , “There is much contingency in painting. I like the atmosphere of the picture. I will almost consider no connotation or simile. If any painting can offer viewers this kind of feeling , perhaps it’s the painting itself is affecting them, which is also what I want to paint and to impress people but not focus just on a flower. The stone, small shoes, and flowers I painted are only a borrowing ,an opportunity which helps me make the abstract be concrete and show the scenes I want to enter. Painting can include as much as possible”. This saying is a kind of resourcefulness, also it tells the general creative philosophy. The purer the artists’ attempts are , the deeper the inside spirit is , thus it’s easy to avoid being mediocre. So for artists, paintings means to break a layer of board where probably likes light source in the shadows behind it.
By contrast, Dachun, positively acknowledged the connection between him and the arts history. Picasso, Hokene, Tobuni, Wintel have more or less affected him. Situations become complicated between accepting and refusing .As an artist, he finds a belonging place in the tradition and grasps the clues leading to the past and future.
As is known to all, originality is the most important to all the arts nowadays. At the hint of artists, something can be recovered which in turn recalls the spirits of ancestors and makes itself a member during the whole process by profound or superficial means. The nerves of history are penetrated with vitality and quivered with the enjoyment just like intercoursing.
The latest art works of Dachun ignited the long-lost imagination. Vessels or deities present ambiguous puzzles of their functions and a special theatric effect after a casual put-together. It reminds me the ideal palace created by the postman Shawale of 19th century. It is a wonder full of imaginations where caves ,stones , shells are telling the stories of architectures of Greek ,Athens, Egypt and so on. ,and finally make up mysterious facts after a long time ,raising the private buildings to the height of the God. Except for the differences of way, Dachun’s descriptions of vessels are almost the same in the idea of Shawale which redefine the nature of things after modifying , adding ,deleting.
Dachun graduated from the Central Art Academe, but his paintings have not been restricted to oilpainting materials. He used tea-water ,emulsion, hair spray and tincture of iodine boldly. His decent revolt is to resuppose the possibilities with paintings instead of abandoning arts completely. In addition to that, Dachun also questions the classical arts. Some of his lastest works are in pen which seemingly salute to Vinci whose exquisite pictures of mechanism, biology, anatomy, and physics have reflected the imaginations and infatuation of the world, in other hand ,demonstrated the charm of sketch—–hesitation, assurance, modifying ,hinting, renovation and ambiguity which is so direct and just like an exam to the psychology of drawing . For creation, it is in accordance with Dachun’s simple and varied language environment. We’d like to be hypnotized in a certain piece of works describing the relations in family and smell the frangrance of pen.
Some people may be addicted to Dachun’s works but more will doubt at them which is not surprising at all. Dachun goes deep to the personal space ,just like what his works’ names ——“Secrets come, secrets go.” This doesn’t mean his works have no relations with our daily life. We may see more in the painting than the painter himself. Dachun is a modenist , decadent and in favor of the ancient. We only need to feel lucky to know his paintings but we are not bound to enjoy his paintings. With the subtle change of our backgrounds , those artists who rigidly pay attention to self-quality begin to show out.
My name is Ji Dachun. I’m thirty now. After graduation from the National Institution of Fine Art, I lingered in Beijing without finding a job and so became a artist. I lived in many different place. Each time I move, I make the new place a home. I live my life at home. I like to sit somewhere casually with a cigarette, rathering not be noticed. Some people said I always seem to be thinking. I was an underachiever when I was young. Even the drawing teacher didn’t like me. But I still like drawing. Once I sit down and suddenly found I have been drawing for more than twenty years! Days of drawing make me lonely,but I ‘m happy because I don’t feel blank. I like staying there,doing nothing but dirtying a paper or leaving some marks on a piece of canvas. Also I like garbling the patterns in the history of art, making my drawings illegible fragments and marks which remind me: sometime someone was there in a certain mood.
I think we should look to the moment when you don’t care much about your work, in which you feel released. Though I was often reminded by myself that painting is serious.You really need courage to reveal your feelings in your works (your feelings are not strong, beautiful or special enough to express in everyday). But a painting mustn’t be of some merit or artful. An attracting work is enough for the artist. It is time who changes a piece of canvas into a bunch of flowers, a person or a vase, just as poems said.
I’m not the first one who finish a work just by drawing a little on canvas. I like to do so because its simpleness reminds me the origin of art. The creating process goes on without effort. I’ve never been away from painting. I feel pity that I haven’t have a satisfying work till now no matter how many works I have made. But I will go on to try my luck.
My enthusiasm for painting is no longer my virtue. I’m just a man be drawing day after day and taking it as a pleasure. I hope I can relate it with my wish- no fear of death, wealth or happiness.