隐秘的态度：肖克刚 & 罗应龙
STILL SENSATIONS: Xiao Kegang & Luo Yinglong
艺 术 家：肖克刚、罗应龙
电 话：+86 (0)28 8515 8238 8512 6358
出 版 物：《隐秘的态度：肖克刚 & 罗应龙》
隐秘的态度：肖克刚 & 罗应龙
STILL SENSATIONS: Xiao Kegang & Luo Yinglong
Artists: Xiao Kegang, Luo Yinglong
Exhibition Director: A Thousand Plateaus Art Space
Academic Critics: Chen Mo, Zha Changping
Opening Reception: 24 November 2007 (Saturday) 3pm-6pm
Exhibition Dates: Nov. 24 – Dec.31 2007
Address: A Thousand Plateaus Chengdu, 87 Fangqin Jie, Chengdu
Tel.: +86 (0)28 8515 8238 8512 6358
Publication: Still Sensations: Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong
Still Sensations is an exhibition with oil paintings by Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong. Behind their paintings, ever changing manifestations of life lie hidden. They conceal a rich content incomparable to other forms of life and containing endless possibilities. In reality, the unconscious behaviour of the artist hides in the shadow of his extreme feelings. This unconscious attitude is to a large extent the artist’s direct reaction to his environment. Their paintings question a broader topic only devoted to the essentials, namely the body and its significance
However, their paintings bear some striking differences. Luo Yinglong’s paintings possess a strong physical feeling. His series Running Red embodies a hypersensitive dispersing power that decomposes personal emotional expressions to every corner of his paintings. The red dotted forms in his paintings are often associated with an extreme form of insolence that penetrates people’s visual senses. In the series Body, Fish and Flower by Xiao Kegang, the body is rather viewed as a natural symbol. Just as all objects symbolize the body, so does the body function as a symbol for all objects. It is as if the surface of the painting has become a fierce battlefield where human beings trade, fight and compete with the outer world. It conveys a meaningful system produced by the tense relationship of the body with ‘the self’ and ‘the society’.
The Power of Silence
The first time that I saw the paintings of Xiao Kegang was last year at the exhibition ‘New Power’. My first thought was: “This is a good painter”. The reason I thought so was simply because his paintings meet my criteria. But let us first not talk about criteria. Since everybody has set his own criteria, we would only muddle things up by giving an explanation for them. People should silently look at paintings. I like it this way. This is also the reason why I like to go to exhibitions and why I don’t like to attend meetings.
The art scene these days is buzzing with life. This is of course a good thing. It points out the fact that we are living in a flourishing era. It also proves that our cultural level has improved and that the number of people who are concerned with art has grown. There are more and more exhibitions and also the approaches have diversified. Exhibitions often take the appearance of a fashionable news conference. To put it differently, when an exhibition doesn’t look like a fashion show, it is seen as a defeat. But when the exhibition is too lively, I can’t help longing for the somewhat cold and desolate ambiance of the lonely painter. Luckily we still live in such times and such places; a workshop with sufficient space, where one can quietly sit and think about art and paint the result of one’s thoughts on canvas. “Blue House” is such a place. At least, now it is still like this. Although there is a lot of traffic, there are fortunately still some trees in the immediate surroundings where one can enjoy quietness. We áre lucky.
Every time an art collector or gallery owner visits “Blue House”, I tell them: “Over there is a good painter”. Afterwards I take them to the atelier of Xiao Kegang. They will see a robust Han Chinese, who speaks in a surprisingly low voice. He doesn’t say much. After uttering some sentences, he withdraws in silence. Everybody quietly takes a look at his paintings, after which Xiao Kegang quietly sees his visitors out.
In these times, everybody likes to say that one’s EQ is more important than one’s IQ. Xiao Kegang’s gestures don’t seem to be compatible with this saying. This is maybe also the reason why he hasn’t gained fame yet or why the prices of his paintings are not sufficiently high. But he doesn’t seem eager at all to change himself. I can notice this from the smallest things, from the way he pours a cup of tea or lights a cigarette to the way he leans back in his chair. I haven’t seen him painting but from his paintings, I can see that his state of mind isn’t so simply structured at all.
