Essay and Interview


Random Notes on Creating ( Excerpts from Yang Jinsong's Diary)

X Month X Day
I started again with that painting Fire , but without making any very substantial progress. Painting this thing requires a certain degree of thoughts and feelings , regardless of whether this is an innate sense or a visual one. If one were to say that Chinese culture still has its own traditions, then these would now have to be entirely poetic and introspective only. During the last 30 years - the era of “Opening the Nation's Door” - our view of our traditional values has tended to slide, as if we have become mere followers of the West. Values and esthetic orientation have been swept away overnight by a torrent of “globalization”, so that we suddenly feel as if we are “dressed in rags”. Where are our roots? This is an issue that occasions us universal anxiety.

X Month X Day
I again started painting a medium-sized Fire . While painting, I feel somewhat at a loose end and that I should open up a bit, but then also likewise feel that I should try for an unadorned style. I am also very hesitant over choosing images, and vacillate between retaining old elements and devising an entirely novel vocabulary. In the midst of my creative train of thought, the issue that causes me unease is whether the images will only with great difficulty achieve an identity in the absence of a symbol. Yet in going the abstract route, it is also hard to find a theoretical basis for reliance, since imagery also forms a traditional reference. Does modern painting still retain image elements ? I do believe this is indeed the case!
For painting to go back to its roots is ultimately for it to return to a flat visual medium; this is an ineluctable reality.
Image elements currently over-proliferate; in this way design becomes so closely integrated that this exhibits even more of a tendency towards superficiality.
A characteristic inherent in modern Chinese painting is that it has still not found a consummated basis for its explanation, and the volume of terms now used is all from a glossary borne hither on [Western] ships. This aphasia has become the hallmark of a generation.

X Month X Day
My new painting has encountered a “bottleneck” situation, and my thinking is a bit muddled. I'm torn between narrative and the visual elements which are the essence of painting. To see small as large is a traditional method of viewing Chinese paintings, but personally I also like to view things from a certain distance.
I feel myself to be slow in my response to new things; therefore, vis-à-vis the prevailing concept of schematics, to a certain extent I have eyes but do not see. Nevertheless, I am in reality being affected by a slow, silent transforming influence.
Painting, after all, may not distance itself from various original creative factors, and in this way it accords with the slogan-like axiom propounded by our forebears that “imagery is force”. However, Zhao Mengfu argued that “brush styles have not changed over the ages” and that “using the brush to fashion meaning is the proper ancient meaning”; this is the only “cultural underpinning” or “cultural blood-vessel” with which I can agree. Nowadays, we are still undergoing nearly one-hundred years' of the onslaught of Western culture, in which many of our cultural blood-vessels have perished, and amid the occurrence of these great changes our frame of reference forces us to feel as if have never found ourselves in such a “muddled and murky” place amid the forest of world culture…

X Month X Day
I seem to still be relying on a kind of inertia and instinct in my painting; this kind of inertia rests upon a sort of “derivate pseudo-cultural” education that combines together to form an experience of “chaos” in the experience of vision and feeling. This kind of instinct is actually also a type of obsession with standards that has arisen over the long term in China's collegiate system.

X Month X Day
I have been embarked on a large painting for quite a few days now. Looking at the Broken Mountain series from Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by the Yuan dynasty painter Huang Gongwang , I receive great inspiration from the theme and the disorganized, ex tempore style. “There is a certain hasty carelessness in the lines in the image, which at times seems to be somewhat sloppy, with some unfinished portions; these are not so much a deficiency, however, as rather an important component of this painting and an inexhaustible source of creation.” (James Cahill)
I am now painting this Broken Mountains series and I get an idea whose source is the squeezing and hurt a person experiences from these decades of great changes and the current social set-up. I am using a psychological-scene schema, which is also a continuation of the Grand Banquet series done over the past two years. The reinforced narrative style thus used in painting may also diminish the tension expressed in the two-dimensional format. Painting is first and foremost visual, but Chinese art - especially traditional art - emphasizes brush style and artistic conception even more, and this is indeed what I have sought to woo lately in painting, whether knowingly or otherwise. Yet if you utterly eschew narrative, then this causes your work to lack the least nexus with today's art, society and politics. However, simply employing some ideological formats drawn from political elements only generates yet another kind of kitsch style (and one that has already been way overused over the last 20 years in Chinese contemporary art). In this area of contemporary art,
China has hitherto never established its own method of “phraseology”, nor a system of methodology upon which reliance may be had, nor yet a theoretical system to explain the new Chinese art. Our current system is expansive, but its face is fuzzy: the number who can boast of a solid and practical “system of core values” is few indeed. China's contemporary culture is thus akin to a tree with no roots drifting in a boundless ocean of “post-colonial theory”.
Year 2010, Wangjing