A Conversation between Wang Yizhou and Huang Du
Huang Du (hereinafter referred to as Huang): Since some time ago, in art circle, the relationship between wash painting and contemporary art has been a hit subject, which developed into a discussion on how wash painting could extend its contemporary. From this perspective, as you could create a huge installation in main hall of building NO.1 of TAM this time, you tried to response to the topic mentioned above. So, why do you have this thought? To be specific, how the idea of doing art in a three-dimension space rather than only on paper comes into your mind?
Wang Yizhou (hereinafter referred to as Wang): To be honest, I have had the idea of doing a three-dimension artwork since very early time. But I always lack enough motivation to make it happen. However, when I saw the space of TAM, the idea came out again. I believe that Chinese material and language form have their uniqueness, if I could make a transformation on the nature of material by building a special space, the Chinese spirit would be expressed more adequately, hence the wish of realizing it became stronger. Before, there were some artists had made some relative try. They did their work in a natural environment and made a combination of landscape and literati spirit. It’s exciting. I think it’s a more direct measure because they build a relationship with mountain and water and it is quiet similar to the conception of traveling in the scenery, so it’s a tangible experience. As for me, I want to dissociate the mountains from its shape and the water from its state, and then reset the shape and state in a museum space to boost another feeling. I have attached importance on artist’s feeling about nature for a long time. While the artists expressed their feelings through their skills, the messages carried by their artworks are no longer a natural existence; instead, they are maybe a kind of spiritual meanings in various forms. When other people are watching them, a new atmosphere is created. Therefore, the core-value of artworks is based on the artist’s knowledge, I think the control on degree of extracting form and state from the appearance is a unique Chinese wisdom and also a key point that shows an artist’s self-cultivation. Instead of taking audience to the nature, what I want to do is rebuilding an environment, a cultural environment.
Huang：As to mountain and water, Chinese ink and wash used to express them in a whole environment, such as the “Travelers among Mountains and Streams” by Northern Song dynasty painter Fan Kuan. In the painting, a big mountain stands tall before the audience, water and mountains are perfectly arranged to build a quiet atmosphere, and it seems that audiences can hear the sound of the flow. In that way, a movement is shown in a still painting while a time conception is built by the arrangement of that painting. Another example is “water” by Southern Song dynasty painter Ma Yuan. In this painting, the form and the movement of water are intelligently displayed by the painter’s incomparable skill. The up and down of the water become vivid through his quivering brush, and audience could feel the huge power behind his brush, which is like a dragon is flying. Of course, instead of using many lines, you choose to leave a lot blanks in your paintings, which appears to be more pure and simple. So, what’s your understanding about the relationship of still, movement and space of mountain and water?
Wang: I like the magnificent landscape painting from Five Dynasties to Northern Song dynasty a lot, during which period the painters had already have a deeper understanding of mountains, so their understanding could be transmitted into a cultural and spiritual power. As a result, they painted high mountains in a highly-summarized way. The whole mountain is majestic, though the trees and stones are detailed and various. Ma Yuan painted water a lot, which is as grand as mountains. Compared with them, people are tiny. In this case, the mountain and water become a spirit rather than an object. Afterwards, Chinese landscape tended to be in a small pattern, especially during Ming and Qing dynasty, landscape focused on showing artist’s taste. The grand atmosphere built in landscape of Five Dynasties to Northern Song dynasty disappeared. When it comes to today, only skills left in landscape painting. The imposing manner is no longer exist. When I was living in the mountains, what is most impressive for me is the momentum of mountains but the changeable shape. For me, showing the conception of mountain and water by simple lines is enough. That is mountain, my mountain.
Huang: Your work “Mountain”, which is a sculpture made of waved copper wire that settled against a white wall. It is a simple but poetic expression. My question is how do you make the transformation between the abstract lines used in traditional Chinese ink wash and the installation language?
Wang: I always want to make my lines integrated into the 3D space, thus the series emerge. I made it two years ago; it is a large-scale piece, almost 20-30 meters in total. I simplified the wrinkling and rubbing and left the outline only, no matter what I was painting, like the mountain, water, lotus or trees. The power of each brush is very important from the perspective of wash and ink. This conception is quiet like “one brush method “of Shi Tao. Of course, it is a challenge for artists. Then I start to wonder what it will be like if the pure outline was displayed as a 3D artwork. Like the Giacometti, why he is regarded as the top sculptor in western art circle? I think the answer is that he strengthens the contrast between the lines, but it is different from the eastern line which is the carrier of meaning. In fact, I was inspired by him. I want to extend my lines tenacity by using metal materials, which is also different from seeking variety of lines. Before, I had made a work called lotus by using one line. When I discovered this measure, I knew I found the correct way. Because audience would sense the brush through different materials and dimensions, which creates a positive effect and is a successful transformation.
