"Who Picked up the biggest Ear of Wheat?" Tian Jun's Journey
Source:Artintern.net Author:Zhang Fang Date: 2010-07-02 Size:
I was stricken dumb as I entered Tian Jun's studio for the first time. The white canvas curtains concealed icy cool stainless texture like a scenario in the movie called "House of Flying Daggers".


Tian Jun’s Studio

I was stricken dumb as I entered Tian Jun’s studio for the first time. The white canvas curtains concealed icy cool stainless texture like a scenario in the movie called “House of Flying Daggers”. The white resin feature sculptures by artist Gao Xiaowu welcomed guests with bowing heads and large smiles. Tian Jun joked that his studio was a night club. In dim light, the space was full of art works such as Ai Weiwei’s Ming Dynasty table and stools, Yang Shaobin’s skewed-faced man, Cao Hui’s resin gorilla putting on cashmere and etc. These contemporary art works showcased the attitude of its owner that life is but a drama.

As his contemporary born in the 1970s, we all experienced naïve childhood and struggling youth. Tian Jun was not an exception. Since childhood, he loved painting and was responsible for designing his class newspaper in hand-writing and drawing and the school auditorium during the New Year celebration. Up till now, he still remembered clearly the ideas and stories in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, Marquez’s One Hundred Year’s Solitude, Shi Tiesheng’s Thoughts during Ailments. These stories and essays instilled into Tian Jun’s mind that life was a lonely journey with frustrations and vicissitudes. At that time when everyone believed that as long as a student could study quite well in math, physics and chemistry, he would have no problems in the future. Tian Jun’s parents and relatives expected him to become an engineer while he dreamed to become a creative designer. In 1990, he was accepted into the Department of Interior Design at Dalian Light Industry Design Institute. In 1996, he opened his first studio in his hometown Daqing, Heilongjiang Province. Ten years later, in 2006, he opened Rapier Co., Ltd. in the CBD district of Beijing nearby Chang’an Avenue, making chic designs and furniture for homes, restaurants, companies and enterprises. In recent years, he has been the chief designer for South Beauty Catering Company. Walking into any chain store of South Beauty located in crowded commercial districts and living quarters in Beijing, one can feel the relaxed but unique style of Tian Jun who applies upscale materials and adjusts indoor spaces in perfection. Like artists, Tian Jun does not work a lot of design programs each year. He does about several large projects annually. So far, Tian Jun has had over eighty art works, including upcoming stars, such as Qiu Xiaofei’s Watching Television, Li Qing’s Let’s find the differences and etc…


Tian Jun’s Studio


Tian Jun’s new home

When I met Tian Jun, he showed me a complete file he made of his collection marking with numbers, photos, artists’ name, the year of production and year of collection. Through this archive, I could get a glimpse of Tian Jun’s strategy for his collection. The following discussion started out from the first collected piece, Shao Fan’s wooden chair Untitled.

ZF: Please tell me what was the first work that you collected? When did you buy it? What were you thinking at that time? How come you become interested in contemporary art?

TJ: My first collection was a wooden chair called Untitled. It was a work by Shao Fan. I bought it in 2003. The first time I saw this huge chair (108x72c48cm), I was shocked at its magic power. I said to myself, “This chair does not have any practical value except for the purpose of viewing only. Why did the artist make it?”

ZF: Later on, do you come to understand better why artists make their art works? Do you get confused when you see a lot of artists’ works?

TJ: Years ago when the market went well, many galleries in 798 art district exhibited a lot of challenging and exploring projects by foreign artists. Though I often did not attend openings, I would sneak into galleries later. I keep on learning and trying to understand the key to rationalize the artists’ creativities and expressions on contemporary issues.

#p#副标题#e#ZF: Did you acquire some important artists’ works?

TJ: In 2006, I got to know Wang Qingsong and He Yunchang. In 2007, I bought from some galleries in the art fairs a number of works, including Chen Chien-jen’s Manufacturing Factory Series, Wu Tianzhang’s earlier kitsch works and Marina Abramovic’s performance photos.

ZF: Is it because that the artists’ works inspire you that you start to collect? Are there any other reasons? What does art mean for you? After working as a designer for quite a long time, do you feel that art is much more valuable than couture and design?

TJ: In terms of colors, spaces and tastes as well as the expressions, art, fashion and design are mutual complementary. Since life is not beautiful, but full of hypocrisies, traps and instabilities, people are born to chase for affection and vanity. Many people spend their whole life pursuing luxuries and fortunes. In their philosophy, money can buy all. However, as a designer, I see the truth and force of art. And I feel fashion and design are nothing but sweet cakes. Art can maintain a permanent glamour and bring forth beauty, security, happiness, satisfaction and cheer.

ZF: Do you have unhappy feelings in your life? Do you take art to heal your sufferings? Many collectors compare collection to lovers. For you, what is art?

TJ: Art is a telescope. Putting it on, I can envision a farther future. Art is also a flashlight that shines upon dark corners. Artworks that are full of wit and humor cultivate our eyes to be more clear and shrewd and help us shirk away mundane desires and vanity.

ZF: Are there any artists or art works that influence you and make your mind suddenly clearer?

TJ: In 1998, I saw Ai Weiwei’s work published in Art World magazine. Instantly, I got very excited, saying to myself, “Hey, this guy puts two legs onto the wall and it is terrific!” Later in 2006, I saw this work exhibited in Urs Meile Gallery. Without second thought, I bought this piece. This adventure with this art work is like realizing a dream in ten years. In 2008, I purchased from Sotheby’s eight photo works by Wang Qingsong entitled Another Battle Series. One of the image talked about a hero with blood bandage around his forehead fighting to win over McDonald’s fortress which reminded me of the war films in childhood. This artist compares the past and present to address the current social problems. Many of his photo works reveal the erosion of consumerism into our mind and spirit.


Another Battle Series, 100x67cm, c-print, 2001, Wang Qingsong

ZF: Is there any work which you admire for so long and never achieve to buy it?

TJ: Yes, Mao Yan’s My Poet. In the painting, we can sense the frenetic Oriental temperature of the central figure whose eyes are staring nowhere. This painting reflects perfectly the psychological status of our contemporaries. When we are born, we all know the beginning and ending. However, the most important part is to experience the process and enjoy happiness and endure mishaps during this journey. The humankind’s life journey is meaningful because we all look for way out along the path of disappointment, illusion and disasters.

Tian Jun speaks up the truth. We sometime are so sober-minded that we only see the clear two ends of our life journey. However, we always ignore the path of experiences, its duration. Like the story that Socrates told his disciples to pick up the biggest ear of wheat. None of them picked anything back after they explored till the end of the field in sweat. Why is that? Because they assumed the biggest ear of wheat always lay in the up up and up front. Life is like what is described in Qian Zhongshu’s novel Besieged. We are confronted with all varieties of temptations. We only want to jump out of our own situations and imagine how wonderful the outside world beyond us will be. Isn’t it?

[Editor] Elemy Liu