"Wandering between Two Extremes" LiQin Tan's Art Experience
Source:Artintern.net Author:Libin Liu Date: 2010-07-20 Size:
As for artists, "wandering" means dual expansion of both life space and art space while proceeding between "two extremes" implies the extremes of expansion.

As for artists, “wandering” means dual expansion of both life space and art space while proceeding between “two extremes” implies the extremes of expansion. “two extremes” may refer to the dual identity of “Artist and Critic”, may indicate the time span from primitive society to new media times as well as the opposition of Chinese culture and Western culture. The artist LiQin Tan has become one of the representatives in art field since 1980s with continuous art exploration between the two poles. For LiQin Tan, “Proceeding” is not only his destiny in the times but also his initiative choice; not only a pragmatic action faced with the reality but also an unworldly attitude of art creation. The analysis on artistic experience of LiQin Tan manifests an important aspect of art development process of China since 1980s.

1). Obtains dual identity as artist and critic

In 1984, LiQin Tan won Prize of Excellence of 6th National Art Exhibition. The next year, his dissertation Future Characteristics of Chinese Art Conception won Prize of Excellent Work awarded by the magazine Art Trend. With the two prizes, he was regarded as an “Artist” as well as a “Critic”.

The “Conservatism” of the 6th National Art Exhibition became a driven factor of “85’ New Art Trend”. On the seminar of the exhibition, LiQin Tan animadverted on the works and exhibiting pattern of the exhibition. In Future Characteristics of Chinese Art Conception, LiQin Tan expressed his desire for future art. In the two successful experiences, he showed one tendency of his mental world: finding something new in the old world—as same as the spirit of “85’ New Art Trend”. From then on, he became one of representative artists and critics of “85 Fine Arts New Tide”.

LiQin Tan was related to such two events of “85’ New Art Trend”: (1) As one of the founders and editors of the magazine Painter, LiQin Tan reported Gu Wenda with special coverage in Painter. This was the first appearance of Gu Wenda in front of domestic media, which can be regarded as criticism made by LiQin Tan as a “Critic” again. (2) LiQin Tan participated in Great Traveling Slide Exhibition on the Youth Art Wave & Seminar organized by the newspaper Fine Arts in China and Zhuhai Fine Arts Academy. His work Myriad Creatures was shown in the seminar and attracted attention to some extent, which was another appearance as an “Artist”.

How did LiQin Tan think about the hot topic in contemporary era “The relationship of artist and critic” in 1980s? He clearly expressed his standpoint in Staggered Facial Features—Dissecting My Comment Philosophy of Collection of Mordern Fine Arts Theories published by Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House in 1987. He believed “Artistic comment is a kind of creation on aesthetic subject. Only the critics who have sense of subject may become another kind of production power of artistic creation and directly create artistic treasure. Their articles themselves not only have cognition value but also aesthetic value. The critics are art producers. Therefore, it is more exact to call them art critics other than comment artists. ” From his words we know LiQin Tan regarded artistic comment as a kind of aesthetic creation related to subject life and critics as comment artists, which shows the nature of artist. Through the article, we can see the high value LiQin Tan put on “Life-force”, “Intuition”, “Sensibility” and “Emotion” is identical to the culture atmosphere created by Nietzsche philosophy in 1980s and “Philosophy of Life”, while his relatively objective analysis attitude echoes with his accumulative knowledge and his admiration on rational reflection in 1980s. I don’t mean to discuss his comment philosophy, but to make clear the call-and-echo of his comment philosophy of that time and his future development road: From his comment philosophy, it is not hard to understand why LiQin Tan becomes a professional artist.

2). Bop-type collage of traditional symbols

Xiaohua Su analyzed and recommended LiQin Tan’s work Myriad Creatures in Halfway Hopper Hot (in the magazine Fine Arts in December, 1986). On the basis of his criticism on “Popper Hot in China” influenced by Shenhua Lao, Xiaohua Su expressed positive comments on Myriad Creatures by the standard of “Breaking with convention”. In Xiaohua Su’s opinion, “the pole behavior of choosing making materials for his Chinese painting has surpassed writing works of Gu Wenda, but the visual tension of the work can not be equal to that of Gu Wenda’s works.” [1] Now we can say Xiaohua Su’s comment is fairly pertinent. In my opinion, the concept of the work exceeds the form. The correspondence of the form to the diagram of Trigrams (Qian, Qun) is too simple, which impairs the critical force of the work. But if the work is considered under the art atmosphere in 1980s, it has inevitability. Under the culture atmosphere of that time, the sharp tease on the making materials of Chinese painting and consequent questioning on traditional culture were certain to bring about severe impact on traditionalists.

