The Creativity Impoverished - - Replication is not Art
Source:Art218 Author:Zha Changping Date: 2009-08-08 Size:
The tensions of both art form and art concept, to me, are the basic reasons why Zhang Xiaogang's works are widely accepted by the contemporary critical circles in China. In his thematic concern, he has deeply reached the core of Chinese traditional cultures – the topic of kinship ethics.

 

 

On the picture produced with skills of black-and-white charcoal painting, three members of a nuclear family, stare at us pertinaciously by their shiny and non-individual sights. The parents' appearance is prim and sedate, wearing Chinese tunic suit; while the child looks nervous and at a loss, silly and slightly opening his tiny mouth, with a fake-mature but not premature face. A thin red line as an emblem of their blood relationship connects them together. The isabella on the child's head is respectively ironed on his parents' gray faces with two color lumps, and around his right eye in front of audience, there are hoar color lumps of the parents' face. The two kinds of color lumps form a tension of artistic color form. The tension has also been reflected in the work’s meaning or concept: at the very least, the artist attempted to demonstrate the otherness and alternativeness of human nature through the discrepancy of color form. The child in this work called "Consanguinity: Big Family I" (1995, Oil on canvas) symbolizes the artist's hope and thirst in his heart. His personality is in sharp contrast to the homogenous that of his parents’ generation.

The tensions of both art form and art concept, to me, are the basic reasons why Zhang Xiaogang's works are widely accepted by the contemporary critical circles in China. In his thematic concern, he has deeply reached the core of Chinese traditional cultures – the topic of kinship ethics. In his form concern, he has sensitively grasped that the modern people has aesthetic needs for simplicity of color because of their heavy life, and used gray, black, red and white in clear gradations on his frame. As regards the use of warm tone, it seems to bring us feeling that the future generation has bright prospects lying ahead. In his "Family" series in 1990s, the children were all alternative, and their different eyes and looks from their parents', the artist's ideas about hope had been revealed clearly. Zhang Xiaogang started to form his own language feature in 1993. In the "Chinese Experience Art Exhibition" held by Sichuan Art Gallery, "He has used the common family photos or individual registering photos in Chinese daily life as his material, and painted plenty of stupefied and still while handsome and pulchritude portraits. Their images were neutral and faceless. Their dress, hairstyle and baldric all reflected the historical rudiment of social life in China in the 1950s."(By Wang Lin) That time, is also the most attractive one to westerners today. It's no wonder that two years ago a European collector spent 2.11 million US dollars on Zhang Xiaogang's easel oil painting "Big Family, Three Comrades" produced in 1994.

However, until the "Father and Daughter" produced in 2005, Zhang Xiaogang had continued with creating portraits of father and daughter's upper bodies and heads, but the tension of art form and meanings found 10 years ago had gone away. He followed his special wonted gray, black and the thin red line as emblem of their blood relationship, added by two red traces on their right face. During those years, he had divided the "Big Family" and separately expressed their partial and single heads, and produced plenty of works such as "Brother and Sister" (1999), "Memory Loss and Remembering" (2002), middle-aged man "Big Head" (2006B) only on the frames without new meanings in concept of art. To the extent, we could only see the simple continuing in skills from these creations. This kind of self-repetition after art skills having been pushed to ultimate state has greatly existed in many number-one artists in the present art circles in China. We don't know whether it indicates that the creativity of contemporary Chinese artist has dried up. Certainly, it has proposed us a difficult problem in judgment: what is the standard of ultimate art writing?

On this question, I've mentioned to another artist, Mr. Ye Yongqing, that "In more than 10 years you have only created one grand free sketch with line drawing– The Little Bird." "Since collectors need them." Ye Yongqing answered. Nevertheless, if an artist created his works just for collectors, how could we look upon the creativity of art and the subjectivity of artists? It is indeed that even in western world, the pop artist as Andy Warhol had continually put his silkscreen with version numbers into the market. Anyhow, on the whole, the authentic collectors would never buy those works with version numbers after 10, while engravings are different from paintings after all. Although art replication starts with artistic creation, that means that any artist could only reproduce his original art form by his own experiment, replication does not equal to art, which is no exception even in the mechanical reproducing age from 1960s. Artists should never employ the workers from villages to develop pipelining works for satisfying their own greed and lust. Here to, Christopher Phillips, curator of International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, is surprised: "I went to visit the studio of a famous painter in Beijing, the artist was not there, while I saw a quantity of semi-finished paintings, and a group of women who looked like from countryside were coloring on them. I felt a little bit uneasy."

May today, the impoverished creativity of Chinese artists, be not to be the caution that Chinese culture is going to decay!


[Editor] 于添

    Artintern