» Archive for 25 September 2010
The following essay will be printed in the catalog of the show “ZAOXING” an exhibition of artwork from the faculty of the CAFA School of Fine Arts. The exhibition is currently up at the CAFA Art Museum, and will be up until October 7th. Pan’s discussion of the inherited notion of the three-dimensional arts at CAFA gives a worthwhile and historical perspective on the subject from the perspective of inside the academy. Pan Gongkai is the president of the Central Academy, and vice-president of the Chinese Artists Association. He is an artist, historian and theoretician. Translation my own.
The Significance of “Zaoxing”
The use of the term “zaoxing yishu” (the three-dimensional, modeling, or plastic arts) was at its height in artistic circles of the 1950s and 1960s, a result of the Soviet art academy’s influence. It encompasses primarily the mediums of oil painting, printmaking, sculpture and mural painting in the Western tradition, and has definition similar to “easel art.” However, over different eras and across different forums the concept eventually came to incorporate architecture; Chinese traditional mediums were later brought within its parameters. In the beginning of this new century, the Central Academy of Fine Arts is in the midst of another round of reframing the disciplines taught at the academy. We still use the phrase zaoxing to identify the oil painting, print-making, sculpture and mural painting departments, but making a distinction from Chinese painting, have established separate School of Fine Arts and the School of Traditional Chinese Painting, and adding an experimental art department to the traditional zaoxing arts concept. Thus, our concept of “fine arts” in the new millennium is closer to the Western notion of “pure arts.”
These Western mediums enjoy long histories and the achievements made in each respective tradition are rich and generous, they are mankind’s great cultural heritage. But in the Twentieth Century, under the assault of modernism’s great revolution, the tradition of easel arts progressively disintegrated. Since the 1960s, the structure of these disciplines in Europe and North America underwent enormous changes, the fundamental regimen of realist techniques such as sketching slowly slackened and faded out, and were replaced with the analysis of artistic concepts and training and experimentation in creating new ways of thinking.
The significant motivation for the conceptual change in Western art education was this: the success of the various schools of modernism art in the Twentieth Century, which demonstrated that traditional art forms were already outdated. Revolt and innovation became invincible and resounding slogans of, and the intention of all new arts, while the easel arts, which take sketching, color and technical training in realism as their foundation, not only lost their significance, they became the shackles, a hindrance to new modes of thinking in a new era. Therefore, it naturally follows that they ought to be replaced with unrestrained, unfettered teaching methods––the theoretical origins of this concept takes the fast supplanting of different and various art schools in the Twentieth Century as the essential nature of art historical progression, and views it as a rather blind search for novelty, innovation, and understands the total function of art education as the eradication of outmoded ideas through enlightenment with creative thought.
Decades later, we look back and find those conceptual transitions were trends of the times; they aren’t without their principals, and they allowed for arts reform and the emergence of an unprecedented vigor and entirely new directions in the visual arts. However, because of their overindulgent implementation, partial concepts were overwhelmingly accepted as the whole, and now years later, at this late hour, we are able to observe these issues with a more discriminating gaze.
There are two significant issues within worthy of contemplation:
1) The relationship between limitations or restrictive conditions and the freedom to create. Artistic production, especially art production in the modern era, requires ample spiritual liberties, but this doesn’t suggest the utter elimination of all restraining factors. Easel assignments are one nature of restriction, the technicalities of painterly materials are another; rigorous drills in sketching are also a kind of restriction. Can removing all these restrictions be beneficial to creative potential? It might seem so at a first glance, but with more thought, this is not necessarily true. When we examine these from the perspectives of psychology and art history, a far more complex dialectical relationship is revealed between limitations and creation, one that is worthy of serious contemplation and study.
2) The relationship between artistry and transcendence. (more…)
On September 16, 2010, Professor W.J.T. Mitchell, of the University of Chicago visited the Central Academy of Fine Arts for a lecture which he titled “World Pictures.”
Mitchell could be called a “picture theorist,” but he wasn’t interested in how pictures move around the world, instead, taking off from Heidegger’s “world of pictures,” he examined how we envision the world, and the inherent dangers withinespecially relevant in our globalized age.
He deconstructed five terms, Global (a la Marshal McLuhan’s “global village”), the Planetary (within a system), Cosmos (abstract and mathematical, a dialectic of opposites as in Yin and Yang), World (of flesh, and an underworld) and Earth (or Terra, upon which we stand).
Heidegger, didn’t advocate a picture of the world, but believed that through science and technology, we have turned the concept of the world into a picture.
And Freud argued that science was incapable provide a worldview, only religion can, but he wasn’t an advocate of religion. Mitchell disagrees with the both of them. His mission is to identify the false world picture and struggle against it. World pictures have infiltrated all levels of society and of our imagination, aided through technology.
Google earth has mapped out the world, we can go anywhere on the planet, we can zoom in and see our rooftops, but there is major discrepancy with this image and reality–– when we zoom in, we will never bring the image into reality.
This is the “partial view” of the world that we will always be relegated to. Heidegger again says that the “world picture” corrupts the imagination, and Freud says that we must not create a world picture, even though there are deep dangers in religion. The truth is, says Mitchell, we are a “world at war,” and we should be opposing notions of “global terror.”
Mitchell’s speech ended on a Hong Hao image, the “New Political Map,” part of the artist’s series of silkscreened prints entitled “Selected Scriptures” (see more here). In this map, the artist has brilliantly played on an almost universally familiar map projection, but has scrambled national borders, most significantly replacing the United States of America with “the People’s Republic of China.”
Artist, Xu Bing, now the vice-president of CAFA, and sitting in the front row raised his hand with a question: What is the relation between philosopher and artist? And how is Mitchell reading the map? To gasps of surprise from the 400 plus audience, he pointed out the vague, but distinct figure of a horse just above the “new P.R.C,” which has been cleverly named “Israel” (interpreted by Mitchell as having plenty of territory to expand in), and the profile of a man where Brazil should be, which was replaced with Holland.
Mitchell turns around to look at the image on the screen behind him; it’s unclear from the grin on his face whether or not he had noticed. But nonetheless, the muted sound of two worlds colliding filled the room, and I wondered how many new possibilities for envisioning the world could be unleashed in the Chinese language, especially once we considered the ancient Chinese worldview.
Every now and then, when my eyes blur over with red, I refresh my mind with kitsch of the American variety. After all, one’s home culture is like their mother tongue, a system of symbols that we speak the most fluently, and ultimately react to most viscerally. This might explain why, in bouts of homesickness, I’ll pass on the pizza and watch Beyoncé on Youtube instead.Pop culture viewed through the filter of geographic distance allows for a very different analytical perspective. And as the largest global exporter of culture, we Americans should be aware that the rest of the world doesn’t interpret Gaga or Michael in the same way. And this works both ways. Many non-Chinese living in China find television galas, etc. “kitschy,” something culturally inferior and laughable.Last week, while watching Katy Perry’s performance on the Today Show (on Youtube here), the amazing similarities of Chinese and American culture struck me. From outside in, American culture can be just as spectacularly kitschy, pointlessly elaborate and ridiculous as any Chinese television gala could ever aspire to be.Of course, this is obvious. But I thought it would be fun to draw a comparison here, a trip through the looking glass into our respective pink, glittery, dreamlands gracing national broadcasting.此条有新的中文版，请按右手的“中文”让它显示 (more…)