Cold Blood
-Summer Curatorial Notes

Artists: Liang Yankang, Li Xin, Li Sa, Liu Ke, Tao Qiaoli, Zhu Peihong

Curator: Tony Chang
2011.7.23-9.02



My expedition to inspect the artistic environment of GuangdongProvince began with a list of artists recommended to me by Wang Huangsheng, Director of the Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts. Under the blazing hot weather of June, I went to the Guangzhou Line Three Art Zone, where the artists lived mixed together among the local residents. The sounds of the water pump rose through the air here and there, and outside the window you could hear the chaotic calls of children running through the streets. None of this hindered the artists in constructing their own utopia within their studios. Xiaozhou Village is situated on the outskirts where the city meets the countryside, and it is here that artist Liu Ke perseveres in running a non-profit art space for experimental art, one that is only a few square meters in size. Through the narrow alley that winds between the low-hanging residential buildings, Liu Ke's Tengnuo Space sits on a street corner next to an old stone bridge. At dusk someone comes to turn on the lights, and they stay on until nine or ten o’clock at night. Through the glass windows, the artist's bizarre portraits appear like lunatics locked up in cages, facing off with the empty street. Liu Ke himself creates paintings composed of whirlpool-shaped lines and spots resembling riverine eddies, with images of women and animals faintly distinguishable here and there. These paintings have a kind of pop-abstract feel, a murky refraction of reality. Astute observers will notice that the artist has appropriated the schema of Mane's Luncheon on the Grass, while the perverse observer will notice the female body and the novelty-seeker will see the fate of the innocent lamb under the tyranny of the tiger.

Guangdong artist Liang Yankang lived in the Netherlands for many years, and in his studio we chat about the influence of Dutch modernist realism. His paintings of the human figure, with their precise, simple forms and smooth texture, hark back to classical Greek sculpture. But branches and little birds grow on the child's head, roses sprout from the body and the pregnant woman's abdomen drifts like a cloud. Besieged by western rationalism, he uses oriental sensitivity to bear the weight of Zen-like hysteria; the sloping postures and disorientation lose the burden of weight within this instability.

Tao Qiaoli's studio is in a residential building with no elevator. Climbing up to the sixth floor in the stifling heat of the summer night is enough to bring one to the verge of collapse. In this cramped studio, she raises her hands in rapt attention as she etches out thin cloud-like lines with a brush, forgetting herself for months at a time in front of the canvas. I was shocked by the minute details, so full of feminine grace: she had painstakingly added tiny little differences between the cloud lines, along with barely detectable shifts in the shades of color. It as if the canvas had torn open a vortex over a bright, mysterious nebula. Reading her paintings is like observing the veins of countless fallen leaves in the forest-the infinite, microscopic changes are astonishing.


 
   

Abstract Flowers by Li Sa
Mixed Media
200x360cm

Gray & Silver by Li Sa
Mixed Media
90x360cm,2006
Artist Li Sa Intro>
 
Little Thought 1
by Liang Yankang
Bronze Sculpture,118 cm(H)

Baby(man)
by Liang Yankang
Bronze Sculpture,118 cm(H)
Liang Yankang Intro>

 
Picnic on the Grass
by Liu Ke
Oil on Canvas,200x220cm

Tigers No.2 by Liu Ke
Oil on Canvas
195x220cm,2008

Mountains No.9
by Li Xin
Oil on Canvas
150x180cm

 
Mirror Image of the Mountain by Li Xin
Oil on Canvas,
150x180cm
2011
Artist Li Xin Intro>

 
Mountains No.10
by Li Xin
Oil on Canvas
150x180cm
2011
Upon returning to Beijing, I once again resumed the everyday rhythm of my life: looking at sketches, heading to studios by night to research artist’s installation models, writing letters to artists in other cities to discuss their creative plans... Thought-provoking exchanges with artists are the best cure for the summer heat. Li Sa wears Republican Era glasses with thick black frames on a clever-looking face. In his works, ink wash lotus flowers are tattered and tangled together like Chinese characters in an indecipherable enigma. His composition and sense of space is filled with the spirit of literati painting, imbued with a sense of harmony. The Chinese medicine, enamel, gold flecking and the intentionally left-behind traces of the original sketch imbue his paintings with the texture of perceptivity and dilute the cold air of abstraction. Li Xin has a taciturn personality. The vast wilderness of Hulunbei'er gives his landscapes a gloomy atmosphere. He is enamored of Song dynasty landscape painting. His nostalgia seems to reside in a vast cosmos. Lothar Ledderose believes that traditional Chinese landscape painting was an outgrowth of religious landscape art (such as the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang) as religious values gradually morphed into aesthetic values and came to influence aesthetic perceptions. The ancients' retreat into the landscape was an act of spiritual awakening and elevation. Li Xin's works transcend specific landscape and have a lofty and solemn atmosphere. In his work Mirror Image of the Mountain, the classic Chinese image form of vertical symmetry turns the mountain into an abstract, primitive totem, profound in its dignity.

Pensile Landscape No.3
by Tao Qiaoli
Oil on Canvas
150x200cm
,2010
 
1/4 Blank by Li Sa
Mixed Media
90x90cmx4,2007
 
My Space by Zhu Peihong
Oil on Canvas
120x90cmx4,2011

The weather grows hotter, and after a heavy night storm, there was standing water on the gallery floor in the morning. My head is still spinning with the ideas of various artists, and I must force myself to cool down and maintain the clarity of the outside observer. I am partial to appreciating these artists so full of rational ideas, whose spirit of cold spiritual self-examination represents Zen levels of concentration, the ability to shut out the clamor of the outside world. They're partial to transformation of artistic language and methodology, squarely facing the serendipitous, random and indicative possibilities inherent to the creative process. Their creations are abstract and anti-expressive; the superficial exposure of sentiments has been placed under control and the carefully crafted intentions have been placed under a veil. They are brimming with the rational spirits of elite intellectuals. This creative attitude is like plumbing the depths of the subconscious – the breath slows, the blood grows cool, and the deeper you go and the longer you hold your breath, the greater your discoveries will be. Like a fisherman living on a deserted island in the middle of the South Pacific, living in his boat and at one with the ways of the water, they are tired of casting their fishing nets and have opted instead to dive deep into the water. Gazing far into the depths of the ocean, they cross the vast, empty distances, spearing fish with perfect aim.