The Scenery Ahead – Shi Pi's Paintings Author:Lan Qingwei Date: 2013-11-22 Size:
Landscape is extremely familiar to people. In the art history of the west, landscape painting has a unique status. Those who are familiar with art history probably are attracted by the light and shadow of landscape created by impressionism artists.

Landscape is extremely familiar to people. In the art history of the west, landscape painting has a unique status. Those who are familiar with art history probably are attracted by the light and shadow of landscape created by impressionism artists. It is not accidental because technological progresses offer artist the opportunity to paint outdoors. When artists go out of their painting rooms, their main task becomes truly painting what they see. Today, when we appreciate Cathedrale de Rouen created by Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) in the museum, we feel that the landscape is not the main part of the painting because some differences of some factors including medium will make the landscape painted through the same methods look different.

However, as an art creation method, painting from life is still adopted by many painters. So does Shi Pi. He loves to drive through the city to paint from life. But what he paints is not traditional landscape but the reality he sees. When graduating from The Art College of Guizhou University with major in oil painting in 1998, Shi Pi had mastered painting technique languages and modeling ability. As early as when he was a junior school student, painting had become a natural part of Shi Pi’s daily life, just like eating and sleeping. What he saw in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou was totally new for the young man, who was born in Liping, Guizhou. Many years later, he still often mentions what he saw during the period when he was studying in the university. In terms of cold winter, “sparse people and the doggy at the corner of wall quickly disappeared from his sight; wrecked teaching buildings and dormitories seemed extraordinarily warm; smoke came out of the chimney of boiler room; the cart in iron sheet of that was used to sell steamed buns with stuffing silently stood at the corner of the wall and it seemed that the cart also felt the hardship in life; in the distance, the red brick wall of the 1st prison stood; all of these looked like trying to tell me something.” The truth of the past has been decorated continuously by memories; the distance between the past and now is removed. “The then” mentioned today seems to have more features of that age than the real “then”.

It was in the year when he graduated that Shi Pi was selected to participate in “Sisyphus Exhibition for Nominated Young Artists”. The nomination committee of the exhibition included Dong Kejun, Pu Guochang, Cao Qiongde, etc. and Dong Zhong worked as a planner for it. For a student who studied in remote Guiyang, the opportunity was very precious and proved that Shi Pi had acquired relatively outstanding painting skills at that time. That is why we think that his choice, giving up the opportunity to work in his hometown and staying in Guiyang as a professional artist, was reasonable. After graduation, Shi Pi rented a 12 square meters house in an alley near his university, where he painted as well as designed commercially for his livelihood. Then, Guiyang was undergoing large-scale urban construction and housing demolitions were very common. After 3 relocations, he got a new painting room that still could not escape demolition. His works often were damaged during removal. It left Shi Pi physically and emotionally drained. He decided to rent a painting room in Guiyang Art Museum because it was “impossible to remove the building”. Although the museum was located in a business zone and the rent was high, it was still in great demand and there was no available room in the building. When Shi Pi searched for a proper location for his painting room, he met an acquaintance - Dong Zhong. After a casual conversation, Shi Pi was attracted by “Urban Parts” art zone that was being planned by Dong Zhong and became a member of it. After joining the zone, Shi Pi became a professional artist and got confidants who could exchange with and listen to his thoughts about painting, but the icy city gave him an endless sense of strange.

In around 2007, Shi Pi completed his “Empty-City Ruse” series, which showed his personal feeling by contrasting cold cities. Works of “Empty-City Ruse” series are full of hoary and obsolete old buildings. It seems as if they were fighting against the process of modern urbanization with their long history. There were traces of people Who used to live in the buildings, however, nobody was inside. He wants to show life and decay, the normal and the abnormal by presenting the audience an uninhabited scene and creating a silent but attractive atmosphere, which is terrific! In his paintings, The buildings make the empty city vivid, which is familiar to people. And the most beautiful city without people is nothing but a ruin.

The urbanization process stimulated Shi Pi’s nerves. In his later “Sand Table” series, he replaces models of modern buildings in the sand tables in the sales office with old houses. Those houses are dilapidated, but they are standing firmly. The overhead view of the replaced and dislocated “sand tables” is presented in front of the audience, and the plants next to the houses are showing the audience the power of life. Later, when he was drawing outside one day, an old woman told that the houses built in 1950s to 1960s were beautiful, but they were going to be demolished. He felt sad for that, and thought of his childhood in an old house. Later, he chose to go and see old houses in “Empty-City Ruse”. The “Scenery Ahead” attracted him to create the “house” series. The old houses in his paintings are dilapidated and obsolete; however, different from “Empty-City Ruse”, although there are no people on the streets, every room of the buildings shows signs of “life”. People live there, enjoying what is called ‘normal life’. “This scene brought back my childhood memories. When I was a little boy, I lived in a small single-storey house. The house was so quiet that even sounds of mice eating and running in the kitchen could be heard. Under the faint moonlight, the house was warm and comfortable, and people fell asleep very early. In today’s busy and noisy city, I cannot find such a house anymore.”

In his latest work The Night, he is not limited by artistic languages, but respects his angle of observation. He expresses his feelings in a direct way and the old houses at night seem to indicate their destinies. The lights in the rooms are represented in an unorganized way, and empty streets become full of life. He pays more attention to scenes that look as if something “happened just now”. Those images and scenes at night recall the loneliness that is haunting us. Shi Pi calls those works “Impressions of My House at Night”. Perhaps only in the silence of the night can people meditate freely, since the city always overshadows people’s sights in the day. Only the Scenery ahead can bring back our memories of the past.

1 On the Talking Red Brick Wall in Empty- City Ruse by Shi Pi.

2 Memories of Whether or Not to Fade Awau by Shi Pi, July 1, 2012.

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[Editor] 纪晓棠