Joy of the World
Source:Artintern Date: 2008-11-11 Size:
Lin’s legendary experience and unique artistic style distinguish him from other young Chinese artists of this generation. I came to know him before the last New Interface Exhibition.

 Poster of Joy of the world: Lin Guocheng's Solo Exhibition

Wubai, a famous Taiwan singer once said at one concert, “In fact, I am not a singer. I am a poet.” This comment can apply to Lin Guocheng as well. Lin is not a painter but a poet.

Lin’s legendary experience and unique artistic style distinguish him from other young Chinese artists of this generation. I came to know him before the last New Interface Exhibition. At that time, he had actually lived in a residential area not far away from mine. We had an in-depth talk one afternoon and became friends since then. Lin is a born drawer. He is one of the few young artists not formally educated in an art academy. He decided to leave school and to choose a less confined way towards art. I once asked him how come he chose drawing, which drew no response other than a shy smile. However, I understood that he, a newly grown-up, chose drawing not out of tactful consideration but for satisfaction of an inside impulse nearly instinctive. Art is an impulse. Several years later when he sat with us to recall his psychological progress, I gradually came to such conclusion.

Though intensely interested in painting from childhood, Lin did not choose to study in an art school and then an art academy, a normal path taken by most young art lovers. Different from those competing blindly for entrance into an art academy, Lin had specific visions. In his eyes, art was crystallization of human’s intellectual essence, and thus cannot be segregated from culture, not to speak of being acquired merely by paining plaster models. He preferred to be a science student with presentable remarks, who could enjoy using his computers and what was more important, draw freely. In Lin’s eyes, drawing was first and foremost a free expression. After graduation from high school, he gave up the idea of further study in a university, and chose to travel around, a kind of life he had long wanted. He traveled in the south for years like a vagrant. During that period, he sold newspapers, repaired computers and went on various errands but never painted pictures for a living. However, he painted many pictures, of which the most prominent were some watercolors. Through its intense colors and vigorous strokes, I could see a burning hormone, like a natural feeling aroused by works of Van Gogh---a pot of water seething with steam.

The vagrant Lin, like a chanting lyric poet, derived direct experience from that kind of unstable life. Just as one old Chinese saying goes, reading over ten thousands of books is not as good as walking over ten thousands of miles. To him art did not belong to the so-called knowledge, as he did not acquire it through passive education. We may not see scholastic attitude in his works. Factually, there is none. He just loved painting, and satisfied himself with painting in his own way. He reduced painting to a simple way of expression, just like speaking, singing or writing a poem. If you consider painting the most adequate and expressive way, you choose painting. That kind of should-not-paint-like-this feeling given to people possibly by some scholastic formulae found no place in Lin. The most impressive thing about Lin is that he was not afraid of “spoiling a painting”. Nowadays, we have seen too many “perfect” paintings, some even not from the painter himself. Painting has become a merchandise production, there being no spirit of artists behind the exquisite make. In contrast, artists like Lin still cherished a primitive passion towards painting and preserved a strong desire of expression. That is why I say the true value of Lin is that he preserved a craftsmanship in present numb of art industrialization. Such craftsmanship is especially precious and laudable.

From 2002 to 2003, Lin studied oil painting at Sichuan Fine Art Academy at Huangjueping, Chongqing. He chose Sichuan Fine Art Academy because, in his eyes, life in this school was less disciplined compared with life in other five art academies in China, where he could live in his old way without much confinement and learn what he wanted to learn in a more active way. Let’s now consider what roles an art academy plays in the development of a good artist. We are prone to believe that an art academy with strict disciplines and quality teachers are most likely to develop good artists. But I come to think there is no essential relationship between the quality of an art academy and whether it can turn out good artists or not. Metaphorically, a good art academy is like a good factory. It is less likely to produce low quality products with strict training and education. On the other hand, strict education system can possibly shackle some special talents. A good art academy can produce many good painters, but artists are not produced by art academies. Artists are not produced. Moreover, they are, as Wu Guanzhong remarked, a kind of power from the soul that nothing can depress. An artist is born with an institution, in light of which he can derive nutrition he needs constantly. Even a less disciplined art academy will be suitable for him, just like water to a duck. In the two years in Chongqing, Lin studied oil painting techniques systematically. He was clearly aware of the importance of art techniques to expression of ideas. If you choose this game, you must play it well according to the rule. This is particularly true to an easel painter. Lin faced lots of pressure and challenges at that time, one being anxious to make up of technique studies, the other life difficulties. He was, in his own words, shrouded by adolescence feelings. At adolescence period, one tends to feel kind of disorientated, dark, and serious clashes in heart. At that time, one begins to care particularly about the inner feeling, his own heart. One also becomes a bit rebelling. He channeled this pressure into his oil paintings. His paintings at that period were obviously influenced by Edward Munch (1863-1944). Its colors were as melancholy as tone of a cello; twisted people were put in glass bottles, displaying a depressed force. It was until he moved to live in Shanghai that the depressed force was released thanks to the new living environment and new feelings.

If one is always climbing in a depressed and hopeful mind, he will enjoy a freedom of sudden openness when he reaches a higher platform. The fetters around Lin broke one day finally. Like a volcano eruption, the long depressed force in many years gushed dazzlingly out in the form of vivid colors and rich strokes. This seemingly sudden change, however, was not out of expectation. A poetic artist is always capable of unexpected changes. We can never know what kind of color he will use in his next painting. It was in this period that Lin established his own style gradually. He began to doodle at will. If you entered his studio when he was working, you were pretty likely to see a mess. He was satisfied with this mess however. He even spoiled his paintings for purpose, which sometimes acted as a motivation. As I have said, he did not paint as expressionism scholars do, but his paintings complied exactly with the essence of expressionism. It is like Georg Baselitz (B.1938),Liu Wei or Zeng Fanzhi. We need not play down excellent contemporary artists’ influence on young artists. Art is promoted by constant influence and resistance of influence.

I often joked that I could see his love in his paintings. Lin discussed love on canvases. Of course, this meaning is better to stay implicit. This is what a poet is. A poet does not need to write poems, and those who write poems are not necessarily poets. Lin has written a number of poems, which, to be frank, are not good enough, though clean. What is important is this appeal has come into his paintings and become a hidden romance.

[Editor] Zhang Shuo