Notes on Painting
March 2010 Issue，Hi Art
I have written the column for Hi Art by invitation for three years. The world is changing fast, in which it seems that a lot of opportunities are available, but what have left to young people are indeed decreasing. Why? Are the old really excellent, or do the young have not enough chance to obtain a springboard and discourse power of their own? Once I said to Da Mei, chief editor of HI Art and Pang Pang, the executive editor, ‘I will not stop writing the column until the demise of your magazine.’ However, before long they left the magazine company for further development. Indeed, the so called ‘further development’ is nothing but working for other old artists, and I guess that they will come across more difficulties. Fortunately, they are still young, and suffering is the priority for young people. Few of columns I have written concentrate on art specially, because the so called ‘modern art’ has seen its death: it began blindly, experienced cooperation with overseas galleries, and witnessed various biennales as well as expositions, and consequently it has stepped into the auction phase too early. Even worse, collectors and viewers abroad, out of aesthetic fatigue, have been tired of it. Then modern artists and their works have almost experienced the whole transmigration, and they cannot control what will happen.
Artists are also not living an easy life. As the boom of modern arts, they are tortured by various reasons, excuses, theories, and so on, just like mutton roasted on fire. For example, now there are so many charts, such as auction charts, power charts, public-welfare-achievement charts, fashion charts, wealth charts, annual charts and removing charts, and any of them may throw artists into great terror, failing to defend themselves. Besides, charts are different from artistic creation in that the former will not give artists any chance of defending, with the artists also feeling embarrassed to do so, and hence they are basically under the control of others.
Whether art in a certain period is good or not and whether the artists are excellent creators or fools can only be determined by numerous demonstrations by later appreciators, experts and theoreticians after hundreds of years of settling. For shamans, no matter what manners he has adopt, his achievement is determined by the effect of his ceremony: whether he has helped others get rid of disasters, has cured their diseases and brought fortune as well as morality to them, and whether the effect is long-lasting; then only by keeping the achievement for years can people admit and remember that he was a good shaman. In some sense, artists are similar to them.
For a creator, no matter how his works change and vary, all of them can be evaluated from following three aspects: originality, technique and material, and innovation in any of them can qualify him a master. When reviewing modern art in China, all people, with the least academic knowledge and conscience, will trace it back to Europe and America. People who have exerted great influence on China’s modern art are not Chinese such as Shi Tao, Zhu Da, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui, but Warhol and Richter, with the latter having contributed more.
Since 1962, Richter began to draw using photos by selecting, copying and enlarging satisfying ones from about 1000 photos. He does not consider that his paintings are realistic as people say. By classifying abstract paintings into small abstracts, soft abstracts and big abstracts, he classes those fuzzy paintings he has created from copied photos into soft abstracts. In this way he has produced an ambiguous gray zone between reality and ideal, preventing his works from facing the real world directly. According to him, fuzzy photos are perfect paintings: they are autonomous and beyond limitation as well as style in that they have not been modified and hence are absolute; how and what photos express is just what the creator has had in his mind. He has managed to make his paintings abstract and speculative, like philosophy.
Continuing using all materials that have been used for hundreds of years, he has made no innovation in painting materials. Nor has he contributed a lot to originality, though he has created works such as Uncle Rudy and October 18th, 1978. However, on the relationship between artists and society, he has such words, ‘The best thing that can happen to art is going apart from the official.’
Richter’s success lies in his creation of a novel technique which has introduced an aesthetic method that people have not experienced before.
Saturday, January 16th, 2010