I won’t comment on his paintings. This is the job of art critics and art lovers. What I want to say is that, apart from his paintings, I also highly admire his attitude to life. I am a drifter, involuntarily I am drawn out and into excitement. Although I might have more success in the art scene, I know that once he will be more successful. In my bones, I am the same person as Xiao Kegang and I believe that quietness isn’t necessarily just a force; it might even be a strength more permanent and intense than anything else.
When one wants to become an artist, he should at least possess the following characteristics: An innate sensitivity (an individual and natural eye for perception), an accumulation of rich experiences (a continuous improvement of creative skills), an outstanding personality (a durable and modest, personal temperance), an extensive understanding of tradition (a thorough knowledge of art history), a deep mastery of the classics (an understanding of the different aspects of classical works), a humanistic inner self-restraint (digestion and absorption of humanistic classics) and an intuitive feeling for contemporary problems (grasping the essence of our contemporary culture). But an outstanding artist should not only possess those qualities, he should also integrate them in his artistic language. He should touch the heart of the art lover who stands in front of his works. In their aesthetical admiration, he should bring about feelings of life that see the artist as a person living in Paramita. When an artist manages to create and provoke those qualities by means of his artistic language, then we can call him a great artist.
When we look at the series Overflowing Desire and Freak by Luo Yinglong and Fish, Flower and Body by Xiao Kegang, we can recognize the above described characteristics of the artist. The paintings’ sharp emotions embody the artists’ rich and passionate imagination. In the series Fish, Xiao Kegang consciously uses a bold and unconstrained brush stroke to sketch the contours of the leftovers of a fish. Because the boldness of artistic expression doesn’t mean that the artist should neglect the minute treatment of details, the wielding of his brush needs sometimes more self-control and quietness in order to enhance the visual tension of his paintings. However, looking at the paintings exhibited in Still Sensations, we can observe that the artist continues the immemorial and long-stretching, free and unbridled expressivity of Chinese traditional painting, considering art as a gateway to spiritual redemption. Obviously, this is first a redemption of the individual life of the artist himself and only after that a redemption of the spectators of his paintings.
Luo Yinglong uses in his series Overflowing Desire different layers of monochromatic colours: red or yellow. In his paintings, he puts women’s breasts next to each other symbolizing sexual desire, he directly and uninhibitedly paints the desirable reproductive organs of a woman or he depicts the negative innermost feelings of two persons entwined in an ambiguous kiss, exchanging obscenities or having a sexual relationship. The sexual intercourse between men and women is supposed to be an act of mutual pleasure but in the paintings of Luo Yinglong, this pleasure has become an agonizing torment. Concerned about the form and in order to experiment with more possibilities, the artist has for a time used a rather gay light yellow to express his own secret experiences with hurt feelings. Even though this kind of artistic language reinforces the pictorial tension between the aesthetic form and its corresponding content, the artist chose in the end – because of the contradiction with his personal dismal – to abandon this form and to return to his beloved colour of desire: red. In fact, the process of creation is often also a process in which the artist discovers the love and hatred of his own feelings. It is not only a love for the artistic thematic concern rising from his own personal experiences, but also a love for the particular and natural capacity of art as a medium. This kind of love enhances the concern of the artist for what and how he wants to express.
The idea for the series Fish by Xiao Kegang originates from a fortuitous experience he had in a restaurant. When serving the food, he couldn’t keep his eye from the bloody, marked fish on the dinner plate. From that time on, he has developed a keen eye for drawing crushed fish. In fact, the brutality of the food culture in our modern civilization that sees fish only as a piece of flesh can be considered as the transformation and the exteriorization of our wounded soul, even though the cook is not aware of his brutal act. The author hopes through the artistic concern for our environment to make more people aware that their desires and wishes have limitations. He laments the gradual extinction of objects in our daily life because of the deification and exaggeration of our desires. The intuitive sensitivity of the artist for contemporary problems is ad hic obviously clear. Exactly because of this, the painting Flower by Xiao Kegang, is neither realistic nor imaginative, it lies between the two, leaving people with a broken, scattered and withered feeling. Although the body is considered as a neutral concept, in the series Body it is the desperate but only possible expression of the artist’s individual life. As the grey coloured body of our conscious life, as the scarlet coloured fish of our fleshly life and as the bright coloured peony of our natural life; it all symbolizes the modern destiny of the living filled with a deep concern for the natural world.
