Liu Xuguang : The Sound of Intersection and Universe
Source:artintern Author:Ursula Panhans-Bühler Date: 2014-05-26 Size:
 Since I came in contact with the art of Liu Xuguang, my experience that the conditions of contemporary Chinese art are basically different from the Western modern and post-modern drama seemed to be confirmed.

  Since I came in contact with the art of Liu Xuguang, my experience that the conditions of contemporary Chinese art are basically different from the Western modern and post-modern drama seemed to be confirmed. Looking at Liu Xuguang’s series of “Marks”, an artistic investigation he follows since about 20 years, I searched in vain analogies or comparisons in Western art.

  To admit, first I was more moved by his earlier paintings named “Sound of Nature”, “Quiescence” or “Heaven and Earth”, until a was able to understand that his artistic endeavour went the other way round. The aesthetic achievement of his “Marks”, mostly enormous large paintings in the format of classic Chinese rolls in vertical or horizontal time-space-direction, yet mostly in that large size where you are physically involved, was reinforced by the device of installation. These mature paintings are freed from any mood of ‘abstract expressionism’, thus from any overwhelming gestures marked by personal emotions.

  However, there is deep emotion and feeling, yet it stems from two objective sources. First, it stems from a historic time-based narrative, the use of the character bu – 卜 – this pictographic – and ideographic - concept of projecting a future. Critical in this ability to project is not that it might be this or that future, a particular decision with its implicit magic therein. Critical is rather this ability to move out of a given situation and to project actually the idea of a future, of a progress, of a change. Thus, bu became the fundamental act of establishing humanity and civilization, to move in time-space-changes, and the character 卜 marked this civilising revolution. Within the same act, memory was established - an ability to reflect changes and an ability to measure and try to bridge the distance between Heaven and Earth.

  Second,卜 bu – the same act of projecting a future - zhanbu占卜 – has marked the distance of Heaven and Earth, a time-space-concept that marked as well the continuity of Chinese civilization. Thus, Liu Xuguang when he uses the time-honoured character卜 as unique yet endlessly repeatable mark for his large canvases, the act of marking by repetition transmutes the time of marking into a space marked by infinity. Actually, it’s not infinity - this intangibility during our lifetime – yet it evokes the sensation of infinity, and we feel immersed in its bliss, a sense of timelessness that slightly reminds us back to our earthly conditions when we notice at the right side border of the paintings the character 卜 marking with his direction out of the dense field our need for zhanbu 占卜, our need to respect our civil situation between past and future.

  The term canvas I just used was meant as a metaphor for an event field, not as a material description of the image’s support. The media Liu Xuguang uses are the Chinese ink and rice paper, but it is not a palingenesis of the traditional way of ink & brush drawings the literati were famous for. However, there is an important link to the traditional culture of Chinese civilisation, to stamps and rubbing, thus to printing devices. To avoid a too personal manner Liu Xuguang uses a stamp for marking the rice paper field with quite infinite lots of卜 where afterwards a paint substance based on rust and glue will be added for more density. A stamp can be used as the most individual mark like the stamp-seals on Chinese ink & brush drawings. Yet a stamp is also a general device to do impersonal copies, several or lots of copies as a cultural media for exchange of information and knowledge. A linguistic character as卜 anyway is part of a media, i.e. written language, not a personal, but an interpersonal or social symbol. There are two ways of doing imprints in Chinese culture: printing by rubbing rice paper on marked fields of stone or brass, or sealing by impressing a carved printing block on the paper. The one device is the opposite handling to the other, yet both are methods of printing. Liu Xuguang transforms the rather personal sealing device by his printing of the character卜 in a more general one.


 Yet while working in this way on his paintings a decisive aesthetic change is initiated. When Liu Xuguang is marking the field of rice paper with the repetition of 卜, the time of marking transforms in a space as if lots of wishes for卜 act together, a whole community of a civilization. The result is a beautiful aleatory rhythm, a sound sustained by infinite voices gathered and as well a sound of Nature given the impersonal specific interaction of the rice paper with the materiality of the paint. The immersion of the audience in the substance field balances the illumination by infinity with the cultural act of marking the desire and ability to project a civil future. Time and Space are entangled in a symbolic simultaneity of what is here and beyond. Or, to quote the marvellous poetic line of Liu Xuguang: “Light shines on the entire earth and everything thereon while shade caresses all the matters quietly.”

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[Editor] 曹英