Yin ZhaoYang: Panorama
8 October – 19 November 2016
Opening Reception 8 October 2016 3 p.m.
aura gallery taipei
Meditation in ShanShui
An Interview with Yin ZhaoYang
Q: At this time’s Panorama in aura gallery taipei, it’s possible to see the landscape creations in the past few years. The landscape format has certain limitations, just like the traditional Chinese landscape paintings or Western scenery paintings, since they generally follow certain patterns. However, mountains and waters, or we called ShanShui are alive themselves. You often visit different mountains. Is it a comparison of painting procedures and also a form of knowledge gained from the actual creation process? Is the experiencing of a mountain view more of a way to promote changes in the source of the painting language? Or is there a kind of correlation between experience and procedure?
Yin ZhaoYang: Experience and procedure are always progressing. Experience can be accumulated. It is equivalent to a brainstorming creation. A pause of the experience at any time and the act of starting up again can both be reflected at the operational level. Even the process of travelling in itself is a kind process of experiencing and is like a mirror for the soul.
Q: If the process of travelling inspires the soul, then, may you talk about the inspiration of your painting language over so many years? Where does it come from?
Yin: For me, the most important source of inspiration is, of course, tradition. Painting has been an independent means of expression for too long. I even feel that, surpassing the Age of Writing, such behavior must include many irrational genes. This has also always been a fascinating source of bewilderment, as well interest, for me up to today. Another inspirational source is the participation in the process itself learnt from tradition. The older I get, the stronger the sense of participation becomes. Of course, at the same time, it also contains a reaction to tradition and self-habits. Today, seeing that this kind of repetition is a characteristic of art itself, I am personally not surprised anymore.
Q: In your essay A Painting by Binhong, you once mentioned that Huang Binhong’s dyeing and re-dyeing technique is more like a way to get close to his own psychological depth. Concerning the relation between the painting of substance and the presentation of the spirit, what kind of experience and interpretation do you personally have?
Yin: Any kind of material is alive. As a foreign material, oil paint has already become one of the major tools of local artists. Nowadays, to keep on discussing about the national character and pure lineage of oil painting is foolish. But first of all, a bone-deep and sincere understanding of the tradition and of oneself should be possessed. Huang Binhong’s dyeing and re-dyeing has been misinterpreted by many people, who think that pitch-darkness is inevitably impenetrable, but this is actually a movement on a technical level. The real charm of Huang Binhong lies in the fact that his technique always obeyed his own heart. Those moments are fluctuating anytime and anywhere in pulsating life. You can carefully distinguish among those of his seemingly identical paintings, and it’s possible at anytime to see this kind of freshness. An artist’s knowledge of materials and methods is in fact equivalent to the extension of consciousness.
Q: In contemporary art, there are often artists who use landscapes to make analogies, mostly only using the form of a landscape, while not having thought about the landscape in ancient paintings, and yet wishing to go beyond this form. Is this one of the motivations for you to constantly create landscape paintings?
Yin: In recent years, I have looked at lots of ancient landscape paintings, and I have also visited many actual sceneries from ancient landscape paintings to compare and study. I have always been interested in one detail: from the first peak of landscape paintings during the Northern Song up to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the masterpieces are only a few feet of vertical scroll. Even if small, they could contain an entire big view with a myriad of mountains and rivers. The ancients cared little about using large-scale paintings to intimidate people, and they also weren’t concerned about how striking the pattern on the material was. What they valued more were the dynamics of internal orderliness and alternation, the outlook on life, and even the changes on the conception of the universe. That’s not a simple form of transcendence.
Q: Concerning motivation, if we simply reduce it to “retro”, it reminds of Chao MengFu. He is also one of your most respected artists. As an artist yourself, how do you judge and assimilate another artist’s accomplishments? Can a dialogue and a comparison with an artist also be a driving force for your creative work or, so to say, the basis of it?”