The difference between modern and classical feelings is that modern feelings are more a negative reaction on the scattered and fragmented personal experiences of people today. It is not possible any more to experience an intact, continuous, pastoral, unperturbed and contented state of mind like in the Middle Ages. It is exactly from the ignorance about contemporary life, a rigidity of artistic ideals and a deep concern for human problems that the artist Luo Yinglong entered in 1995 after graduation the artist village Yuanmingyuan in Beijing. But only two months later the village was dismantled and the artists were expelled. That is when he started his vagrant life in Beijing. In order to find answers on questions related to life and art, he spent a whole 60 days in the Fengrusong Bookshop reading Heidegger’s Being and Time. Such behaviour can only occur with mature artists that fully understand the restraints imposed by culture. After that he changed his professional direction and started building and renovating houses. (Xiao Kegang has had a similar course of life). The things that he did not related to art often ended in a debacle. Modern life has left deep marks on both of them. This might be the main reason why they chose a hidden and negative attitude to life as their subject of concern.
Good art should leave people with a feeling of unlimited semiotic possibilities. The oil paintings of Luo Yinglong and Xiao Kegang reveal the desires of modern times hidden between people’s mental layers: the secret language of Luo Yinglong and the mournful language of Xiao Kegang. When we stand still in front of their works, we will naturally feel – whether it is before others or before nature – that our desires should be controlled and restrained. Otherwise enjoyment can turn into harm and pleasure can become self-torture. An artist has another choice. He can choose to write about this emotional negativity. Because writing about the hidden desires of people, is the deepest concern of humanity.
2007-11-15 Yunnan University, Green Lake side
Two Special Cases
Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong: two special cases. Their atelier is located in Blue House: two independent units, two lively cases.
Xiao Kegang: a steady, simple and self-restrained person. This might often be reason for misconception. Because of his robust physique, the connection with hard physical labour is quickly made. It would however be wrong to establish a liaison between the direct impression he gives to people and his artistic work. The warm sunbeams in the river valley of Anning in Xichang have illuminated his path from his childhood onwards all the way to the years of insight. The vast and violent wind of the Yi minority breezed in his face and imperceptibly modelled his character and personality. These only seem to be some trivial background matters but in fact they bear a strong relationship with the formation of Xiao Kegang as an artist. In the first half of last year, he moved from his hometown Xichang to Blue House in Chengdu where he started his personal artistic reformation. The art scene of Blue House had compared to his hometown some difficult to describe cultural exigencies. This pressure that he had never experienced before, urged him to broaden his reading and reflective horizon. His outstanding education had provided him with a superior painting technique. The problems he faced coming to Blue House were of a different kind: how to make an effective breakthrough in his mind and conceptual thinking in order to reach an independent and academic level. We can distinguish some tendencies in his paintings. The first characteristic concerns the conceptualization of the human body: the human body as material and the human body as an alienation from classical orthodoxy. The former has physiological properties and the last one has spiritual properties. Between inhumans being humans and humans being humans lies the difference between the first body as alienated by the mind into a cultural other and the second body as an organism classified as an organism. The difference is striking and its value is self-explanatory. This is also the reason why people have through the ages emphasized the ‘apparent appearance’ as the simple reason of art. Thus being, we can see the modelled human body whose form drifts along with each brush stroke he places. The ‘human taste’ has to make place for the ‘spiritual taste’. Xiao Kegang perseveres and does not abandon; he is absolutely equal to the task. The second characteristic touches upon the conceptualization of the social ecology. The economy is speeding up, cities are in uncontrollable expansion, the internet has a devastating outcome and the desire for material wealth has never been so overwhelming. The direct glory of a blooming