2009年10月1日Actually, I do not really know how I grew upLi Guiming Made an Interview with Chen WenlinChen Art StudioOctober 1, 2009
Li: From earliest " Little Red Child" to the "Heroic Struggle ", "Happy Life"" until "Golden Bull Series" of this year,some characteristics, such as the prominent visual effect, tension-filled body feeling, continuous innovation of the theme, have been pass through your work. Do you think your art is projection of your true personality? Chen: My personality is difficult to be characterized by few words. I am a Gemini, B-type blood, declined landlord class's descendant. When I was a young man, I has done the farming, has worked as a village painter. Perhaps these experiences have influenced on my artistic makings, which full of uncertainty and sensitivity. Actually, there are many aspects that I do not know myself. I am unable to really know myself, I am a person full of contradictions; often spend a lot of time to convince myself. Many times, it is difficult to talk about. These characters pave the way for my art works: a vigorous grass-roots, wisdom, and full of provocative and adventurous spirit. Li: The living environment and the culture environment of a person’s childhood usually play an important role to his art making. Could you tell us something about your childhood?Chen: I was born in Jingu Village of Anxi County in Fujian Province where the green valleys were all around. At that time, Jingu village was a very barren mountain village, and there was a river flowed through the village. I played around this river everyday, fishing, digging bird nest, hiding-and-seeking, water fighting, and so on. My childhood was truly wild.At that time, people in the society was only being considered by class origin. Because my family's class origin was the landlord, I was treated disdainfully frequently. In addition, I had stutter problem when I was child. A few words needed to be said quite a while, which often caused other kids’ laughing. I was angry about the laughing, the more angry the more stutter. I was always anxious under this kind of situation, So I was always fighting with them. Regardless of wins or loses, my parents would hit me again when I went home. In short, my childhood was kind of depressed. Although I had stutter problem, my body was quite flexible. I was very active at that time. Maybe it was "hyperactivity" with the words of today. Gradually, I became obsessed with graffiti in the sand and pinching clay figurine, and often feel especially happy when I was doing that. Since then, I felt that art opened the door in my mind gradually. The seed of art was probably planted in my heart at that time. The Well-known Japanese artist Takashi Murakami said that his art came from anger, I think my art was probably from anger and from the effort of beyond the emotion of low self-esteem.Li: So, the happiness of your childhood was seeking by yourself? Chen: Yes! Throughout my childhood, my parents never brought us any toys. Not like my daughter, she has plenty of them. The joy of my childhood had to go to find and create by myself. At that time I have made a lot of wood or soil staffs, like pistols, guns, ships, aircraft or something else. At that time, the outer wall of the wealthy villagers’ house always been painted by white plaster. I could not help to use charcoal painting on the white walls. I was drawing everything on the wall, such as drawing some Japanese stepped on mines, drawing their helmets, pistols, clothes run all over the place. It was really fun, and the owners of the houses were very angry about these paintings. From today's perspective, it’s quite like my first exhibition. When I was twelve years old, the country restored the freedom of religious belief, and then local people began to build large scale temple and ancestral hall everywhere. Since adults used wood to carve statues, then I used clay to make some small statues to imitate adults. Adults carried giant gods and held opening ceremony at the mountain, and our kids also carried and showed our little statues all around the village. This was a bit like the moving exhibition. Some villagers were particularly surprised by our little statues. The games of my childhood were important to my art career; I really missed my joyful childhood time. Li: Regarding to the environment of your childhood, art just like a dream for you, right? Chen: when I was a teenager, I had to do farm work after the school and painted something for the temples in the extra time to make some money for my family. Until now, many places in the village are still retaining my teenage painting. Our village is located in a small basin surrounded by mountains and wheat fields are all around the houses. Many times when I was cutting wheat, I heard the airplane flying above the valley. I was very excited. I was always staring at the airplane until it disappeared into the horizon. At that time, I decided to study hard, paint well, and later I could study in a big city to see the big planes, not just stayed in the small village. At that time, I was an idealistic rural youth and dreamed to leave the small village. It’s really an ambitious heart.Li: Who was leading you to the filed of art? Xiamen was the Special Economic Zone during the entire 80 and 90s. People in Fujian Province have strong business-mind so that the city filled with money, material and commercial atmosphere. At that time, art could not make good profit compare with other careers, how did you move toward to the road of professional artist?Chen: At that time, I spent three years to study with my first painting teacher Wong Huozhi, and learn sculpture with teacher Ma Xinbo and teacher Li Weili in Xiamen. They also have tremendous influence to my art foundation and my personality. In 1991, I graduated and was assigned to Lufeng Newapaper as an art editor. Lufeng Newapaper was a government sponsored newspaper. At the end of 1992, Deng Xiaoping visited Shengzhen, and released the famous southern tour speech to promote the reform of market economy. At that time, I