Gracefully and gorgeously, chic boys and girls walk on the runway, unfolding under the flashing highlight urban fashion myths. Time and again, I have been watching fashion shows, intoxicating my mind in the paces and colors of fashion trends, and breathing an air of fashion culture. Teaching at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and majoring in sculpture, I gradually come up with an idea: fashion design is a unique way for sculpting human body, a comprehensive way to express feelings about figures, styling, colors and aesthetic appreciation. What is between fashion and sculpture is like what is between something fluid and solid, which frequently overlap in my head, inspiring me to illustrate with my sculpting knife my perspective, insight into the significance and zeitgeist brought about by the fashion cultures.
It was after the year 2003 when I set out to work that I really started pondering about and probing into the sculpture as art. I have been on an artistic road which is lonely, tough yet fruitful. What is art? What is contemporary sculpture art? What kind of creation should I seek after? Such are the questions revolving around in my mind all day long. In the process of pursuing art, I have at times felt confused and lost, but my academic background and aesthetic outlook enable me to persist. However, it seems inappropriate and outdated to discuss shelf art within the context of “discourse” and “concept” associated with modern art. Looking back to the past twenty years of the growth of contemporary Chinese art, art values and judgment featuring post-colonialism have been established accompanied by the penetrating of western cultures. Under the impact of change-esteemed western thoughts, traditional esthetics and values are challenged. When creation thinking mode is concerned, people tend to consider “concept” from the perspective of “opinion”, or put more weight on “avant-garde” visual experience and formalism, which makes me wonder what the contemporary features should be like. Such questions are profound and obscure, but art is art, not philosophy. What art concerns about is form and content, and its eternal goal is esthetic value and significance, for without which, what can be left behind in our fine art history?
With so many questions lingering in my mind, I dedicate myself to my creation. I am seeking for a form, a carrier to embody my thoughts, namely, my unique “symbol”. I have to elaborate on that. In the field of China’s contemporary art, a “symbol” seems to be a way to symbolize a successful artist’s identity, for which a lot of artists in the circle will chase and it has become an object of public denunciation. The fever about such strategic symbols has indeed lured so many artists into a trap of formalism. Speculative creations lacking independent thoughts and spirits have deprived the art of its core; thus “symbol” is undoubtedly reduced to castle in the air. Therefore, “symbol” in my eyes is purely to stay away from partial “speculation”, and to become externalization of one’s internal thoughts. “Symbol” is the language I adopt to express my opinions.
I.Some Thoughts in the Context of Contemporary Multi-Cultures
As people born in 1970’s, the changes and options we are undergoing are abundant and unprecedented. For a long time, sculpture creation has been the most important part in my life and my life style as well, which has been enriched ever since I came to teach at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. Everything in this glamorous fashion art palace is fresh and dazzling: fashion design exhibits, fashion shows, symposiums on the latest fashion design concepts… All of these excite my sensory organs and the masterpieces of renowned fashion designers are so fascinating. I still remember the first time I watched John Galliano’s fashion show, how shocked I was by his bold and novel conception as well as the intensive effect brought about by models’ make-up.
I wonder how clothes could be designed so brilliantly and captivatingly! This changed my view on fashion design and gave me an in-depth perception into art. Fashion design, regarded contemporarily as an art of vision and space, is painting to some extent, three-dimensional sculpture and in itself a gesamtkunstwerk of multi-artistic forms and elements as well. Just because of the common ground shared by sculpture and fashion design, there is no longer any clear-cut division between them in my head. The postmodernist culture is featured by emphasizing cultural diversity and advocating “extended definition of art”. Just as Joseph Beuys, Father of Post-modernism put it, “Life if sculpture”. Both measures of art, fashion design and sculpture are per se inter-related. As masters of fashion design may extract inspiration from sculpture and architecture, why not vice versa? It is in the art of fashion design that I finally get access to creating my artwork. From then on, much more interested in fashion design and fashion show, I have indulged myself in the artistic trial fusion of sculpture and fashion. Ever since 2003, thoughts gradually mature about the “Ni Shang” or “Rainbow Fashion” series. During my creation, it dawns on me that it is not that difficult to characterize figures, and that creating sculpture works with stamp of the age and taste of fashion really calls for a brand-new symbol.
Bearing these in mind, I begin exploring corresponding forms in clothes: styles and patterns of clothes and accessories, figures and proportions of human bodies, softness and thickness of various textures… such elements, seldom taken into consideration during the traditional sculpture creation, nevertheless becoming my deliberations. In terms of presenting clothes’ colors, I have tried different materials and textures in order to achieve a brand-new visual effect in sculpture. Besides the commonly-adopted bronze, many other materials such as cast iron, lacquer, gold, silver and platinum have been testified and adopted, as well as the after-creation craftwork. In creating and appreciating each work, I come across the fact that different materials may possibly convey different feelings: plain, gorgeous, cool, mysterious, and so on. Naturally, fashion design and sculpture creation come to resonate well in my works with a fantastic effect.
Ancient Chinese sculptures, ranging from The Terracotta Army in Qin Dynasty to the Buddha Statue in Sui Dynasty which transfer a sense of mystery and piety, as well as to the brilliant sculptures in Han and Tang Dynasties, remain touching and stirring up our feelings with the passage of thousands of years. Covered with a layer of mysterious and noble veil by historical and cultural sedimentation, those sculptures glare with eternal light. However, in this hustle and bustle world, is it still possible for art to bring a fountain of fresh water into people’s soul?
When creating the later works of the “Rainbow Fashion” series, I have tried searching for, between the traditional and the modern, a spiritual communication, transcending space and time and focusing on the image creation which embodies traditional Chinese spirits and style. Originated in classical philosophy, nourished by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism ideologies, the traditional Chinese art, with its typical oriental aesthetics and tastes and as kind of “collective unconsciousness”, has merged well into and become an indispensable part of the domestic Chinese culture. I have tried to sense with heart this “ancient art”, its innate spirits as well as mysterious tranquility. Gradually and naturally, an ethereal and transcendence quality as suggested in “letting things take their own course “(a Taoist concept of human conduct), in company with the plain and solemn tastes as found in frescoes of Han Dynasties, come to emerge in my head, drifting like sailing clouds and rambling like flowing water…
The exploration of the "domestic spirit" of art, which on the one hand is a natural result of historical and cultural influences and on the other, can be attributed to the artist's social responsibility towards getting involved in the domestic culture, may well enrich the spirit of art. As regards the contemporary Chinese art, “post-colonialism” is a hot issue. Edward Wadie Said proposed “Orientalism”, aiming to deconstruct the western “Ethnocentrism”. Facing the fact that the domination of western cultures is declining, how can we renew our faith in our domestic cultures which have once been neglected? An artist is deemed to be sensitive to the possible reshuffle of oriental and western cultures, arouse our nation’s aesthetic complex so as to establish a cultural identity with oriental ideology.
Sculpture art, as far as I am concerned, is an access to something unknown, an interpretation of the unknown world with artistic intuition. A part of my life, sculpture is representative of my outlook on and attitudes towards life. Curious about unknown domains in sculpture creation, looking forward to the upcoming works, and imagining the incomplete works taking into shape, I have always been in a state of excitement, unconscious of the passage of time…
Time flies. Looking back to the past years, I find myself living a life which is simple but self-promoted and spirit-cultivated. Sculpting is much like introspection in forms of art; through this pleasant process, my soul is purified and refined. I sincerely hope my sculpture works may express my outlooks on today’s world with the aesthetic of fashion, ideal and surreal imagination, reflect a contemporary intellectual’s reflections on contemporaneity as well as my pursuit of certain unusual idealization.