From 1987 to early 1990s, LiQin Tan went abroad and continued the creation thoughts he had in China. In April 1990, he exhibited a series of his works Bamboo Culture in VAV Gallery of Concordia University, taking bamboo as an edged tool to impact Chinese traditional literati paintings. Among the works, eight bamboo hats of an important work Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch were marked with “Jia, Yi, Bin, Ding (heavenly stem)” and “Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao(earthly branch)”, full of the feeling of origin and roughness. The work evidently continued the creation thoughts of Myriad Creatures with further extension. The primitive culture and traditional culture are explored and utilized more deeply and intensively. In my opinion, this is his conscious emphasis on traditional homeland culture as well as development of former thoughts. After that he created “Huge Abaci” and mounted a Chinese modern painting on the pearl, which was further extension of the former creation thoughts.

Hunan is the cradleland of Chu culture. Chu culture has its unique position in Chinese culture, featuring in origin, emotion and romance. In modern and contemporary history, Hunan people played important roles with fierce, bold, merry and lively way of act matching with the times—and “Hunan people” became a group of heroes brought up by the times, and at the same time they joined in the creation of a new times and a modern country. The artistic creation in Hunan in 1980s showed its vitality and energy to connect with original art on one hand and continue the participation and bravery of “Hunan people” in modern and contemporary society on the other hand, filling with critical spirits and declaration. From his works from 1980s to early 1990s we can see, his artistic creation is closely related to the culture atmosphere of Hunan in 1980s. LiQin Tan always kept aware and sensitive of the weakness of Chinese traditional literati paintings. Both indicating exploration and reflection of traditional culture, the artistic creation and comment and original Chu culture echo with each other—as an artist as well as a critic, his rational thoughts and judgment matches his artistic enthusiasm sourcing from the nature.

3). Primitive culture and digital technique

In 1995, LiQin Tan gained Graduate Diploma in Three-dimensional Animation granted by School of Animation Art of Sheridan College of Canada; in 1996, he gained Graduate Diploma in Computer Graphic Design granted by School of Animation Art of Sheridan College of Canada. Formerly as an artist as well as a critic, and now as a professional professor on “Three-dimensional Animation” as well as a digital installation artist, LiQin Tan traveled among USA, Canada, Singapore and China to work on teaching and artistic creation.

Advanced technique may become the barrier of the artists who take advantage of it to proceed with artistic creation. Since the complexity of three-dimensional animation technique is well known, so the “barrier” is evident: 1. The complexity to grasp techniques and the frequent regeneration of technique cause practitioners not to be competent enough for artistic creation. 2. Those practitioners on top of three-dimensional animation technique may be wrapped up in mulling over techniques and lose the driven source of artistic creation, being a “Expert” who “Works at technique only for technique itself”. 3. Traditional sculpture and painting skills themselves are closely related to artistic creation, so they can’t be understood in the view and level of technique. Different from those traditional techniques, three-dimensional animation technique has its independence. More exactly, the three-dimensional animation technique is not closely related to traditional techniques but technology, mathematics and physics knowledge, and its logic and technology basis probably deviate from the essence of artistic creation.

As an “artist” (other than animation technician) in traditional sense, how to overcome this kind of “barrier” is an important question connecting with artistic creation of three-dimensional animation artist. LiQin Tan sought and extended the source of artistic creation to primitive culture. In virtue of three-dimensional animation technique, he expressed his attitude on modern culture by explaining primitive culture. Different from “Changing materials of Chinese painting”, LiQin Tan mainly adopted primitive worship of North America Indians, Chinese art philosophy and primitive stories and African art in new century. During this process, computer technique becomes an effective tool for him to realize artistic creation, with functions other artistic skills can’t compare with on shaping artistic figures, fabricating surface texture of artistic figures and edit virtual animation and etc.

