Foreword to“Transcend the Boundaries” Author:Yifei Gan Date: 2012-12-08 Size:
The sublimation of life has to undergo different phases. In the process of transforming from a lower stage to a higher stage, man must go beyond countless boundaries. To be free from the circulation of reincarnation and pursue eternity, man must transcend himself. This is the way artists and art evolves.

  The sublimation of life has to undergo different phases. In the process of transforming from a lower stage to a higher stage, man must go beyond countless boundaries. To be free from the circulation of reincarnation and pursue eternity, man must transcend himself. This is the way artists and art evolves.

  Against the background of global cultural integration and the conflict between traditional values and contemporary culture, China has entered a dramatic transition period in which changes and agonies brought by rapidly developing material wealth and comparatively lagging cultural and moral development are everywhere to be seen. Since China carried out its "Open and Reform" policy 30 years ago, China has turned into a post-modern culture. Official ideology is fading away, political authority has been undermined and the economic system has been brought into a global capital market system — for Chinese society, it is an unusually complicated and delicate historical moment. Understanding these social, cultural and environmental changes from a positive perspective, we can see that we are enjoying the freedom and joy of gradually casting off the yoke of the old system, and we are participating in the process of shaping a rational people-oriented society, liberating productivity and promoting creative thinking. The development of culture and art also gains a comparatively broader space. Consequently, China's culture and society are undergoing great changes. However, if we observe today’s China from a negative angle, we can see that, without the influence of morality, material desires cause shocking alienation of humanity, and, without close vigilance, the highly centralized power may damage social justice severely. The artist interprets and reacts to the “agonies of adolescence” of these social transformations in different ways. While senior artists have generally taken a social criticism stand, most of artists of the post-80s generation focus on pursuing personal freedom, paying close attention to individual life experience and tending to respond to the macroscopic social transformations with microscopic personal experiences. Their paintings put more emphasis on expressing vitality, the joy and confusion of youth. Therefore, “X Generation,” “the Cruelties of Youth,” and “Cartoon Generation” . . . these art forms of the “Cenozoic era” were once the labels of the post-80s artists in Chinese contemporary art circle, and became a part of the pathological section of China’s social culture in this transitional period. Moreover, they also played the role of an essential link in the ecological chain of Chinese contemporary art world in the post-80 era.

  Certainly, the formation of the “Cenozoic era” is natural, especially against the background of cross-century globalization. On the one hand, the specific cultural environment in China allows the young artists to appreciate the general trend that is full of liberal and independent spirit. On the other hand, the invisible restrictions of the existing official political system put them in an awkward situation. Without the historical pathos possessed by senior artists, the post-80s artists are full of youthful, emotional and energetic power. Therefore, the most reasonable choice for them is to hide in their comfort zone and express their personal joys and sorrows through the form of pop culture which they are familiar with, venting the rebelliousness of youth. As the fresh blood of Chinese contemporary art, these artists create works that are brimming with dazzling youthfulness, passion and intelligence that enables them to bloom in pop culture. However, “Cartoon Generation” and other forms of “Cenozoic era” remained content with shallow "fast-food culture", and are unable to reflect the social reality. Therefore, they gradually lost the driving force for further development. As a result, the brightly colored signs of the “Cenozoic era” were soon bogged down in mannerism and commercialism—the once hot “present continuous tense” now cools down and becomes “past tense”—and are transcended by most of the young artists.

  In “Transcend the Boundaries" - Chinese Contemporary Art Invitational Exhibition, these artists are those who go beyond the boundaries in pursuit of innovation to achieve self-transcendence and gain access to the frontiers of art. They are mostly the post-80s generation, who lived through the waves of the “Cenozoic era.” Most of them graduated from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing, China, the breeding ground of the “Cartoon Generation.” Nevertheless, by broadening their life experiences, expanding their horizons and advancing to a higher ground for artistic establishment, these artists have begun to transcend themselves and initiate the transformation of their art. We find that these artists have put in a lot of effort to achieving their self-transcendence, as evidenced by art works in this exhibition.

