Mindscape II –

A Reflection of the Contemporary Art Scene

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Calvin Hui

- Co-Founder and Artistic Director, 3812 Contemporary Art Projects
- Co-Chairman and Director, Fine Art Asia
- Chairman and Director, Ink Asia Fair
- Founder and Chairman, Arts in Heritage Research
- Member of Art Museum Advisory Panel, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, HKSAR, 2014-2016
- Advisor for the Arts Education Group, Hong Kong Arts Development Council
- Member of Advisory Board of Visual Studies, Lingnan University

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Source: Wen Wei Po, B8, 28 January, 2015 (Wednesday)

C: Calvin Hui | W: Wen Wei Po

As painters from different countries and regions have made it clear, openness to information dissemination brings concepts and thoughts together, colliding and combining with each other so that the creative mind can no longer be squared in a monolithic movement, or framed by a single set of values. Innovative works exploring personal identity, cultural values and aesthetic ideals are born in this context. The 8 artists – Wang Huangsheng, Liang Quan, Cao Jigang, Liu Guofu, Lin Guocheng, Zhu Jianzhong, Wang Shuye and Chloe Ho – participating in Mindscape II, a joint exhibition held in 3812 Contemporary Art Projects, have just this in common. They re-establish the traditionally upheld umbilical cord that links Chinese aesthetics to Nature, while exploring how traditional culture provides the forms and expressions for painting the inner self out. The results are masterful portraits of the mental landscape painted with the most contemporary techniques.

W: What do you think has changed in the contemporary Chinese art market as compared to that in the 80’s and 90’s? What impact would these changes in the contemporary art market bring to both collectors and artists?

C: Chinese contemporary art was buoyed by Western art movements in the early 80’s. But interesting changes in the general structure of the market have been taking place in these couple of years as the collectors market for Chinese art is growing. The artists are becoming conscious of who they really are and set on the path towards self-discovery, both in terms of their identity and their native culture. On the other hand, the collectors also want something that identifies with their own cultural background. Conceptual art in the contemporary Chinese art scene was overhyped and reduced itself to mere whims, and the visual provocation it endears, fascinating as it is, may not be very good at leading the spectators to a deeper level of understanding, empathy, reflection and inspiration. When “contemporary” is taken out of what is now known as contemporary art by the passage of time, say 50 or 100 years, does commercial value still matter in the face of artistic achievement? And then, why don’t we pick up again the Chinese aesthetic tradition, which is very much our own and nobody else’s, and reinvigorate it with some new visions? This is something we need to reflect on.

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Lin Guocheng, ‘The Landscape that is Impossibly Accommodated III- Multiple World’,
113cm x 200cm, Pen and Chinese ink on paper, 2014

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Wang Huangsheng, ‘Moving Vision 140503’,
Chinese ink on paper, 140cm x 200 cm, 2014

W: What makes the artists participating in Mindscape II unique?

C: Wang Huangsheng draws inspiration from electric cables but feels tradition passing through the lines he draws. How does one compose a painting with the ink technique of calligraphy? How does one purify these lines, make them stand out, to adapt to the modern visual expectations? Wang Huangsheng finds his own way while transforming himself. Liu Guofu mixes countless colours into a fancy, melancholic shade of blue which gives the whole picture a sense of constant flux, surrounding the center from which a shimmer of warm tides and lights wells up. What emerges out of the grey-blue could be the mountain, the forest, the lake, changing according to where the heart leads the spectator to. Liang Quan foregoes the ink of traditional ink painting. He dyes paper stripes and shreds with thinned-out ink and glues them into a new work, shedding light on new possibilities for contemporary art. Obviously, it takes enduring persistence, contemplation and refinement on the artist’s part to forge a unique system of expression for his or her painting, which of course doesn’t come by in a day. It requires ascetic determination and resilience.

I understand that artists could get confused when the market undergoes drastic changes. In recent years, some artists could sell at an insane price in auction with just several years’ experience. Some of the artists I talked to also had these stories to share, where their friends’ works could be valued several times higher than their own. But I always tell them it’s not a brief hype that matters. The auction house ebbs high and low; time alone rewards good works. Artists born in this era could not insulate themselves against any information, but they have to persevere in their loyalty to themselves and to art. Art is a small spring streaming along.

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W: Any memorable experiences that you can share with us in the course of looking for artists to cooperate with you?

C: I go in all directions, hoping to find artists who share the same beliefs I hold. There was this one time on a slope of the Beijing suburbs where I met Lin Guocheng, a young artist in his early thirties who is very good at working with a combination of charcoals, pencils, ink and fountain pens and making paintings in black and white. He spins straight and regular fountain pen lines neatly with free running ink, making a field of lines that leaves room to expand. He preserves the fineness and simplicity of a sketch and builds up an ecological landscape that is amusingly Zen-inspired by applying multimedia materials. He makes an organic landscape with Shanghai Hero pens and Chinese ink. Even his title is an allusion to classical Chinese poetry. But his painting gave me a very modern impression. It was a mental state of serenity proper to Zen meditation, a sort of tranquil introspection accompanied by liberal and unimpeded expressions. It’s a return to authentic purity.

In fact, Lin Guocheng was a favorite of a friend of mine who’s recommended him to me, but I was not particularly looking forward to the expedition; I came to his very isolated tiny studio nonetheless. Could you imagine that? His studio wasn’t connected to electricity and was freezing cold in winter, and there was half an hour’s walk to the bus stop that would take you from there back to downtown. That’s how he made art, hiding himself like a hermit. I still remember when I opened the door of the studio, I found out I was walking into a mini joint exhibition, set up by Lin Guocheng and his artist friends just for me! But it was the mere two or three of Lin’s works he showed that caught my attention. We were drawn to each other, like Achilles and Patroclus, he looking for someone he can trust, me someone I can work with.

And then, thanks to the introduction by different friends and my personal quest, I came to Wang Huangsheng, the director of the Art Museum of China Central Academy of Fine Arts; Liang Quan, a representative abstract ink artist of international repute; Liu Guofu, a painter of the world of the mind; and Chloe Ho, an outstanding artist of the new generation, as well as artists representing the aesthetic values of traditional sensibilities such as Cao Jigang, Zhu Jianzhong, and Wang Shuye.

Liang Quan, ‘Untitled’,
90cm x 60cm, Colour,ink,paper collage, 2013

3812_劉國夫_敞 28_180cm x 150cm_布面油彩_2014

Liu Guofu, ‘Open Space No.28’,
180cm x 150cm, Oil on canvas, 2014