Huang: Then, whats the relationship between this expression and the installation you are working on? To be specific, whats the relationship between the cupreous mountain and the inverted mountain exhibited in TAM this time? As you said your language has some sculptural features, but the inverted mountain you are working on, strictly, is not only an installation but also a medium. From mountain on paper to a cupreous mountain, what led you to make this inversion?
Wang: I think its very important to have a good layout for any work, such as the space you mentioned above. The paper and copper are only basic materials of an artwork, and the cuprous one is a variant of the paper one. The reason why I inverted the mountain at the hall of TAM is that I want to build a relationship between the work and the space. Hence the third space was established, which would interact with lights, other stuff and audience. Its a distinguish landscape, so it is a kind of insight.
Huang: In other words, your artwork occupies this space, at the same time, the space becomes a part of your work. Factors in the spaces interact then the third space emerges both subjectively and objectively.
Wang: I think the third space is unique for each person who is at the hall, because it comes from his or her imagination.
Huang: I have a realistic question for you. Half a year ago, the new ink and wash was very popular in the art market. Do you think your work is a kind of new ink and wash?
Wang: I do not have a clear idea about my position. I started to learn calligraphy and Chinese painting when I was a child, then I learned oil painting in college. After graduating, I continue both ink painting and oil painting and sometimes, write poem and do calligraphy. I think my work is different from new ink painting, because I never have concept of the new ink painting in my mind when I am doing my work. Of course, many new ink paintings are very wonderful, but its a way to seek enjoyment or relieve feelings for the artist. However, it is not what I want to do. What I want to do is making a wide communication to inspire imagination or boost vibration, which is totally distinctive from the two motivations mentioned above. So I do not know if I can be regarded a new ink painting artist.
Huang: I want to know how your oil painting and your ink painting interpenetrate. And what’s the trace of this interpenetrate shown in your paintings? Please give some examples.
Wang: For example, no matter when I am painting realistic painting or abstract painting, I control the brush with the calligraphy method. This is an instinct only a man who has practiced calligraphy for a long time could have. Its true that my flat color square is different from the mans who never learn calligraphy. This instinct can be described by language. On the other side, the western art has an effect on my landscape painting. Thus, my landscape becomes distinctive among traditional landscape painting, it is not Chinese painting any more. I think the two complement each other.
Huang: In fact, you substantialize the flat ink. So how do you deal with the relationship between substances?
Wang: An object in the nature, such as a leaf, is very ordinary. But if it was displayed in a given space, it could be beautiful, even noble. It is because a new relationship has been built between it and the space.
Wang: If we always paint on paper, its not only the medium that is monotonous, but also the feelings are conveyed in a monotonous way. Compared with painting on paper, putting a piece of material into a suitable space can make a big difference. That is why both Chinese and western artists made various tries to combine the artwork and space. To be honest, no matter what method is applied, the aim is to creating a special atmosphere, under which audience could receive more information.
Huang: I think the most difficult thing is keeping the conciseness of artwork. It takes a lot of wisdom, especially for ink and wash, to arrange the composition, brush and form, which fully reflects the artists taste. How do you feel the reflection of the artists’ personal taste in their works?
Wang: It varies from person to person. For some people, the more stuff the better, whereas for me the less the better. Maybe doing subtraction is not our thinking pattern and is hard to realize. The less stuff on painting the harder for people to understand. Thus only few people like these artworks. But for me it is interesting, I like the challenge from myself. For instance, every time I paint a line, I am facing a big challenge of controlling the line. This struggle never ends.
Huang: Of course, like Shi Taos one brush, extensive message is concentrated as one brush, which is not simple issue but a complicated one about transmutation.
Wang: Shis brush changes according to the time, the place and his emotion. I am interested in Tao, because Tao could explain the mysterious issues we cannot fully understand currently. Besides, I am obsessed with the thinking pattern of people living in Shang and Zhou dynasty, which is pure, direct natural and deep. For example, they believe the world is consist of two factors that continuously interact, such as black and white, the positive and the negative. The discussion on the relationship between the two is the oldest dialectics and the most comprehensive philosophy.
Huang: I can see some simple lines and a lot of blank space in your painting and this form could give audience a strong feeling coming from the confluence of the tranquility and potential energy.
Wang: Yes, of course, this still contains a power which is ready to break out anytime. If there was no outburst, I would feel disappointed. Its necessary to accumulate power in the painting which maybe looks peaceful.
At 5th floor, TAM , 4th December,2015