  Zen Yang, a Master of Fine Arts graduate from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, probes into the social problems with amused defiance and eulogizes passion for life. By using extremely original and philosophical visual elements, he interprets modern people’s struggling with reality and dream, spirit and body. Similar to the other artists in the exhibition, he does not regard the agitated style of “Cartoon Generation” as a burden. On the contrary, he makes use of its spirit of freedom to achieve his self-transcendence. Huang Lin, a schoolmate of Zen Yang, establishes his unique style by applying abstract art forms. The wild, anomalous brushwork in his paintings is like vehement rock and roll, confiding to the viewers his worry about social reality and anxiety in his heart. Hu Ling, who also demonstrates abstract artistic style in her works, graduated from the China Academy of Fine Art, Hangzhou, China, and earned her master’s degree from the Berlin University of Art, Berlin, Germany. Her paintings have calm and dignified colors, with compositions combining rational layout and emotional expression. The paintings of Du Haijun and Chen Xianhui seem to associate with real life more directly, and pay more attention to common people’s living condition. They both adopt residential buildings common in China as the subject of their paintings, in which every stroke tells the stories inside these buildings. The buildings depicted by Du Haijun are closer to the ordinary living state: the windows arranged in lines reveal a realistic panorama of Chinese people’s life. Although an individual’s privacy is rather limited in the community emphasizing collectivity, in the windows of these well-organized buildings, modern tragedies and comedies are staged. Unconsciously, artists and viewers play the role of a “peeping Tom.” In Chen Xianhui’s paintings, sceneries are more dramatic—the old, decaying residential buildings are creepy. It seems that the flames blazing out from the window in “No. 10, Tuanjie Road” and a ray of orange setting sun in “Rear Window” cannot arouse the dwellers’ fear or concern. Perhaps those who live in these buildings are familiar with such accidents and take them for a part of their daily life, yet these dramatic scenes keep the viewers in suspense and leave room for their imagination. Zhao Yang’s paintings are more inclined to demonstrate the conflicts between innocence and chaotic reality in a surreal, dreamy, poetic way. In his “Fallen Angel,” we see naive school girls accompanied by voguish girls in bikini. They look like butterflies or other insects, roaming among flowers and willows. They look like little fairies, floating in the turbid world, bringing the spectators to their wonderland to share their happiness and bewilderment. Cai Huanhui and Qin Qing show refined skills in their works. Their handling of light, color and the brushwork is outstanding. While Qin Qing likes surreal scenery, Cai Huanhui prefers still life painting. They both combine real and virtual images, creating suspense for the viewers, extending the contents of their paintings freely. While Cai Huanhui’s works primarily show a style that blends classical painting flavors with philosophic contemplation, Qin Qing’s paintings let the viewers’ thoughts drift in a cold, lonely world by using the sharp contrast of light and color and displaying a montage of images. Li Meng’s “Courtyard Series” employ more Western painting techniques to depict graceful Chinese pastoral stories. The beautiful pictures diffuse the aroma of Chinese traditional literati paintings with their color and composition rich in oriental aesthetic significance. Li Meng makes an effort to blend Western and Eastern painting techniques in his works. There are many possibilities open to his experiment. Shen Hua depicts the vulnerable groups. He creates simple, solid images in “Rural Laborer” and “Women in Town” by using clumsy, complicated brushwork in the hope that these paintings can arouse concern and sympathy for those at the very bottom of the society. It is hard to find the dazzling colors and brilliant brushwork, but we can see humanity from the clumsy, unadorned images. The implication of feminism is obvious in the paintings by Wu Shuang, an artist who claims that she is not a feminist. Women’s life experiences in her works cannot be experienced by male artists. Most of her works focus on the female’s physiological and psychological experiences. By using the skills of Surrealistic Art, she exquisitely depicts the female’s complicated physiological and psychological activities and conflicts in “Meet the Moon of Each Day.” Her paintings also answer a basic question of art, that is, how to convey the value and significance of life in a vivid and poetic way. The image of “ghost,” dreamy landscape and elongated horizontal composition in her paintings show the influence of Post-Impressionist Gauguin. Nie Zhengjie’s “Being,” a painting that won the John Moores Painting Prize China in Liverpool, England, is a great success that marks his casting off “Cartoon Generation.” His new works successfully break away from stylized big kids-like cartoon heads in his early works, and turn from self-entertainment to the concern of general social problems. His quest for human dignity and the value of existence in “Being” is a good example. In his paintings, the images of men without heads represent those who are intentionally or passively deprived of their right to think. These figures urge the viewers to pay attention to the social problems existing in China today. Therefore, his paintings are endowed with obvious social criticism. Nie Zhengjie’s transformation of his art coincides with contemporary art’s appeal for the representation of society and people. Consequently, he gets close to the ontology of art. He has matured in his transition of style, achieves self-transcendence and sets an example for the artists of “Cartoon Generation” to pursue further development.

  As we know, the spirit of avant-garde, innovation and independence are the groundwork for the eternal spirit of art. They are also the banners under which Chinese contemporary art moves forward. I believe this exhibition offers a stage for the young Chinese artists to show these qualities, to pursue new possibilities for the development of Chinese contemporary art, to look for the presentation of a new context of our epoch and to explore more frontiers, making the journey of pursuing the perfection of life and advancing art as a "present progressive tense," or an ongoing process without an end in pursuit of eternity.

[Editor] 常霞