Three Interpretations of “Origin” Author:Wu Hong Date: 2012-12-04 Size:
“Tracing the Origin”, a significant visual cultural event organized by Chinese American artist and curator Gan Yifei, adopts the natural and cultural landscape of Da Liang mountain and Lu Gu lake as its subject matter. The activities include on-site drawing and painting, and studying

“Tracing the Origin”, a significant visual cultural event organized by Chinese American artist and curator Gan Yifei, adopts the natural and cultural landscape of Da Liang mountain and Lu Gu lake as its subject matter. The activities include on-site drawing and painting, and studying of folk art and local culture. Some of the artists involved in this event reside abroad and some young and middle-aged artists enliven the art circle in China. Therefore, if we regard this event as a landscape painting tour, our understanding of it will be too shallow. In fact, we shall see the essence of this project is more likely to be rendered as acts of art if we take the scope of this event as a cultural object. Reflecting the discussion above, I regard it as a visual cultural event that can be interpreted from three angles: visual, cultural and spiritual.

First, in order to probe into the meaning of “origin” in the sense of visual culture, we might as well discuss this issue by putting it in the context of contemporary art. It seems that recently conceptualization and image making in contemporary art have enticed artists away from their direct response from the reality. Of course, we certainly no longer understand the means of presenting visual art merely as “representing” what we see. However, the artists confront nature directly not to represent nature in a simple and passive way, but to stimulate our paralyzed sensory organs which have been fed up with the form of concept to concept, making the viewer’s visual experience no longer merely a procedure of reasoning and deducing conceptions and images. Indeed, this activity greatly liberates our visual experiential process, which enables us to go beyond the experience and the logic of the over-interpreted scheme of contemporary art, and to rediscover man’s value in nature. Therefore, I believe the volume of the paintings in this activity is not an important matter. The point is whether the artists could explore possibilities of new visual experience or not, and that is where the significance of this event essentially lies. From the preliminary planning and the discussions organized in this event, the curator and organizers obviously have endowed it with the sense of “visual study”; consequently this event surpasses ordinary painting tour. The artists came here with a task, and they reflected on relevant issues during the activity. Therefore, we shall reveal the meaning and value of the paintings presented in the exhibition from the perspective of “visual study”.

Secondly,it was in 1980’s that the Daliang mountainous region aroused intense interest in the art communities. As a result, a batch of artistic and literary works reflected the culture of this region. What caused this cultural phenomenon? Personally, I believe that due to the exotic “scene” which made the artists estrange from normal environment, the artists’ creativity and artistic expressive force then could be greatly stimulated, thereby they could break away from the yoke of the old rules in terms of technique and conception innovation. Daliang mountain is important to Chinese artists just as Tahiti is important to Gorgon. In the context of cultural globalization, the artists who are familiar with urban life get used to think about the same questions against the same cultural background. So, after placing our way of thinking in a cultural context which is different from ours, can the artists cast off the existing cultural value judgment to reactivate their perceptivity and subjectivity that lie deep in their minds? This is a problem to be resolved in this project. So in terms of culture, “tracing the origin” is a journey to return and to rediscover one’s innermost being.

Third, the trend of contemporary art is alienated as a subjective sweeping narrative. On the surface, the artists are more likely to be public intellectuals; however, they gradually become aloof from humanistic care which seems to be at a “low level”. As a result, for the artists, contemporary art actually has become an artificial intellectual show and marketing strategy. Today, Daliang mountainous region still possesses its unadorned folk custom and harsh living environment. Can it be a moral yardstick to interrogate the spirit of the “civilized man” who knows too well the surviving strategy in cities? In terms of the performance of the artists in this event, at first they felt exited about the natural scenery, and then they displayed great initiative in investigating and experiencing the impoverished living condition here. Thus, this art study tour has been turned into a journey of purifying our souls. At this point, I firmly believe that the significance and objectives of this event are not merely demonstrated in the paintings in the exhibition, but in its invaluable influence on our spirit in the days to come.

In the planning documents, Mr. Gan Yifei especially attaches emphasis on the activity’s far-reaching significance to the overseas artists who are far away from their native culture and experience. I believe it can be the same with us—the city dwellers who have been contented with urban life and experience for a long time. The importance of “tracing the origin” not only lies in our meditation on arts, but also in our spiritual world.

Nov. 28. 2012

[Editor] 马西