resigned the job of the newspaper and stepped onto the path of professional artist. At the beginning, I was back to my hometown and made some wood scuptures. In 1993, I went to China Central Academy OfFine Arts to continue my sculpture studies. After that, I was back to Xiamen to set up my art studio in 1994. The studio was very simple at that time. The situation was not changed until the spring of 1999. Since then,I didn’t make city sculptures any more and proceeded in the "Little Red Child" series at that time.Li: In the late 90s, the choice of being a professional artist was not very easy. But you still insisted on this with great courage and energy, and made the milestone exhibition "Red Memory" in Pearl Bay Beach of Xiamen, which was a very significance step for you.Chen: Most of Chinese sculptors undertook urban sculptures according to contracts during the entire the 90s. It was very difficult to guarantee artists’ creation and independence by doing this kind of sculptures. In 1998, I had the idea of making the sculptures of "Little Red Child", and devoted the following three years to create this series. At the beginning of July, 2000, I tried to find a place in Beijing to exhibit these works, but I failed. I was forced to display the works at the seaside of Xiamen. However, the demonstration effect was unexpected good. These red child sculptures were placed among blue sky, blue sea, yellow sand, and green grass field, which provoked a very strong visual tension. It also had a wide range of public nature. The visitors were various, which included mayor, professors, college students, and so on. Even beggars came to the show, ha-ha! This kind of demonstration produced the interactive relations which were very interesting. At that time, some people praised the exhibition extremely, and some people abused it. Xiamen's media also introduced this show and made some comments. The show caused the very big reaction in the whole country, particularly in the south China. It was truly a topic thrown to the society at that time. I think artist’s exhibition is comprehensive examination of the art itself. Whether you are a donkey or a horse, you must show yourself in front of people. It is the way to examine the energy of the artist. The different voices of each exhibition could become the nutrients that help me to grow. Actually, the growth history of an artist is the history of his art exhibition. Li: After completion of the "Little Red Child" series, you had a clear direction of your art and put all of your energy into the individual art creation. You totally worked as a professional artist since then.Chen: Becoming an artist was my dream of youth. When I was child, I dreamed to enjoy the beauty of nature, to make sculptures, and to paint everyday in the future; and I could be awake naturally everyday and far away from the rules of society. I am a person who is rather to dig a well, than to dig ten pits. I always dig as far as possible until find water in this well; even find the petroleum in the well.Undoubtedly, art is my most favorite thing. Before the creation of the "Little Red Child", I had been struggled in the black hole and could not see the exit point of the black hole. But I believed I could come out.Li: After the "Little Red Child", the "Happy Life" and the "Heroic Struggle" series also received great response in Chinese contemporary art world. These works frequently appeared on a variety of domestic and international Biennales and some important exhibitions. Did these works relate to your life experiences?Chen: when I did the "Little Red Child" series, I lived in a relatively unenlightened environment. The outside world did not make too much influence on me. My creation was major based on my own experience. Certainly, the typical experience of individual artist is also the typical of social experience or the projection of group experience. Relatively, the "Little Red Child" is a quite internally oriented work. After the "Little Red Child" participated in Guangzhou Triennial, I decided to do some relative extroverted work, which means I wanted to pay more attention to social reality and wanted to be involved into the society. Therefore, I started from the spring of 2003 to do "Happy Life". After that, I made the "Heroic Struggle", "Chinese Landscape", "the Fetish", "Emergency Exit" series, and so on.Li: Unlike some of the artists who have insisted the creation of a symbolic mark constantly, your creations were always in change. You completed each series no more than two to three years. Recently, you have different presentation every year. But the spirit of your works always focuses on the reality problems of the consumption society, then, what’s your understanding of consumerism? Chen: Basically, I am not a labeled artist. I always pushed myself to continue to surpass myself. I appreciated these who died in the battle filed, and did not appreciate these who always stayed in the old place. Consumerism and consume culture are two different concepts. The former concept is a negative one, and the latter concept is a positive one. Consumerism is an imported concept. It is a principle that all human values are built on consume, showing off, extreme luxury, and intemperate desire for materials. People put this as the ultimate goal. In the era of consumerism, anything can be consumed.Everyone consumes others as well as consumed by others. Consumerism stimulates people’s desire of material expansion and alienation of human nature, because the nature of consumerism is the rule of exchange. For example, in Fujian Province, I once saw a rich person’s funeral, people cried in the queues. There were three women among them flapped in the coffin and cried badly. At that time, I said to others that this dead person must be a very respectful person, and was deeply loved by others. But people around me told me that these three women who cried most powerful were hired for the funeral. Originally, the commission fee was 150 Yuan a day. But today they could get 500 Yuan a day. That was why they