"Go Beyond Two Poles" LiQin Tan's Primitive-digital Art
Source:Artintern.net Author:Peng De Date: 2010-07-20 Size:
Most Chinese artists living in North America for a long time have disappeared in a narrow individual space, but LiQin Tan is exceptional.

Merge Chinese & Western Art

Most Chinese artists living in North America for a long time have disappeared in a narrow individual space, but LiQin Tan is exceptional. He just comes out into the open as the point of an awl sticking out through a bag. Being not the type of person abiding by the law and behaving himself, he longs for a realm that does not exist in reality, for which he is doomed to be detached from the reality and look for his own arena. What he has found is a virgin land between the prime and the future, a new art.

LiQin Tan’s new art is called “primitive digital art”, which integrates three-dimensional digital animation with installation art. Primitive and digital, the two opposite subjects in terms of generation time, resemble the expression “virtual reality”, which constitutes a self-contradictory phrase. It manifests the existent logic of Chinese artists in America and reveals the existent status encountered by the open world as well. Primitive art is a historically-formed form and digital art is a virtual existence. The former is real, stagnant, and spontaneous while the latter is unreal, changeable and discriminating. The virtual space, art and reality in the digital world provide people with targets and scenes that can never been truly experienced in real life. They extend the effective time of life and heighten the quality of life in such way that the previous existent status of mankind seems so monotonous, shallow, naive and primitive.

As for artistic creation, digital technique is just like the primitive drawing technique, both being the carrier of illusion and inspiration. The carriers of traditional Chinese painting are brush, ink, silk and paper; the carrier of installation art is material objects; that of performance art is living people; image art is carried by shade and shadow and the carrier of future art will be biological wave in cerebral cortex. It’s not possible for all the carriers to copy the reality intact, but it is possible to copy false truths that are out of creation or imagination. All these false truths that can truly move others or self can be systematically represented and drift into inanities through vicissitudes.

In his works, LiQin Tan has adopted such materials as hide, hair, root, lava and cast iron and made them correspond to relevant and symbolic themes. Digital king and queen in the series of hide seem to comment historical scenes of solemn burlesques. The series of lava seem to tell the possibility and fragility of life. Root carvings appear to carve regret of life and the series of rusted iron look like sighing over transience of life. LiQin Tan said that his digital primitive art is an open structure because it will settle itself down as a new tradition, become out of date and a primitive art in the eyes of the later generations and not the vanguard art that always takes the lead. The primitive digital installation created by LiQin Tan has walked onto the frontier in this field formally, and calmly seen the limit of such form conceptually.

As early as two or three decades ago, in the year when “85 Fine Arts New Tide” happened, he has already expressed a young artist’s longing for the future in Future Characteristics of Chinese Art Concept. This article was not profound but filled with enthusiasm, in which he took “futurity” as the primary goal for the reform of Chinese art concept and emphasized that “future leads the present”. This not only shows his brightness and vision, but also subsequently predicts his later artistic orientation. LiQin Tan is from Hu’nan Province, where it is only at the verge of culture if compared with Beijing or Shanghai. However, in the Chinese modern civilization that surged for nearly one hundred years, Hu’nan has always been a place where outstanding people emerged one after another and excitements were made. We can list a string of figures and groups that affect China to demonstrate. Such regional tradition that is leading the fashion is vividly embodied by LiQin Tan. LiQin Tan looks between the unchanging prime and the ever-changing future for a joint that a Chinese artist falls for. What kind of joint it can be?

Merge Chinese & Western Art

Despite that LiQin Tan’s art does not belong to the top field of international new media art and that Chinese fine arts circle has not yet degraded to self-secluded professional workshop, LiQin Tan has rarely had artists to have a conversation with in China during the two years since his return. He has no idea how many companions there are in the art circle of China and where they are. Academic art and digital art have always been regarded as two unrelated categories in the plastic arts field of China. Handcraft fashion of academism still plays a role as the natural enemy of digital virtual art. Admittedly, LiQin Tan is not the go-between of the two, but his efforts are attempted at demonstrating that tradition and future, China and the west can jointly appear on a new art platform. LiQin Tan brings people into a strange art realm which he fabricates and has never existed before. Yet it mobilizes experience of senses, covering both Chinese delight and western interest.

The sentiment of modern western art is inclined to pursue sound-picture effect of sensual stimulation, which is not consonant with the gentle style of traditional Chinese art. Digital art is young, so are its engagers and receptors. As a whole, this generation has not been encountered with great frustrations, lacks life experience that is full of twists and turns and aspires for gaining mental experience that is full of ups and downs in the virtual world. So the related arts always go after freshness, bizarreness, accident and stimulation featuring exaggeration, expansion, variation and distortion. For more than one hundred years, such new art forms as photographs and movies that were born successively showed similar characteristics in their early stage to attract attention. LiQin Tan retained these styles that are loved by youth when creating digital image. The digital art led by America at the cross-century occasion integrated graphics, text, image, sound and interaction, promoted PIP, tiled picture, sound-picture synchronization, time and space crisscrossing in movie language, and thus expanded traditional sound-picture art language. As new technologies constantly emerge, it makes possible any design to become visual reality. And LiQin Tan’s work, if compared to his imagination, is only the tip of the iceberg.

A quality that is natural, dexterous and sophisticated is admired in the interest of classical Chinese art. LiQin Tan adopts carriers such as root carving, rockery, hide and hair as the substitute for primitive art. Such substitute features the old, the weak, the sick and the disabled. China has been a society under the reign of the old since ancient times. Officials at different levels in charge of education were called Sanlao (literally meaning three olds). Sanlao at national level was called Sangong (three councilors of state), namely, Taishi (Grand Tutor), Taifu (Deputy Grand Totor), and Taibao (Assistant to Grand Tutor) who were tutors of crown prince. An emperor who ascended the throne would ask for advice from Sangong. In China where the tradition of ancestor worship has been passed down until now, “old” is the embodiment of classics and perfection. Chinese painting and calligraphy pay attention to being laola (skillful but unscrupulous) and admire old art work and old artist. Chinese painting lays stress on Cun method. The original meaning of Cun refers to wrinkle, which demonstrates the characteristic of old man. The Chinese root carvings and rockeries adopted in LiQin Tan’s work are old and shaky in terms of shaping. Since the Song Dynasty, “wrinkled, thin, leaky and limpid” rockery shapes have been pursued. “Wrinkled and thin” corresponds to the old and the weak while “leaky and limpid” to the sick and the disabled. Xuanhe Shipu recorded sixty one rockeries inscribed by Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, in which there was a personified stone named Old Man Stone. However, apparently LiQin Tan does not make old and deformed root carvings and rockeries to praise, but to sigh over the limit of life instead. In his works, primitive art becomes a stage where digital images are phantasmagoric, resembling the so-called bed overlapped by bed and house built in house by ancient Chinese.

To merge Chinese and the western arts and go beyond the two poles is a goal that the present vanguard Chinese artists overseas have longed for together. As to this goal, LiQin Tan has achieved unequalled achievement in his new art.

[Editor] Elemy Liu