The Expanding boundary Author:Yi Ying Date: 2011-10-19 Size:
China had experienced earthshaking changes since the policy of reformation and opening implemented 30 years ago and so had the Chinese sculpture art if we look back on its developing process.

China had experienced earthshaking changes since the policy of reformation and opening implemented 30 years ago and so had the Chinese sculpture art if we look back on its developing process.

In the beginning, the changes were not obvious. The Cultural Revolution did great damage to the sculpture traditions in New China. The main task for the sculptures in the initial stage of the new period is to restore the realism tradition. The essence of realism is to reflect the reality as it is, however, the reality is experienced and comprehend by subjects and different subjects have different reality experiences and comprehensions, which is the diversity of realism when reflected on sculpture. The diversities of realism include the various choices of subject matters, dealings of forms and the mutations of themes. Although the leader subject matter and the images of workers, peasants and soldiers still make a great proportion, there is a growing increase of non-politic subject mattes, which are more suitable for the dealings of images and expressions of beauty. The sculpture had taken a modern change since the early periods of 80s, which is directly resulted from the reform and opening up to the outside world policy. The western modern art was brought in and the artists sought after the emancipation of minds, freedom of creation, laid stress on self-expression and abandoned the traditional patterns. The earliest sculptures that embodied the modern characteristics, like the realism sculptures, were created by a group of old artists. The initial trend can be called primitivism. Different from the rustic realism in painting, the primitivism in sculpture possesses an obvious formalism characteristic and the sources of the form are mainly from the country and originality. The forms derived from the people, folk customs and local cultures not only found the lost human nature but also expressed the innocent and original beauty, which are exactly the things that got lost in the arts for politics’ sake era. The concept of primitivism come from the western modern art, but the resources of form are rooted in the land of China, which seems like an implication that the China’s contemporary sculpture had been developing among the relations of reform and opening and the Chinese way throughout the whole process.

The influences of western modern sculpture were beginning to show up in the middle periods of 80s. It was an audacious experiment carried out first by the students of art institutions. The modernist sculpture specifically denotes the abstract or non-figurative sculpture with geometrical form and based on metal materials in the modern art period. We could say the abstract sculpture experiments are daring and amazing, but they were more about imitation without the Chinese characteristics and received lots of criticize in theory. Still, they have practical meanings. On one hand, they brought far-reaching impact on the later public sculptures. In the large scale city building constructions in the 90s, the public sculptures bloomed everywhere and with abstract sculpture as the main part, it’s indispensable with the experiments and promotions of abstract sculpture in the 80s. On the other hand, abstract art being the most important symbol of the western modern art, its brought in and following up demonstrated the most radical art trend in China. It’s of significant importance for breaking through the fetters of traditional concepts and promoting contemporary art in an all-round way. It’s worth noticing that the western art did not influence China as its original developing process did. The various ideological trends and schools formed in hundreds of years poured into China all together and we accepted them simultaneously, which is especially important for sculpture, for the abstract sculpture and installation almost took place at the same time. Strictly speaking, the installation art belongs to the post-modern period, although the Dadaism can be said to be the forerunner of installation. The combination of sculpture and installation is an important development in China’s contemporary sculpture. The abstract sculpture employs raw material, especially metal materials, so even with the audacious experiments, the geometrical abstract structure is hard to jump out of the western circle. One of the important concepts of installation is ready-made, which contain the potential functions besides its forms. The Chinese artists recognized the limits of abstract sculpture in meaning and began to search for more meaningful ways of expression. In the late 80s and early 90s, the combination of those two parts led to the breakthrough of the sculpture concept. Ready-made is both material and goods and goods themselves contain the meanings of tradition and culture. The meanings have shifted when woods, stones and metal materials become abstract, for woods (resident, furniture) and stones (garden) enjoy special meanings in the Chinese culture. The ready-made was originated in Dadaism, as the representation of consumption and public culture in Pop Art, its diversion contributed to the two transitions in china’s contemporary sculpture. Firstly, the sculpture is free from the traditional easel form, beginning to develop in an open space; secondly, it got rid of the simple imitation of the western modern art, gradually forming the Chinese way of contemporary sculpture, which is not only presented in the forms but also profoundly reflected in the use of materials and expressions of themes.

The 90s is an important transitional period. The transition from sculpture to sculpture-materials changed the outlook of the China’s sculpture in 2000 and the traditional concept of sculpture as well. The diversity of sculpture form not only is the development of sculpture language but also provided the possibilities of reflecting reality and breaking into the contemporary culture. Another important phenomenon in the 90s is the large scale development of public sculpture which is related with the speedy development of china’s economy. On one hand, the demand of city constructions and on the other hand, the large capital input. The public sculpture itself doesn’t produce more innovative sculpture languages. It’s either traditional commemorative style or styling abstractions. The biggest inspiration given by public art to contemporary art is the spatiality of sculpture, such as the new words of “environment”, “happening”, “behavior”, “installation” getting into the field of sculpture, expanding the concept of sculpture greatly and allowing it to go outdoors from indoors, emerging with the reality. The direct involvement of ordinary viewers makes the sculpture no longer the independent things on shelves but more closely linked with the social lives. The sculpture is embracing more ordinary, mundane, vulgar or daily materials and the social relations that those materials subordinated to are responding to art at various levels of city, environment, society and politics, etc. sculpture is no longer the products of the workshops, nor exhibited at a fixed space or spot for a long time, but rather at the historical site, the streets of cities, symbolic places and even private living spaces. Its interactions speak for itself.

The effect of figurative sculpture derived form the realism sculpture and school traditions in contemporary sculpture is a distinguishing feature in China’s contemporary sculpture. In form, the figurative sculpture prefers “image sculpture”, “commodity sculpture”, reflecting the strong influences of consumption culture and the spiritual plights of people in the consumption or contemporary society. What in conformity are the combination of figurative sculpture and installation, environment and even the images; technically the combination of the traditional exercises of college and commercial images. Doubtlessly, the figurative sculpture keep the disputes of the controversial sculpture boundary problem at bay, but it seems hard to imagine how the most creative and functional sculpture would keep expanding its boundary in light of its history.

[Editor] 马西