Among Chinese contemporary art group which is initiated from the early 1980s, the southwestern artist community bonded by Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, is always one of the most hard-core strength, from Scar Art, 85 New Wave, Post 89 New Art and even to young generation artist groups. Beyond the well-known figurative art exploration, some artist graduated from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute consciously started to do exploration and practice of abstract paintings from the early 1980s. They were very early experimenters of abstract paintings in Chinese contemporary filed, they influenced Chinese abstract paintings a lot when they created, promoted and built their own artistic chronology, and they are also pioneers of thinking Chinese abstract paintings. Some of the artists were also written by various scholars of art history. This case is the revisit to the four outstanding representative aritsts’ work from 1980s to 1990s, and the four artists are: Wang Chuan(王川, born in Chengdu in 1953), Yang Shu(杨述，born in Chongqing in 1965), Xiong Wenyun (熊文韵, born in Chongqing in 1955), Zhu Xiaohe(朱小禾, born in Chongqing in 1956). This display will also exhibit some artists’ works before 1980s and after 2000, to simply layout a diachronic rule, and hope we can see the complexity of variability and invariability so that to avoid the revisit becoming segmented presentation.
History is constantly being revisited and rewritten, but each time it is wiped clean. There are always some important texts ands voices that, whether intentionally or not, have been overlooked or avoided. For example, we often hear of certain exceptionally experimental people and works from Sichuan and Chongqing's modern art since the 1980s. However, there remain other important practices with a connection to the region that were more concealed, or you could say, had a language that was more “open," which to this day have not truly been examined. This is the starting point for this exhibition displaying and discussing the early works of four artists: Yang Shu, Wang Chuan, Xiong Wenyun, and Zhu Xiaohe.
Naturally, the goal of revisiting is not to correct history, but to ensure that history is not essentialized, to present the diversity of the 1990s. We may wish to put their work from this period into the context of 90s. Whether in Sichuan, the Southwest, or nationally, their work clearly puts forth a voice of a different quality. They were not folded into the current of societal thought and were not swayed by the alluring discourse of identity. Instead, from start to finish they maintained extremely individual languages. Yang Shu, for instance, did not avoid the influence—in terms of style and taste—that German expressionism and later American graffiti had on him. However, he was more focused on the chaos and vagueness produced from the combination of these origin-less cultural, societal and governmental symbols with his wild and unrestrained calligraphy. This appears to be his connection to Huangjueping Town. It cannot be defined, but it is full of anxiousness and desire. Zhu Xiaohe is also the same. Although we have only a few of his works from the 1990s, from these we can see that he was also working along expressionist lines by eliminating symbolic motifs from his work. His early work from the 1990s appears to have some residual traces of 80s Native Soil
(xiangtu) and Life Flow
(shengmingliu) in it, but in later periods, the self-sufficiency of the form had wiped out these vestiges. This expressionism and willpower is also realized in the contemporaneous ink painting experiments of Wang Chuan, but in Wang Chuan’s paintings we can find no symbolism or concept at all. Perhaps he did not originally intend to thoroughly dispel the value system carried in brush painting, but instead attempted to establish a linguistic link between Abstract Expressionism’s pure forms and the particularities of traditional literati brush and ink painting. Xiong Wenyun, like Wang Chuan, had a background in traditional Chinese painting. Dislocation
is her most representative series from the 1990s. Using the two methods of Huang Binhong’s Jimo technique and the grinding of Japanese colourful rock paintings, she pulls rich color layers and relationships from Tibetan folk traditions and rigidly compresses them into a minimalist composition. She opened a new spiritual dimension in the religious mofit, traditional painting methods and abstract visual results.
Probably for the reason that obscurity of their themes and high personalization, they did not become early representative of Chinese contemporary art. But with the evolution of Chinese contemporary art, their works show more and more their precious art value and literature value. These works are not only material evidence of early Chinese contemporary art to pursue pure art and high spirit, but also the start of Chinese contemporary abstract art. Today, Chinese traditional culture is restudied and researched by contemporary art scenes, and provide a new viewing pattern of abstract art, which is totally Chinalized and is different from the western fine art clue. In the background of new art, the part of strong personalities and characteristics in their works, exactly reflecting the new understanding of abstract art that today’s artists need: abstract art is not only the evolution of modality, style or concept, but also the present of personal cultivation and the height of personal characters and spirits. This cognition is from their common cultural identities, from a new angle, also prompting the possibilities of abstract art in the future.
Press release courtesy A Thousand Plateaus Art Space.