cried more intense than others, the more intense the more money. They cried painful, but their hearts were happy because they could make more money. This was really a dumbfounding reality of society. The consumer objects of these women were tears and painful expression. They made living by these. In fact, poor people in today suffered more than ancient people, because today's social divisions of labor are too comprehensive and detailed, so people’s alienation by the expansion of material desire is much more serious in today.Li: The "Emergency Exit" exhibition has received very good comments, and obtained widely agreements in academic aspect.This exhibition could be considered as a big surmounting of your previous art creations. Could you share with us how you challenged this new theme? Chen: In recent years,we saw a lot of troubles of the society. There were all kinds of tricks and endless cheating. Wall Street’s Madoff was a typical miniature. I wanted to make a point about the society through my own artistic response. These two works of "Emergency Exit" exhibition were not for decorating our lives or entertaining people, but for understanding human nature and the society. I knew that I could never cure the "social disease".I just tried to ask some questions to stimulate people to reconsider their lives.This is enough. Li: Most of your art works were used to analyze the society by a humorous way, Such as the pigs in your previous works and the bull in the latest works. These animals were playing different roles in your artistic creations.Chen:For me, pig is the best carrier for my art implication.Its internal characteristics are also complicated. For example: the productivity of pig, the strong volume of pig, the rich sense of pig, the happiness of pig, the expansion rate of pig, the dirty aspect of pig, the stupid or smart characters of pig, and so on. All these characteristics are difficult to be represented by others. It provides visitors more possibilities to read, even if it is misread. I do not oppose misread.It’s also a kind of interpretation. I want my works have enough freedom space and open mind to the public. The "Bull" of my latest works is not "Cow of Ruzi" which is willing to serve the people whole-heartedly, but a stock market symbol of prosperity. I used "the fart" of the bull as the boost of the mad Wall Street, which squashed the influential Wall Street giant Madoff to the central of the wall, thus created a sense of playful, absurd, and anti-dramatic atmosphere. Li: At present, exploring the art language purely, or simply exploring the art concept may not be the best presentation of art. How to combine these two elements is a problem that artists must face. Your art language and methodology are very personal and representative in the field of Chinese contemporary art. How did you build and convey your artistic ideas? Chen: I abstracted nutrients from conceptual art, new media art, installation art, and other art forms. I hope that I am different everyday, just like eating different rice everyday. When rice gets into the stomach of art,it need to be gone through again, such as brewing, refining, and converting, then I could get the aromatic rice wine finally. I should be a brewery. I must brew my own artistic wine eventually. Furthermore, I esteem art which has both academic and popular tastes, and I like the methodology of explaining the profound in a simple language. I hate false art which presents deep intentionally. Xu Bing said his art is easy to access, I totally agree with him in this point.Li: The financial crisis is a great test for contemporary art. It tests the cornerstone of the art, tests artists' professional qualification, and tests artists' confidence. After experienced hard time and the phrase of rapid accumulation of wealth, the sprits of Chinese contemporary artists are more vulnerable than before.But you presented such a large scale exhibition in such a difficult time, how do think of the influence of market fluctuation regarding to artists? Chen: After the financial crisis and the demolition of Beijing art studios, we found a lot of people lost their sprits and courage. Chinese contemporary artists need to go through this stormy baptism. I think the real artists must be more powerful under this kind of situation. In this cold winter, we must prepare ourselves until the spring time. I believe we will have opportunities at that time.This is indeed the most severe year. My exhibition of "Emergency Exit" represents my basic position.Li: Your life and art experiences are full of stories, and some of them just like legendary stories. Can you make a simple summarize of your life so far?Chen: I was born at a poor family and lived in the edge of the society when I was young. I want to use weapons as the metaphor of my life. Before 1998, I was a simple and primitive artillery, which was full of energy and passion but lack of regular training. The artillery could not hit very far and the destruction ability was not large. Even it hit best, the injury of enemy was small, but I myself suffered serious injury. The battle finally ended up with billowing thick smoke, to obstruct my foresight. And now I like a sky fighter which passed the test and got the initial main point. Now I fly freely and have the opportunity to provide outstanding military service. I have my own radar equipment and navigation systems. I will be able to achieve my goals as long as I can keep humble. My ultimate wish is to become a silent pistol, pocket-sized, calm and tranquil, living in the edge of the society, keeping calm and leisure. These are my idealistic life style. My life is from edge to edge. Actually, I mentioned above were from the life experiences of numerous historical genius. Li: I heard that you have an exhibition in 2010; can you talk about your plan for the future? Chen: Actually, life is always not following its own design. Today’s idea may be changed at tomorrow. So it is hard to say something accurately right now. I just hope people pay attention to my new works in.