Deng Jianjin: Live Between Sentiment and Sex
Source:Artintern Author:Yang Xiaoyan Date: 2001-01-20 Size:
What torturing Deng Jianjin’s art career, I think, is not only from the understanding of painting but also from an unavoidable instinct. In his painting practice for more than a decade, he has experienced several large changes. From the self-centered image to the group image having himself i

What torturing Deng Jianjin’s art career, I think, is not only from the understanding of painting but also from an unavoidable instinct. In his painting practice for more than a decade, he has experienced several large changes. From the self-centered image to the group image having himself in, from the bored combination of city to the extreme state of suspension, all of them express Deng Jianjin’s confusion and individual perspective to life. Through series of pictures, he stubbornly and continuously expresses his inside deep feeling, the emotional experience of life: a ambivalent feeling both helpless and grateful. Helplessness is due the limit and restriction of life itself oppressing the activity of life without reason. As a result, Deng Jianjin insistently takes spending everyday well as the most important thing of life. The problem is that we have too many mistakes that make everyday not so satisfying. Gratitude is to fill them with concrete life details and tell the selves don’t fall in the inextricable sadness. However, the reason we have to constantly remind ourselves not to resent life itself is that life itself has unsatisfying details we cannot forget. As a result, gratitude itself contains self-deception for goodwill and numbness causing the loss of some memories. As a result, helplessness and gratitude become opposite to sentiment and sex. Starting from the point of sex, we can be regardless of the limitation of reality, because sex is intrinsic and beyond the norm and constraint of reality therefore it’s unrealistic, impractical and fantasy. While sentiment is a kind of moderate discourse, facing everything in life with smile, real but no lack of romance. And even sex is brutal, unreasonable and straight while sentiment is restricted by reality with a clear target. Deng Jianjin is like that living between sex and sentiment day after day. All of the expressions about this topic unreservedly remain in his paintings, resulting in the huge change of his painting style. When we take note of the period of his self-image, I always feel I see an artist image which is narcissistic and self-confident. When I see the painting of group images, I feel his relation with the people around confuses the painter. When the painter tries hard to express a sense of boredom on vision, he is more involved in the real life with a cold attitude. On the contrary, when he finds the tragedy of the invasion of individual world on his image, he mixes a song-like feeling in his picture, like soliloquy but also stubbornly telling something to the comers. Undoubtedly, it’s a complicated sentiment just like I mentioned in another article on Deng Jianjing that there are two Deng Jianjin existing:

This Deng Jianjin is a person with narcissistic tendency. He takes himself as “the other”, meanwhile as the “present” “subjectivity”, deeply expressing the predicament of the narrow space he locates in between private space and public space. The other Deng Jianjin is a teller in the face of youth. His inner vitality pushes him to retrospect the various modals of his adolescence, take youth as real object but not subjectivity and continuously present on the screen. As a result, Deng Jianjin’s painting style got subtle changes turning the figurative into symbolism. In other words, in his symbol system he still uses representative methods. It exposes the painter’s longing and confusion to the irrational force hidden in the growing period of life. The confusion and longing like dreams entangle the artist so that he could not shake off. (See Adolescent Words Going Through Dream)

I think what I mean at that time is towards a split that exists in Deng Jianjin’s art. This split is totally related to his attitude towards life. In his period taking the self as theme, he is always sensitive to the issue of how to obtain a completely individual and real space. Therefore, in that stage, what the painter mostly concerned is how to “refuse violation”. (It can be said that the painter repeatedly express the open or secret theme by various images and actions.) When he goes out of the personal space, urban life becomes a collective idol in his eyes, an outside world generating an ambiguous relation with him. Since it’s idol, he can only uses a paradoxical image to locate the connotation inside. As a result, there’s a rare and wonderful combination of numbness and craziness: everybody is laughing but no one knows the reason. The painter is always sitting among the laughing crowd, but doesn’t has close relation with them. Then we don’t know the reason that the artist began to interest in the state of suspension. The figures in his pictures gradually shake up and make various actions in the air. Therefore, I aware of a signal in it, a psychological tension of the artist. Sometimes the tension is relaxed and sometimes it’s so tight that will be cut off by less attention. Afterwards it’s far out of control. The artist enters into a world totally composed by female symbols. He irrevocably falls into the sexual abyss, meanwhile, he continuously, carefully and firmly investigate the ecstatic details of the world. In this world, female become a symbol, an artificial performance, a collection of distortion and publicity. They are moaning, singing, joying, showing and flirting. They are relentlessly and compellingly seeing you, meanwhile ignore your presence. The painter cannot help beginning to struggle in the world he created. He unprecedentedly sensed the nature of sentiment in the thorough vent of sex. He felt more and more that it’s too long that he was immersing in his own world. Therefore, he sent the situation originally created by himself to the altar. As a result, starting from a twisting female body, finally the artist has an unusual understanding of ceremony. First, we see the disintegration of female body in Unlimited Spring. Then the disintegration turns into two continuous pieces of Night Watchman and The Things with Flesh and Blood No.2 (I don’t understand these two pieces as abstract. I would rather to understand them as the continuous development of the body disintegration.) Finally, the painter froze the frame in The Things with Flesh and Blood No.3. He is aware of the themes of color and emptiness associated with sex and sentiment. He is aware of the ancient Buddhist proposition, “color is empty and emptiness is color”. The painter seems totally enlightened. He has used several decades starting from finding the real personal space, to the confusion and gap to the urban group idol, and to the question to the self-existence (the portrayal of the state of suspension), and to the question to a world of sex, then preparing to run away from this world ( I suspect the abstract sense and the symbol of altar ever-increasing in his paintings indicate that the next step of the artist). The problem is where the artist plans to go. The artist left this crucial question both to his audiences and to himself.

[Editor] Zhang Shuo

    Artintern