Yin: The word “retro” has negative connotations. Any action should be considered within the context of its time. The mentioned Chao MengFu’s “return to the ancient ways” was also a kind of backwash of the atmosphere of his times. Essentially, it was still an innovation. But no matter if they are ancient people or contemporary ones, we must eventually return to a human level for discussion. Human beings certainly have synesthesia, but, deep inside, this is also the power of cross-referencing ancient and contemporary artists.
Q: Could you please talk about the artists you are recently following and referring to the most, as well as the reasons why and the knowledge you have gained from them?
Yin: Recently, in addition to Matisse, I have actually been focusing my attention on Cézanne. If you’re expanding the scope, then you certainly must get to Cézanne. I really didn’t do a segmentation of an artistic period timeline for my examinations. This list should contain Gauguin, Van Gogh, and so on. My experience is that every time I go through their books, there’s always something new to discover. That kind of fresh scent blowing over everything is very touching. It is still there after a hundred years. Another research line I have always been interested in is the “High ancients”. Ancient carvings and murals have always influenced me. They have that kind of vibrant art which comes from human youth. One last source stands directly in the living environment. The landscape is one part of it, and the other part is the town. Right here, right now, that sort of strong, clogged, and tangled atmosphere is constantly influencing my spirit. Sometimes, on the paintings, invisible tension and intensity are unconsciously exposed.
Q: The art of a nation, especially the highly-praised art, is often at the same time tightly connected to the epoch and ideological cores of that country. The development of American post-war contemporary art is a very significant example. However, nowadays, the Chinese contemporary painting is often a one-sided, individualistic moan. You are one of the few artists who can use a macro perspective to look at the country and at the times while also emphasizing the use of painting to get close to your own psychological depth. Does this originate from looking back at the Chinese literati landscape tradition? What do you think about, or how do you judge, the innovative components of painting? Is the “new” meaningful in painting? If so, how should it be presented?
Yin: A good artist is certainly a person who is most likely able to dig deeply in him or herself, and not rigidly adhere to the self, and is also a person who can look at the new as well as the old. A perspective which is beyond simple evolution should be the basic quality and standard of every artist. On a personal level, the new is a reaction to my own habits and knowledge structure. In addition to courage, it also comes from an insight into human nature.
Q: Speaking of it, painting and art really are subjective matters. But, as a result, the progress of painting is a very difficult and profound task. I would like to look back and ask: What was the reason why you returned to painting landscapes? Did you realize that the simpler the statement, the deeper the basic practice of painting is?
Yin: Painting is of course an extremely challenging and interesting task. From the beginning, when it was barely a muddled passion up to today’s complete indifference, I have worked and rested as it pleased me. In fact, I no longer bother to ask about the comings and goings of inspiration. I live in a country where beliefs are collapsing. The ever-present falsehood of this place is incessantly testing everyone. There’s truth in my concepts. That kind of gradual deepening, which reaches into the depths of art, has always been accompanying me. Eventually, it will surely come to the issue of faith. I am not a believer, but this kind of attitude has also puzzled me many times, making me doubt my own judgment. The paintings should be a beacon of light that at least save me at this time of hardship. Under this premise, to paint portraits inevitably struggles. To paint landscape is almost comforting. Both replace and complement each other.
Q: At Panorama, there are two of your new paintings. The details, strokes, etc. are more abstract. It seems that you started developing this last year when your work The Autumn was exhibited by aura gallery at Art Taipei. Conceptualization is in fact a kind of imaginative transformation process of the artist’s life experiences, values, and concepts. Could you possibly explain this process in words or tell which areas you got your inspiration from?
Yin: On a technical level, the structure of a stroke comes from the life condition of the artist at that time, such as joy, sadness, boredom, even an epiphany. I believe even more that this kind of abstraction corresponds to too many ineffable parts of life.
