A Warm Story – Shi Pi’s Paintings
Source:Artintern.net Author:Lu Peng Date: 2013-11-22 Size:
The sky is blue generally, but the city under it seems gloomy and spiritless. Actually, the city is empty and the only life is the painter who is reflected by the stainless steel ball above the center of the painting.

The sky is blue generally, but the city under it seems gloomy and spiritless. Actually, the city is empty and the only life is the painter who is reflected by the stainless steel ball above the center of the painting. The city looks defeated and the looks of architectures here are too young to reveal the length of history. Such a scene can easily produce a feeling of nihility in people’s heart; although the canopy of fast food stores and bars offer some new content of life and commercial balloons even fly in the sky, downfall and desert are still the sad keynotes of the city. The reality is not stable and the characters are distorted and lost. That is what is left on people by the Steel Ball and Street View that was created by Shi Pi in 1999.

After entering into the society, I found myself alone in a world of urban streets, cold glass buildings, and argentous foot bridges. I squatted beside the sidewalk felt exhausted. Only the stainless steel ball reminded me of my existence … (Memories of Whether or Not to Fade Away by Shi Pi)

Shi Pi is an emotional painter and the urban environment of Guiyang becomes a mirror for him to feel life. According to his statement, it is his real living environment. Such an environment cannot help Shi Pi work out an elated world. The painting Ring Overpass at the Crossroad he created in 2000 shows the scenery of a modern city but no vitality can be felt. If you once went to Guiyang or any other city in southwestern China, you will feel that is exactly right. Nothing is more close to the reality than this kind of abnormal scenery , It is often cloudy and rainy in southwestern China,, and those ordinary materials and average techniques applied in architectures cannot resist moist and dust. That is why those architectures are of low-quality and low-vitality. People living in such an environment can feel those declines; their hearts will also be eroded.

However, most Chinese people hold such a life attitude: Nobody can escape from fate. “I unwittingly get myself integrated with urban life and gradually have some new cognitions and feelings about cities: With ‘feasting and revelry, singing and dancing to extol the good times, and Hequn Road crowded with people and vehicles at night’, I am also raising a glass… Therefore, my work starts to vary with my feelings, from the beginning perspective of individual feelings and visions to the people’s living condition and daily life in society.” (Memories of Whether or Not to Fade Away by Shi Pi)

In fact, the tradition of feeling life and reality started among young artists in southwestern China since 1978. At that time, “Scar Art” and the “Life-stream” developed out of the reflection on history and reality. Following such logic, the ’85 Art Phenomenon emerged in the middle 1980s. With all modernism methods embraced by people for their inner demands, a roaring modernism movement started.

The development of market-oriented economy helped the post-modern orientation that emerged in the late 1980s fully develop in the 1990s. Artists and critics were accustomed to using contemporary art to express the art phenomenon that has got rid of modernism in terms of concept and thinking. They stressed the role of concept and to some degree rejected the contingency and sentimental emotion of modernism. Such a phenomenon caused that people threw doubt upon the value of those art practices that urgently required paintbrush. However, as early as in 1917, Marcel Duchamp released his porcelain urinal in the market; Andy Warhol’s existing commodity packages started to emerge in art galleries in 1964. How should Post-modernism Art(or Contemporary Art)in the west after that be judged? People remember clearly that the New-Expressionism of Germany had made great noise in the 1980s. So they don’t suspect that painting won’t lose its meaning due to the appearance of a new opinion, material or action. After the New-Expressionism, the contemporary art of the west has lost its leading vigor. And people are more aware of the relationship between art and the special context in which it is produced. In China, the unenlightened concepts of the agricultural society, the soil for the ideology of socialism, and the early and post-capitalism phenomena appeared at the same time. People can find the feature of every age in the daily life of this country. Therefore, truly experiencing this age and reality is a mission that artists of today cannot avoid. But there is no limit to how to treat it and express oneself.

The truth is, no matter how ugly and embarrassing this city or reality is, Shi Pi still likes this environment. He combines happy memories and desires for imagination with reality. He admits that his failure is due to time and other reasons, but he would rather portray sweet indoor life (Space in 1999) or illusions under the moonlight (Homesick in the Moonlight in 2008), and he dramatizes the environment that he sees (Toys Lifted by the Remote Controlled Aircraft in 2012). Shi Pi wrote about his works of “Impressions of My Home at Night”:

...... It was getting dark, and nearby street lights turned on. Red, green and blue neon lamps on tall buildings in the distance were busy changing their colors. Their lights shined on this dilapidated red brick building, overwhelming it in the hustle and bustle of the city. At that time, I could see glimmers throught the windows of the building. This scene was familiar to me and called 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. That night, I drew several drafts to collect today’s findings and feelings when I sketched outside today. I want to reinterpret childhood’s direct and simple observations by painting. It was not until the end 2011 when I drew them on my canvas with the help of the drafts. After fermenting for more than a year, I was eager to express them. After drawing small pieces of paintings, the impression gradually became clear. (Memories of Whether or Not to Fade Away by Shi Pi)

In the work On the Talking Red Brick Wall in Empty-City Ruse (2007), Shi Pi wrote about his attitudes towards what he saw:

The old houses in the picture become so hoary and old through the years. They know that they will gradually disappear in modern urbanization… I still appreciate their plain and honesty. I do not want to talk too much about modern architectures, in a word, they are “superficial”.

The style of Shi Pi’s paintings is like expressionism advocated by Bergmann: people may believe what they see, but what they see is so often wrong that artists have to show what is true through art. Thus, changed shapes, exaggerated colors, and dramatic composition of pictures are used to show what is true in their minds. It not only comes from what they see, but also what is filtered in their heart, and from vivid descriptions of the environment around them. Shi’s works are full of images and symbols of daily life, and those symbols and texts are part of the portrait of this era that he cannot escape from, so he has to observe them and portray them in his paintings. Although there are not innovative ideas in his works, he presents us a sweet story of this era that people likes to read. We believe this story - even if it is a fragment – it is a valuable evidence of this era and a great achievement for him, a young artist.

Monday, October 14, 2013

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[Editor] 纪晓棠