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2013年06月09日

Elapsing like Water and Image:Some Thoughts on He Wenjue′s Works

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Elapsing like Water and Image:Some Thoughts on He Wenjue′s Works

Liu Chunfeng

Although I have known He Wenjue for almost six years,his works did not catch my attention until two years ago.Over the past several years,I can sense that both his character and works have become,slowly but steadily,mature and profound.Controversy,however,has always been accompanying his works.Interestingly,it is this controversy that makes me more and more attracted to his works.

Faithful and emotional, He Wenjue′s character makes him seem a man from northern China.People like this have a clear-cut view of liking and disliking and other people,in turn,also have a clear-cut view towards them.This is why his works are always simultaneously adored and abominated by critics. Wenjue is actually a genuine southern person and his keenness and delicacy make him sometimes irritated by this kind of controversy.Maybe these conflicting personalities constitute his strength and intuition which are vividly revealed in his works.His works are,therefore,full of vitality and humanity,which are particularly adorable and precious in the contemporary art world flooded with fictitious subtleness and redundant elaboration.

The importance attached to intuition is notable in the global contemporary art world.China′s disordered and superficial art environment,however,ignores or even disregards intuition.Some people′s reliance on ism,critic,concept,society and politics entails that “Contemporary” part in their idea of “Contemporary Art” has become more and more prominent and the “Art” part has become more and more ignorable.Artists are expected by these people to behave like theorists,philosophers or even ideologists.These people simply contrast “profundity”and “superficiality” based on their limited understanding of art,which inevitably leads to the controversy on Wenjue′s works.

It seems that Wenjue′s works,including his earlier “Water Painting” and more recent “Movie Painting”,are easily comprehended.His works are seemingly superficial,but actually possess philosophical profundity,just like the answer given by him,when provocatively asked what the meaning of his works is, “The very meaning of my works is that they have no meaning at all.”As the proverb goes, “Men plan,God laughs.”Sometimes,silence and reluctance to think could be more profound.Artists are not and should not become awkward philosophers who go through all the theories and reviews before creating their own works.Talented and intelligent artists′ works naturally possess in-depth philosophical meaning and connotation so that they can be comprehended in a profound way.The visual uniqueness and the linguistic expressiveness are necessary for viewers of all levels in order for them to get the most of artists′works.As far as this is concerned, Wenjue′s works are marked by the much-needed readability and extensibility.For one thing, “Water”and “Movie” ,seemingly unrelated to each other,have a closely related and consistent connotation. Wenjue′s recent “Movie Painting” extends the internal cultural logic of his earlier “Water Painting”.Both  “Water”and “Movie”can be regarded as material that is “nonmaterial”.Water is natural material without solid shape,but with rich meaning and forms.Maybe this is why ancient Chinese people used a proverb “The highest goodness is the goodness of water ”to describe the character of water and people.Movie is a new form of man-made material and can be regarded as “the art of time”.A movie is actually a story comprising tens of thousands of frames,whereas a single frame is void and of no solid meaning.For another,water and movie aie similar to each other in that both of them possess the beauty tasted only with intuition and sense. Wenjue′s green water and blue water paintings are delicate and his movie paintings are based on frames selected from  famous motion pictures made by famous Asian directors including Zhang Yimou and Ki-duk Kim,such as Raise the Red Lantern,Shanghai Triad,Youth and Samaria.Some of the frames selected by him are aesthetic,others amatory or classical.The culture or criticism immersed under the non-meaning pure beauty of movie frames is revealed by Wenjue with paintings.The act of depicting part of an industrial movie with hands itself is a vivid exhibition of the meaning of non-meaning.

Both water and movie possess rich meaning of “non-meaning”. Wenjue′s portrayal of time elapsing based on water and that based on movie are intrinsically related to each other.I have never asked him whether he thinks about the relation between them this way,because it has already been brilliantly demonstrated in his works.Like great philosophers,all great artists are capabe of breaking mental blocks and capturing transient inspiration to create monumental works.Wisdom is more than being smart,as the Chinese proverb goes, “A man of great wisdom often appears slow-witted.”Jackson Pollock never thought about the so-called “Modernism”, and “American Freedom”.He was simply a naughty boy playing around with canvas and palette.It is this naughty boy,however,who created the classics of “Abstract Expressionism”.He profoundly reacted against the bliefs and shackles of “Modernism”,impressively demonstrated “American Freedom” and influenced the contemporary art trends of “Pop Art” and “Postmodernism”.And this is the fundamental reason of his works′ high recognition and high price.

The controversy around Wenjue′s works is like that around Jackson Pollock′s: “Can it be called art?”The simplicity of his two themes,water and movie,arouses people′s disregard and dissatisfaction.However,it is simplicity that represents his unparalleled talent and ingenious choice.It is a great philosophical difficulty to paint material that is “nonmaterial”or of no solid shape and represent the meaning of “non-meaning”.Wenjue,howerver,has hit the point twice and maintained the continuity of his works.In doing so,he has elevated his art to a higher level.His shift from water to movie is a brilliant success.To a certain extent,the creativity of an artist can be proven by his capability of his making this kind of shift,while maintaining his consistency and continuity in the content and style of his works.The more shifts an artist makes,the more difficult it is for other artists to surpass him.A typical example for this would be Pablo Picasso.

The overall style of a mature artist enable the works of his every phase to support and supplement each other.Sometimes,the birth of an artist′s later works makes the value of his earlier works emerge.To a certain extent, Wenjue′s movie paintings make the meaning of his water painting emerge,dwarfing the meaningless critics known as “He Wenjue′s Water and Fang Lijun′s Water”.He has already left the meaningless critics far behind him. Wenjue′s step-by-step efforts have led to the emergence of his philosophical system.It is his unique personality marked by “non-meaning” that helps him exceed himself and transcend his “water phase”.I believe that many people are confused by his great shift of choices.However,I equally believe that he has the capability of ignoring these negative feedbacks,which is why he can make such an accomplishment.Undoubtedly,Wenjue,who was born in 70′s ,still has a long way to go in the art world.Maybe there are more brilliant shifts waiting for him.The greatest thing about art is that you will never know what artists can create in the future.And this is the very part we are always waiting for.