Q: You mentioned a key point. Most viewers think that a stroke is a kind of deliberate study and pursuit because its comprehensive result is linked to expression. Most of the viewers think that a painting is bound to “express” a certain “concept”. They often neglect the artists’ state of being. What’s your opinion about the current interpretation and understanding of the painting perspective?
Yin: The concept today is almost a kind of hegemonic presence. This kind of one-sided pursuit of the concept has already shown some form of absurdity, and that “concept” is something totally different from “the concept”. All the “conceptualizers” I have met are vague most of the time. The painting’s territory should be as vast as the real ocean. “Concept” is just some foam of waves inside this. This also proves the arrogance and rigidity of people’s own limitations. This, of course, also includes that kind of always recurrent shallowness present after art has become a fashionable trend.
Q: Going back to abstraction, abstraction also does not originate from an intentional pursuit. However, if looking from the relatively shallow standpoint of the modern viewer, abstraction is easier to see that understanding is limited just by the infinite. Before, you mentioned the knowledge which comes from observation of abstraction of Eastern creators is usually linked to the culture and traditions of the East itself, such as calligraphy, ink painting. Could we talk about whether or not these aspects are also connected to your works?
Yin: If we look one by one at every movement in the History of Western Art, it’s inevitable to mention the abstract, but we should also see the reactions to the abstract. I don’t like this kind of “either-or” alternation. In this respect, Eastern Art has always assumed different perspectives, even if starting out again from the basis of its predecessors. Completely negative events rarely happen. This kind of phenomenon was once very attractive to me. Take calligraphy as an example. I tend to view it as a purely personal act. It has always been a nearly perfect tool of self-improvement. By reference, the act alone is already enough to inspire people.
Q: When it comes to an artist’s life experiences, values, and concepts, Ku KaiChih wrote, “Painting people is the most difficult and next come landscapes.” You actually rose to prominence because of your portraits and have achieved success with landscape paintings. What are your thoughts now about figures and portraits?
Yin: I have already started painting portraits again. The degree of difficulty in painting people and landscapes that Ku KaiChih talks about relates to the ancients. In the present-day world, especially in the field of art, anything is possible, so the maturity level in representing people and landscapes varies from artist to artist. As for me, I wish to draw inspiration from landscapes to depict figures and use the features of people to create an atmosphere. Mixing both is the target of my next phase.
Q: Could you please disclose what is approximately planned for your next stage of exhibitions?
Yin: In November, I will hold an exhibition displaying art on paper in Shanghai, including paintings on photography and ink paintings, which is a brief sum-up of part of my work in the last two years.
Q: Your collection is also very impressive. However, collecting artwork has become a big thing under the advertising of the contemporary art market. In fact, ancient artists also used to collect artworks. Collecting is nothing but communicating with contemporary people and opening the heart to the ancients. I’m thinking that this is also your motivation for collecting artworks? May I ask you about your collecting experience? And also, what is the relation between your own works and the collected ones?
Yin: Collecting is first of all the establishment of a world view. For the act itself, one needs to have knowledge of things which goes beyond rationality. According to my experience in recent years, collecting is really a process of exploration where shadows are like an identification with shapes. It has a lot of claims in the greed and lust of human nature. So, the collection process is a psychological test on the highest level. My collection largely examines my own interests. Its foundation is: I hope there will always be an effective dialogue between my own works and the collection.
Q: What are your principles and criteria for your collection?
Yin: Obsession comes first. If the obsession indicates some kind of opportunity, it’s already an achievement. The criteria are different at every stage. It depends on the abundance of life experience, which is something akin to a chemical reaction.
Q: Finally, I would like to ask your opinion on art market today.
Yin: Fancy or simple depending on the person, it goes up or down according to his current mood. The market is like a river. Whether you cross it or not, it is always there! But collecting holds specific requirements. Financial as well as mental transcendence are its driving forces.
October 14, 2016
Interviewed by Wan Joyce
Published in “Art. Investment” November 2016
Yin ZhaoYang Panorama
Oct. 08 – Nov.19, 2016
aura gallery taipei