society can not hide its severe and lingering chronic disease from view. There truly exists a pragmatic and logical relationship between the loveliness of dazzling and attractive commercial products and the trash of stinking and poisoned air. Taking this as his source of expression, Xiao Kegang reconstructs many interesting details that have consistently been put aside by people as disposables. The highly imaginative absurdness of something like a peach blossom fairyland will maybe dispel people’s fatigue with reading. The third characteristic is the conceptualization of the fish species. The fish that is not able to survive without water is maybe the most used, trampled, molested and consumed species. It has a stomach-filling, mind-expanding and life-prolonging physical and practical utility and offers a comforting but counterfeit function. The artist enters this weak species that is fondled as one wishes into an expressive and experimental context. Its sociological significance is maybe more important than its biological significance. At a moment when people alienate from the ‘brush stroke’, his interest and dedication increase and do not decline. At a moment when the skin texture of the paint and the seeping appeal of ink supersede and coincide, the transmuted image emerges as a seemingly veritable appearance and displaces the impermanent interaction of the soul. Xiao Kegang is a case that deserves our attention. Because his experiments will continue, different results will be a question of constant succession.
The other case: Luo Yinglong. It is difficult to see in the emaciated and pitiable physique of Luo Yinglong the same itinerant person from Yuanmingyuan as ten years ago. To use his own words: “When graduated from the Sichuan School of Arts, I was bursting with courage and excitement.” His unfamiliarity with the outside world, his curiosity for exploration and the support of some teachers, such as Luo Zhongli formed the main reason for his short stay in Beijing. After having tried other occupations apart from art, he just felt like a child tired from playing outside. He made a bend again and returned to art as a way of living. Following the creation of men and the division of labour by God, being allotted ‘artistic’ genes is for sure a harsh destiny. Because of this harshness, we have no other possibility than to face the fact that examples of real outstanding artists are scarce. For Luo Yinglong, the choice for Blue House was in reality also a choice for plainness and a decision to assume the responsibility of accepting pressure. In his early years, he has tried many different popular art forms. He has however never showed a concern for social and ecological problems, nor for the questioning of personal psychological confusion and moral and judicial responsibility or for the exploration of stylistic features and formal language of his works. But after that, his interest became more focused on a simplified form of abstract painting. The first reason for this was related to his pure and filtered state of mind that following his experiences in life had evolved in a positive direction transforming from complexity into plainness. The second reason can be found in his firm belief in a linguistic logic corresponding to his own personal situation. According to him, the complexity and simplicity, the density and quantity of human nature is a contradictory body that is in a constant state of swelling and shattering. In his paintings, the round, red dots thick as cells hide irretraceable images. And in their ups and downs emerges an empty and misty haziness and a spiritual nomadism that is unable to meet with a final ending. As the first organisms of life, the strictly ordered arrangement of cells seems to correspond to the complex state of existence of all layers of society. The form of expression that the artist has chosen parries the popular form in use last year. In the short run the outer world considers it as a delayed risk; in the long run people can obtain an identical superiority that reduces features and methods. This is also the reason why many artists are confused. It seems that the rebirth of art also implies a harsh start. When will there be an end? Nobody knows.
2007-11 in Chengdu Longwang Temple
内在外在：一种“身体社会学(Sociology of The Body）”的“表现(Expressionism)”
Intrinsic and extrinsic: Expressionism of the Sociology of the Body
It doesn’t occur very often that people reflect seriously on the actual meaning of the word ‘body’. Normally, people automatically associate their body with the parts of the body they can see and feel, such as their hands and face. There is no difference in the way they perceive their own body and the body of others. They don’t notice its complexity and therefore tend to become the slaves of their own physical corpus.