In LiQin Tan’s works created in new century, old primitive culture and new digital technique form two poles fostering artistic creation. Proceeding between the two poles, LiQin Tan experienced time span and difficult combination, while his works directly reflect the reality, reminding people to reflect on the social environment and real situation for human being.

4). Invented objects and real installation

For virtual world and reality which are entirely different from each other, people have different attitude towards them: 1. regarding reality as exact reality, and virtual world really virtual: The perception emphasizes the factuality of objects, but “Heart” is calm without initiative. 2. Regarding reality virtual and virtual world as reality: the meaning of former is identical to “All things turn out to be fruitless” to some extent, while the latter seems to fabricate a fairy tale and make up a paradise.

People always want to cross through virtual world from reality. Fictions of ghosts and gods and warlocks in the streets are all caused by and reflect people’s desire on it. Nowadays with the rapid regeneration of web techniques and computer software, the relationship of “Virtual world” and “Reality” becomes more complex. Our city has become the combination of “City of practical physical configuration” and “City of virtual information interaction”: the “City of virtual information interaction” was given with more reality just like the “City of practical physical configuration”, while the “City of practical physical configuration” is more virtualized just like “City of virtual information interaction”. The relationship of “Virtual world” and “Reality” even reverses in some fields. Modern people wander between virtual world and reality and have a common state of mind, hoping to find a balance point. It is not enough to only depend on fictions of ghosts and gods. As an artist, LiQin Tan connects “Virtual world” and “Reality” on two aspects: 1. Reflect the reality of life by virtual art, which is the common work of all excellent artists. 2. Reflect the virtual world constructed with computer techniques by installation works created by computer modeling and graphics. The latter is one of characteristics of LiQin Tan’s digital artistic works.

LiQin Tan divides modern animation into three categories: industrial animation, experimental and conceptual animation, and fine arts animation. He believes his exploration belongs to the third category-- fine arts animation a new concept he invents and works towards. In his opinion, this animation is a kind of interactive installation art integrated by animation and drawing, sculpture, installation, printing (engraving), and performance art. In the integrated category, animation has become a part of art works, so it should be exhibited and played in various forms.

In real world outside the virtual world created by computer, LiQin Tan externalizes the virtual images by aeropittura, transfer painting, shaping and displays them on wooden plate, steel plate and hide, so installation works are created in this way. For the three pieces of interactive installation works created by LiQin Tan and his students Conceptual Bop of Weight, Wave of Windmill, Eternal Abnormality under Milling, the three agricultural producing tools (weight, windmill, and mill) are inspiration shotpoints, creation starting-point and visual carrier of the works. On the basis of three-dimensional modeling and process control, the works realize interactive effect by computer, electric motor, single-chip processor, rotary encoder, web camera and other modern devices. Supported by these electronic devices and techniques, the implied culture and social meaning of these exteriorly ordinary “producing tool” are magnified, revealing the living condition of people (including farmers who are disadvantaged groups neglected intentionally or unconsciously) , so the works are violently critical and realistic. Moreover, these works integrate conceptual animation and animation installation, partaking of strong feeling of strength, quantity and continuously repeated rhythm. All the animation factors are closely related to the concept, which embody the condition of “unpractical reality” and “unbelievable credibility”.

Through the transformation from creating digital animation works to digital installation works, LiQin Tan carried out dual reflection between “virtual world” and “reality”: reflecting reality by virtual means and reflecting virtual world by real objects. During the process, what LiQin Tan really wanted to express is the living condition of people in reality and indulgence and exhaustion in a world full of material desire; localization of modern technology and inspiration of primitive culture; advantages and disadvantages of Western civilization and new meaning of Eastern culture in the new century.

After going aboard in 1987, LiQin Tan’s artistic creation was added with two spatial threads of China and the West on the basis of two time clues of old times and modern times. On the way of artistic creation according to the cultural map weaved by spatial and time threads, LiQin Tan advanced between several poles. From the transition of artistic creation from 1980s and early 1990s to the new century, LiQin Tan showed many characteristics of artists of his generation and reflected different aspects of modern art in China. Indubitably, his proceeding and exploration is significant for the modern art development of China.

[1] Fine arts, 1986, 12th Issue, P53

[Editor] Elemy Liu