As mentioned in Concerning the Spiritual in Art, written by Russian artist and theorist Wassily Kandinsky, the creation of a genuine artist is inspired by inner necessity. This theory is really helpful to understand the art in modern and contemporary age. Before the rise of Modernism, it is impossible for artists to create works completely from their inner necessity without considering the preference and needs of their patrons. However, if artists no longer work for patrons, follow traditional themes, or represent specific objects, what and how to express indeed becomes a choice of artists themselves. Therefore, an Artists ability of appreciation and cultural quality will determine the mental power of his works. From Shang Pingjuns paintings, we can clearly feel the influence of the inner necessity to his creation. Pingjun and I came to know each other when we worked together in the editorial department of Tsinghua Art. He worked diligently in this position which does not provide a considerable salary, while he contributed to most of Tsinghua Arts publications. I felt that there must be something strong that supported him. With time going by, I know Pingjun better and now I know that he can keep simple because of his faith to Buddhism and art. This June, I came to Pingjuns studio with some friends, and I found his bookcases filled with Buddhist scriptures, which made me think of a short message he sent to me in a winter vacation, saying that he was worshiping Buddha in Tibetan Area of Sichuan Province. At that time, I thought it was just some sigh with emotion from a curious tourist and did not know that he was really related to Buddhism. He has got acquainted with Master Xue Xiang as early as 1988, who was the abbot of Jingci Temple, and has studied Diamond Sutra, Platform Sutra seriously. Im not a Buddhist, but I respect the thoughts of Buddhism and people with faith. I cant understand the profound meaning in Buddhism, but some Buddhism sutras, which I read superficially before, really touched me deeply. For Pingjun, these Buddhist thoughts must not only have touched his heart, but also have influenced his daily behavior. Pingjun graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art (the predecessor of China Academy of Art). During his study in the University, he was lucky to listen to the lecture of Mr. Zhao Wuji, which has essential influence to his choice of abstract painting later. Although most of his works were figurative paintings at this time, he began to do various experiments on Modernism Art. In 1989, he created Sunyata (performance art), and this theme appeared in his works repeatedly later. From 1994-1995, he created abstract painting works, such as Exist Dissemination Sunyata and so on. Some people said that there had been abstract painting in ancient China, but I think that abstract painting is a creation of western modernism art, and a simple analogy between the form of Chinese painting and abstract painting isnt a pertinent judgment about Modernism. Abstract painting overthrew the rule of representation in painting, but it didnt abandon the pursuit of aesthetic value. Roger Fry defended for Cezannes painting, and thought that if his paintings are read carefully, the beauty of form, which is a far cry from the representation of objects, can be found. As the theoretical support of abstract painting, formalism aesthetic provides an effective tool to the analysis of abstract art language, but the abstract painting is not mixture of points, lines and surfaces. When we look at Mark Rothkos and Jackson Pollocks abstract paintings, we can feel deep and sincere spirits and emotions in their works obviously, which come from artists deeper understanding of culture and their instinctive creative impulse. Shang Pingjuns paintings have changed from the abstract of objects from nature to the expression of pure spirituality. In his earlier works, such as Impression of Southern Anhui, Whose Hair Has Fallen in the Rose Shrubs, it is not difficult to find the image of Southern Anhuis dwellings and hair. He just turned these figurative elements into a simple symbol, and then structured the picture with these symbols. In recent two years, most of his abstract paintings, such as Realm of Light, Protective Coloration, Amid the Clouds and Mist, and Lotus Garden were inspired by his inward world filled with faith of Buddhism and understanding of life. The language of these paintings is purer, which formed a effect of rich and distant space by the superimposition of colored patches. In fact, we can explain Pingjuns life attitude by reference of Chinese Taoist thought: To pursue the ultimate nihility, and attain the peace of mind. Just as his daily behavior and art works, Pingjun abandons selfish desire, excludes selfish motives, keeps peaceful and quiet, and obeys the law of nature. I hope Pingjun will make great progress in the future.
Zhang GanAugust 17, 2013
Finding A World in A Flower
About Zhao Lus Works
By Yang Wei
Buddhism believes that one can find a world in a flower. In Avatamsaka Sutra, the author says that for a lotus flower growing on the soil of Buddhism, its flower has a world inside, and on each of its leaves there is a Buddha. According to Brahmajala Sutra, Buddha Vairocana, sitting in the middle of a big lotus flower with a thousand leaves, becomes a thousand Sakyamuni Buddha. Each of them, sitting on their own leave, then becomes another ten billion of Sakyamuni Buddha. So Buddhism believes that we can see a world through a grain of sand. To put it simply, we can see in a flower the vicissitudes in the world and sense the movement of planets in the universe. When I see the works of Zhao Lu, the words a flower has a world inside come into my mind. It is not only because that Zhao Lu is a pious Buddhist follower but also because that his works have rich meanings. The profundity of the details shows how Zhao Lu appreciates life and this world.