A body is more than a substance that possesses form. It is as a social and cultural phenomenon; it is a symbolic medium that constitutes the object and basis of people’s conceptual thinking and imagination. Our body is a substance that possesses natural, social and cultural characteristics. These characteristics provide the body with three unique ontological dimensions. The concept of dimension we use here should not be understood in the light of our normal understanding of dimension as being the length, width and height of natural objects, but should be fit into the following three contexts: a material dimension, a social dimension and a philosophical and aesthetical dimension. This third dimension reveals itself through the abstract, imaginative, symbolic and supreme invisible structure of time and space. It is the highest form of existence of the human body. The paintings of Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong mirror these reflections about the body, and their expressive strength involves an immediate connection with the ‘three ontological dimensions’ of Sartre.
In the interrelation of humans with the surrounding world and universe, the body has always served as a point of departure and return. The body as a special formal structure has in reality become the first visible boundary for human existence and the main room for intercommunication between our inner existence and the outer world. Consequently, the body can be said to form the point of concordance and disparity between human beings and the world. In this capacity, the body conducts at the same time both an affirmation and a differentiation of itself. It connects and breaks, it restricts and exceeds. This threefold bidirectional function gives the body an ingenious and mysterious character and provides it with multiple elastic qualities and structures, susceptible to change. In this respect, the human body is the most complicated, mysterious and unpredictable material substance existent in the natural world. It is therefore no wonder that Merleau-Ponty once metaphorically described the body as a wonderful musical instrument that is perfectly able to compose by itself, sing by itself, play by itself and enjoy itself.
In the artistic creations of Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong, the body plays a central role. It is the basis and starting point for their highly introspective and personal, material and spiritual artistic creations. At the same time, they reintegrate the result of their artistic creations in their own bodies, in order to continuously enrich and reopen their own lives. The body in their paintings is present in the course of their lives. On the one hand, the body uninterruptedly expands and exceeds towards the outer world in an attempt to surmount the time-space structure to which it is subjected and in an attempt to expand towards a non-existing, illusory and symbolic blurred space. On the other hand, the body resolutely seeps into the depth of people’s hearts, souls and feelings. In their realm of thought the body recognizes a haven of retrospection, reflection and recreation. It strides across several layers of the spiritual world, struggles its way through a process of endless repudiation and underestimation of the mind and – in the inner world of the body of all art lovers – it dreams up a profound yet beautiful melancholic world. All this provides the body with a more and more refined aesthetic disposition, character, psychology and temperament.
The body has without doubt become the basic unit in people’s life, extending and continuing in time and space. It is often the case that people experience changes in time through their body. Their body wanders and drifts, imagines and exists within the vast dimension of time. This discourse of time with history and the whole cultural world allows people to set foot in a boundless and vast world full of possibilities.
My first impression of Luo Yinglong: a man with a devoted mind and body, but with a downcast disposition and a certain neurosis. He possesses a restrained sensibility but is endowed with an outspoken ability of great and harmonious understanding. His series Running Red bears a hypersensitive dispersing power that decomposes personal emotional expressions to every corner of his paintings. As he says himself: “Something temporary is even more able to penetrate into the emotions of live itself.” Red, these red dotted forms in his paintings are often associated with an extreme form of insolence. Its physiological essence is heartily flavoured with every stroke of his brush, well-aimed and highly detailed. Although the temperament of his paintings tends to adhere to some kind of hypersensitive expressionism and emanates from his individual and personal perception, his internal memory however doesn’t lack a collective, unconscious and extensive socialized reflective determination. Every time we see his paintings, the mind of the artist seems to smile and the consciously lived experiences of the public immerse in the atmosphere. At the same time, this consciousness returns to an empty and misted state of mind where the origin of life seems to have found its reincarnation. In his paintings, we feel a strong physical presence and time consciousness. They incarnate the possibility of communication with the self, with history and with the world. Through the physical experience of Luo Yinglong’s ‘neurotic’ life, the spectators do not only occupy a fundamental space that every manifestation of life ought to occupy in the first place, but – by continuously enlarging and crossing the limited space of their body – they incite this same space to expand and swell and to open itself to a world with unlimited possibilities.
