Cao Weiguo’s Big Duck
Source:Artintern.net Author: Li Wanfeng Date: 2013-08-14 Size:
I’m not willing to say that Cao Weiguo’s ducks are symbols of a sort, but I can’t help saying that based on my mediocre understanding, those ducks symbolize noise both in the inner heart and the external world, the minute and the huge, the wise and the foolish, those that can be expressed in words or can’t be expressed in words, at least absolutely not peaceful, especially when the ducks are with the Bodhisattva that don’t give me a solemn, respectful feeling, but an extreme tired and unbearable feeling that has caught hold of me tightly.

  I

  I’m not willing to say that Cao Weiguo’s ducks are symbols of a sort, but I can’t help saying that based on my mediocre understanding, those ducks symbolize noise both in the inner heart and the external world, the minute and the huge, the wise and the foolish, those that can be expressed in words or can’t be expressed in words, at least absolutely not peaceful, especially when the ducks are with the Bodhisattva that don’t give me a solemn, respectful feeling, but an extreme tired and unbearable feeling that has caught hold of me tightly. This is just like what Lu Xun once talked of A Dream of the Red Mansion that “the scribe finds Yi Jing, but the moralist finds the obscene…..”, which is relevant to the sentence that has been quoted to the extreme: “A thousand readers see a thousand Hamlets”. Whoever you are, you can see yourself in Cao Weiguo’s paintings.

  Last year when Cao Weiguo was painting this batch of works, I wrote some words which go like this: “the ducks are confronted with a world in disorder.. Order is already not something good, nothing is but anything good, it’s fitting and proper not to care a scrap, to be desperate is just equal to be free, and willing to be indifferent is to be happy enough, why just do what you want to do? But this is only an excuse, which is the same like any other excuses that can persuade part of yourself all the time, can persuade all yourself in some time, but can’t persuade all yourself all the time. Many of yourselves fall apart from each other and don’t know what course to follow. Every self is a lonely empire that is thickheaded and adherent to prejudice.”

  Now it can be seen that I’m merely saying myself but not Cao Weiguo’s paintings. At that time I was over-elaborating. What I said is surely erroneous. It’s like that we can’t touch the nature of weeds – the divine force that created the universe no matter how we discuss a piece of weed. But we must admit the divine force can enable us see ourselves, especially our foolishness.

  II

  The reason why I say Cao Weiguo is like a duck is primarily that I want to resort to trickery to make it easy for me to understand; secondly that I want to remind myself not to ignore the sense of humor in Cao Weiguo’s works even though it is on pins and needles, and more and more on thorns; thirdly that I wish to find a point, not starting from myself but from the painter himself. All of these, however, are meaningless, as meaningless as ducks appear to be. Noise will always come to calm, but calm can hardly make up anything. In the final analysis, ducks are no different from dogshit, and no different from mankind who digs his own grave. Therefore, that I say Cao Weiguo is a big duck is not a joke at all as he is really a duck, and dogshit as well as a human being. But Cao Weiguo’s paintings and himself are different from those stuff. His paintings have won independence of a sort, like the sky between existence and non-existence, between meaningfulness and meaninglessness, as remains of nothingness but no nothingness.

  III

  Ducks are in the derogatory sense that carry bad status quo and attempt. I seem to have forgotten the aroma of sweet-skinned ducks and the line of Su Dongpo’s poem “the duck knows first when the river becomes warm in spring”.

  Ducks used to be eaten off by me with great relish. In Chengdu, gone are the days when we used to drink wine with sweet-skinned ducks and the friends with whom I used to drink wine with the sweet-skinned ducks are bustling in and out in different corners of the world. We are not only sacrificial lambs of the times but are also sacrificing other people and things. As butchers of ducks, we are sinful, but we are actually exchanging more joy and content with that life. We hope to do something but in vain, leave something behind. Buddha says all living creatures suffer bitter life, but He is amidst the living creatures. Finding nowhere to escape is one of the few ways that can be realized.

  “The duck knows first when the river becomes warm in spring” is a conclusion of the classic poetic flavor. Of course, nowadays, class poetry has all gone, bucolic mountains and rivers appear are occasionally as if being chased by a corpse coming to life. Like all the past things that no long exist. For example, the orderly farming morality or even the beautiful superficial appearance are all gone. We only possess the present, but the present is such a fragile thing. At the outset, I believe only love fell into ruin and youth was to go to the grave, but now it proves a sheer blunder.

  IV

  Cao Weiguo painted Buddha images and women before. Now he paints ducks, of which I don’t know if there is a mystery. What I know is that Cao Weiguo is making arduous efforts although it will be known that it is done or meaningless. Cao Weiguo is trying to pull something like faith down from the altar, and perhaps not he who is pulling, but he is watching others to pull, when he document the scene in his own way. What is more possible is that Cao Weiguo takes the moment to add something upon the absurdity of the era, saying to himself: how meaningless, which is overheard by others, whereby coming to be these works that we see before our eyes.

  There is another possibility that Cao Weiguo has seen many unbearable things somewhere, so he took some of the body and soul out to plaster on the canvas curtly. On completing his finishing touches, he was still sleepy like night-walking and went back to sleep after he finished them. But I can’t guess who slept by Cao Weiguo and what he dreamed and what he did in his dream. It is imaginable that a body neither fat or thin lying there does look as if nothing had happened, unperturbed. In reality, it may be really so.

  At this moment, the Buddha on the canvas will see Cao Weiguo’s misery, who forgives his persistence but he knows nothing of it.

  He knows it, however.

  He may know more than that.

  But not much.

  So do the ducks.

  V

  There is one more kind of ducks in the world, which are Cao Weiguo’s ducks. We can also say that there is one more duck, that is Cao Weiguo.

  April 8, 2013 in Beijing

  (Li Wanfeng: Writer)

[Editor] 常霞

    Artintern