Zhao Lu was born in 1980 in Qingdao, Shandong Province. He began learning painting since very young. He started with calligraphy and Traditional Chinese Painting and learned traditional arts systematically. During his years in the Fine Art Department in Ludong University, his talents in art were acclaimed by many famous artists. Liu Aimin, the former dean of the Oil Painting Department in Xian Academy of Fine Arts spoke highly of Zhao and once recommended him to study in France. But unluckily, after being refused for several times on visa application, his dream came to naught.
In 2005, he started preparing for the postgraduate exam of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Although his scores of major subjects ranked as the second high in that exam, he failed entering into the academy because of other reasons. In 2006, he applied for the Oil Painting Department in Tsinghua University and finally succeeded. He became the first student of Xin Dongwang, a famous painting artist. After reviewing Zhao Lus past, we can find that he has covered an uneven path of life. Is this the reason why he believes in Buddhism? Is he trying to find a way out or find something to fall back on mentally? I dont know. But I do know that uneven paths of life can cultivate a persons temperament and improve his ability to feel. For Zhao Lu, his experiences in the earlier years of his life then became precious gift to his life and his source of knowledge.
Zhao Lus tutor Xin Dongwang is an outstanding personage in the New Realism Oil Painting. He emphasizes capturing the vividness in sketching and using straightforward expression. Under the tutorship of Xin, Zhao had strict sketch training. He tried the new realism painting but preferred implicit expression over the straightforward one. Maybe this should be attributed to Zhaos different temperament, or to the fact he has already been influenced by his study of the traditional Chinese painting. So Zhao, instead of following his teachers style in artistic creations, chose to explore other styles with the basics he had learned from Xin. Zhao then started exploring the implicit meaning of each object. His originality reflects his independence in artistic creation, which is quite valuable. Such independence leads to his later success, and enables him to remain prominent in the complex landscape of the contemporary art.
In around 2007, Zhao started the creation named Lamination series. He has not said much about his intention for these creations. But I believe that his intention has something to do with the situation he is in and his reflection over the current material society. Lamination refers to the process in which a plastic membrane is covered on the surface of prints to protect them or to increase their luster. This technique is widely used today. Although it protects and beautifies the prints, packing materials, and our daily appliances, it is a false masquerade, just like the world we are living in today. Zhao Lus inspiration may come from his reflection over this world in which people-to-people relationship has been materialized, or it may come from his reflection over the hardships he has undergone. With all these, he cannot wait to reflect over the reality and uncover the society we are living in. I believe that Zhaos Buddhist belief also has something to do with his awareness of the dilemma in the modern civilization. He may want to find an outlet and spiritual consolation in Buddhism. Zhaos concerns over the materialized life will inevitably lead him to higher levels of the religious world.
For a long time after his graduation from the Academy of Art Design in Tsinghua University in 2009, Zhao devoted himself to Buddhist readings. The Buddhist saying everything is empty inspired Zhao a lot. From then on, his Lamination series started to take on more religious elements. In his works, we can see temples, pagodas, and monastery. Zhaos understanding towards things also changed. He became more at ease in using all kinds of materials and in expressing his artistic concepts and humanistic belief.
I have seen many of Zhaos works created after this period of time. What impressed me most is that he can always endow the small with profundity, and the common with novelty, which should be attributed to his religious belief. Buddhism believes that help should be given to everyone. It is the reason why Zhao has compassion and sympathy towards everything, which can be seen not only in works with Buddhism as the theme but also those about other themes. It is with Zhaos compassion that his paintings become more vivid and have the warmth of life. We can feel Zhaos sincerity in his depiction of everything, including small things such as a piece of clothes, a cave, or a dew.
The introduction of religion into artistic creation not only adds to the expressiveness but also enriches the imagination and expands the boundary of arts. The words a flower has a world inside, and on each of its leaves there sits a Buddha is a good example. They inspired artists, urging them to explore the unknown and to try. It is the essence of artistic exploration. So Zhao Lu is a real artist. He believes in Buddhism, but he does not depict Buddhist themes directly. Instead, he turns Buddhist spirit into a driving force in his artistic exploration. He follows the Sunyata and Buddhatva in Buddhism; and instills Buddhism as a spiritual force into artistic creation. He frees the old artistic mindset, and inspires people in their endless artistic exploration.