In the paintings of Xiao Kegang, the place taken up by the body is never restrained by physical boundaries. The difference between body and physical substance is determined by the possible room the body can occupy apart from its physical characteristics. And the physical substance is in its weakness not willing to start a hidden and riotous dialogue with the spiritual body of its creator. In this case, the spectators are not able to reach satisfaction when enjoying the scope of the space provided by the painted surface, leading to an unreal platform of imagination, desire, emotions and determination. They would rather want to differentiate themselves and project their own person into a non-materialistic space abundant with symbols. At that moment, the body creates a fierce battlefield of time and space where human beings trade, massacre and compete with the outside world. Maybe there might be people who only notice the outer passionate appearance of the body, who only see how the body expands itself in the outer world, but who forget that the inner expansion and revolving motions of the body converge with the outer movements. The series of Xiao Kegang in this exhibition is the guiding force behind this particular vitality of the spectator’s body and opens itself up in this compound visual field of intercrossing and bidirectional movements. The body in the series Body, Fish and Flower is not only a fundamental token of the existence and development of our social culture, but has also become ‘the window’ (form of expression) to our soul, thoughts, mind and mental disposition.
People often take Descartes’ traditional point of view as a premise to state that the world outside our body and the mind inside our body are two strictly separate and independent entities. The reality is however different. The real experiences of our body reveal themselves to us in the vague state of our physical existence. The forms of existence of our body are obscure. This means that the existence of our body has visible and invisible boundaries. It follows that the intersection and coexistence of this two boundaries provide the body with both a definite and limited surface and an indefinite and unlimited surface. Foucault firmly believes that all societies and cultures evolve from the human body. The history of the human body is the history of our society and culture. Conversely, we can also say that the development of society and culture has left ineffaceable marks on the human body. The human body has in every historical period been exposed to social and cultural devastation and torture. The body is nothing more than a record of events; it is the place where the self encounters dismantlement.
In the series of Xiao Kegang, the body is a natural symbol. Just as all objects symbolize the body, so does the body function as a symbol for all objects. This reflects the anthropological ‘theory of the two bodies’, namely ‘the self’ and ‘society’. The body in Body, Fish and Flower conveys a meaningful system produced by the tense relationship of the body between ‘the self’ and ‘society’. The lively motions of the body in this series already embody the complicated contrast between the body as ‘the self’ and the body as ‘society’, a contrast that our personal identity recognizes as its fundamental basis. It is a series that expresses a hidden passionate behaviour. At the same time it reveals a conceptual expressionism that is an unconscious decomposition of the popular strata of society.
Behind the paintings of Luo Yinglong and Xiao Kegang ever changing manifestations of life lie hidden. They imply an extremely rich content incomparable to normal forms of live and containing boundless possibilities. Seen from this angle, the body in their paintings is a very particular sign and symbol with a contemporary social and cultural meaning. Every part and whole of these bodies forms at the same time a meaningful symbol of the reality, the past and the future as well as a possible meaningful symbol revealed and hidden by reality. Their paintings don’t stop with a simple study of the relationship between the body and the soul and thoughts but they touch upon the limited process of the present social system and norms and their effect on the condition of the body and its different forms of manifestation. In the course of the production and satisfaction of all our physical functions, they equally involve a reflection on the state of affairs of the individual body and the social system and norms and on the erratic twofold condition of the different physical manifestations between social normalization and individual subjectivation.
The manifestations and condition of the body of the artistic subject are in every time and space also subject to a process of preservation and recreation. New productions and developments of a certain artistic cultural phenomenon correspond to a special inner and outer need that is continuously dominated by the twofold manifestations of life: flesh and mind. They have their own unity and identity. This is the place where an artist can be an artist. It is also the real source of continuous artistic cultural development.
From this we can understand that the artists Xiao Kegang and Luo Yinglong adhere to the principle “Art serves as a mirror in which we see our own spiritual difficulties reflected” How smooth and profound our inertia of existence! Therefore, in their realm of thoughts, artists should live their own lives; their lives shouldn’t be lived for them.