Weng Jianqing:Notes on Abstract Sculpture
Source:Artintern.net Author:Weng Jianqing Date: 2013-11-08 Size:
Sculpture is about thinking and expression of space-time. The space-time is not created by humans, but can be perceived, applied and expressed by them. Its formation and implication are the objects and domains that sculptors have been exploring all the time. Compared to realistic sculpture that documents and represents the form of space, abstract sculpture displays and pursues artists’ concerns of the form of space-time in the nonrepresentational (nonfigurative) realm-and resultantly the manifestation of their perception and aesthetics of natural universe and inner world; in this sense

  Sculpture is about thinking and expression of space-time. The space-time is not created by humans, but can be perceived, applied and expressed by them. Its formation and implication are the objects and domains that sculptors have been exploring all the time. Compared to realistic sculpture that documents and represents the form of space, abstract sculpture displays and pursues artists’ concerns of the form of space-time in the nonrepresentational (nonfigurative) realm-and resultantly the manifestation of their perception and aesthetics of natural universe and inner world; in this sense, abstract sculpture has transcended the naturalist’s and classical realist’s register of outward visual appearance and their melodramatic and thematic elaboration. Thus, the formal language, aesthetic manner and value judgement shaped up by abstract sculpture art have become the significant content and experience of the Modernist art initiated by the Western artists through the early and mid-twentieth century. Abstract art has brought about the extraordinary exploration and achievements in the arenas such as music, literature, painting, sculpture, dance and architecture in the cultural course of nearly a whole century. It has become the manifestation of the important form, thinking and sincerity of the modern cultural creations of human beings.

  The ingression of abstract sculpture into mainland China from Continental Europe happened and still happens concurrently with the reforming and opening in China since the 1980s; and it has since started generating unprecedented influence and motivation in different art fields like sculpture, painting, architecture and design. Also, it has made possible for Chinese artists to conduct experiments, explorations and to gain achievements regarding the styles and methods of observation, apprehension and expression of the world as well as the self. We have to say that this is the “supplementary instruction” and “integration” that are inevitable for Chinese art entering the world of modern art in the context of globalization and modernization. It’s significant that the past 20 years have seen the frequent international exchanges between the Western abstract arts and Chinese contemporary artists’ abstract art works both at home and abroad. Sculptors are no exception. In my view, such necessary “supplementary instruction” and “integration” signify not only the Chinese artists’ learning and self-expansion in respect of the ontology of art, but also the developmental coordination as well as the correspondence between the modernness of Chinese art and culture and the one of Chinese social thoughts. This is a sudden occurrence of a sort of the sceneries of the great epoch.

  Although abstract sculpture’s modernity originated in the West, its nonrealistic perception of space-time form and its expression beyond the representation of reality have already been introduced and applied in the ancient China. The related notions include:

  “Spirit” (“qi yun,” literally, “rhythm of qi”), raised by Gu Kaizhi in his Treatise on Painting; Wei-Jin period;

  “To transcend beyond appearance,” raised by Sikong Tu in the chapter “Energetic and Amorphous”(“xiong hun” ) of his Twenty Four Styles of Poem; Tang Dynasty;

  “Mental realm” (“yijing” ), raised by Wang Changling in his Standards for Poetry; Tang Dynasty;

  “Mental realm,” inherited, developed and highlighted by Wang Guowei in his Worldly Notes on Ci Poetry (“ren jian ci hua) ; the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China.

  All above proposals demonstrate that, since the ancient times, while pondering over and expressing the image, mental image and realm image, Chinese have the outstanding pursuit as well as capacity of agency, transcendence and creativeness. Especially, for us of today, the predecessors’ philosophical enquiries into “appearance” and “mind” and their transcendental aspiration for poetics are both worth revisiting and inheriting. However, the birth of Western abstract sculpture shall not merely be ascribed to the humanities, but also the overall influences exerted by the Industrial Revolution, the scientific and technological revolutions since the eighteenth century; and as well by the developmental achievements of modern mathematics, manufacturing science, mechanics, psychology and psychological medicine, and so on. In this course, the questions and discussion categories such as abstract and empathy, abstract and symbolization, abstract and representation have all brought about significant research and creative achievements in both academic and art fields. All of these hold important epochal significance for the development of natural science, social science and art study.

  At present, the Chinese sculpture art has leaped a huge step forward and gained her status and influence worldwide. But relatively speaking, the Chinese abstract sculpture is still among the latecomers- even later than the abstract painting-if counting in its earliest presentation (from 1930s to1950s, Mr. Wu Dayu’s abstract paintings had already been taught and exhibited in China). There are folds of reasons for being late: first, prior to the beginning of the twentieth century, the traditional Chinese sculpture had not yet detached from the attributes and basic facts of the mausoleum, religious and narrative sculptures; second, the backward industrialization, urbanization and modernization of entire culture could not offer the fundamental social condition for modern sculpture’s multiplied and multi-dimensioned developments; third, due to the general backwardness and conservativeness of modern Chinese architecture and design culture, there had been this or other obstacles for modern Chinese sculpture to transform and breakthrough itself; fourth, due to the deficiency of reform and multiplied cultivation in the art education and in the civic modern aesthetic culture, the absolutely majority of the public, including those intellectuals who had never received modern art education, had rare opportunities as well as great difficulties to approach and appreciate the abstract art and abstract sculpture. However, as time advances forward, the Chinese art education as well as the art creation have changed along with the evolution of the material and the cultural environments. Now, there are increasingly more artists as well as everyman have got the chances to study, create and appreciate abstract art, and discovered the artistic experience and aesthetic joys they never had before. We have to say that, this is a significant process of evolution and leap as we have stridden across in the merely 30 years the art field that we have never entered initiatively in the past thousand years. Its importance is far greater than the ones of the topics like whether or not sculpture is abstract, or, whether or not sculpture is possible to be abstract.

  In my view, everyone is the slave of his own idea, however, once he (she) transcended their own established recognition it becomes possible for them to open up a new vision. So does the thinking, the action, the art and the life. We will know much better how to appreciate, to embrace and to understand the infiniteness of the world only when we no longer attempt to distinguish the ancient and the modern, the Western and the Eastern, representational art and abstract art, for asserting which it better, which is greater and which is superior. Let’s run into each other in the exhibition rooms of this exhibition on abstract sculpture, in the uncommonness contributed by the artists, then calm down, wander about freely in it in concert with the rhythms of our breaths and heart.

  24 July 2013, Beijing



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