Does Abstract Art Exist in China?

With the Olympics in China, I thought I would include this piece that I found on Chinese abstract.

Zhao Wuji’s abstract painting

Abstraction is the Product of Western Modernism

bsent the birth of Western Modernism, there would have been no abstract art. For a brief period during the twentieth century, however, some scholars propounded the contrary theory that abstract art had existed in ancient China. In the Yang Shao culture of ancient China, people were accustomed to the use of simplified figurative forms on their painted pottery to represent realistic forms. The twentieth century scholars thought that these simplified figurative design patterns were the first step in a process leading from figurative art to abstract art. As an example they cited fish patterns on the Yang Shao pottery, which were depicted both with representational forms and with simplied, more abstract forms, suggesting that the representational forms had been employed originally and had over time been depicted in increasingly simplied, more “abstract” forms. However, it was later discovered by archaeologists that both the representational and simplified motifs had been employed during the same period and in the same area, which completely overturned theories about the evolution of abstract art as having begun in ancient Chinese cultures.

Zen Yin Yang Koi Fish Feng Shui

Clement Greenberg was another proponent of the theory that abstract art has its roots in pre-twentieth-century art, in his theory, the art and culture of the Enlightenment. He regarded abstract art as a symbol of the development of mankind’s ability to think conceptually. Greenberg asserted that abstract art is the highest form of art to develop out of Western culture since the Enlightenment. He sees abstract art as the quintessence of culture. Abstraction to Greenberg means freeing oneself from the limitations of figurative language and approaching a state of spiritual freedom that enables the artist to create art that is “just what it is”. A variety of theories concerning Western abstract art and spanning a period of more than a century find their culmination in the work of Greenberg, who thought that the representation of reality with the use of two dimensional forms was far closer to the essence of reality itself than representation in three-dimensional forms. For Greenberg, three-dimensional realism is just an illusion. Greenberg’s theories were derived from Plato. According to Plato, the reality we can see is just a shadow of the real world of “ideas”. Therefore, three dimensional art is just a shadow of yet other shadows. So from this perspective, two dimensional abstract art goes beyond and improves upon three-dimensional, representational forms of art. Abstract art depicts the whole world of ideas, as in the red and black squares of Malevich, and the patterns of Mondrian. Only two dimensional forms can go beyond the limits of visual illusions, thus representing real ideas. Greenberg’s revolutionary theory became the basis for Western abstract art. As Yve-Alain Bois, a professor at Columbia University and a student of Greenberg, said in his book about abstract art, Painting as a Model, the geometrical forms of modern art are its essence.

Changming Meng

Every model requires a code, and it is that code that endows abstract art with its meaning. Furthermore, the act of understanding abstract art is itself a decoding process. But the process of decoding abstract art is quite different from the analytic methods used for previous art forms. Decoding abstract art doesn’t rely on an understanding or interpretation of any representational forms. Theories of abstract art reject the idea that art should be merely representational, that it should be indebted to literature’s narratives or to the world’s visual appearance. The process of decoding abstract art doesn’t depend upon visual reality at all. It is a process moving from one idea to another, as represented, for example by dots, lines, and a color field. On the contrary, art theories have often stressed the role of reality as a medium to decode the meaning of an artwork. Let me offer an example. The decoding process employed by Iconology starts from the physical appearance of an icon, in order to enter its Iconological index, and to finally pierce the symbol itself. This process is based on the relationship between icon and visual reality and it is this relationship that makes the decoding process employed by Iconology possible. Since Iconology is related to theology, history and culture it is therefore the monopoly of art historians. On the contrary, the code of modern abstract art doesn’t need to rely on any icon as medium. Breaking free from the icon as a medium endows the artist with creative freedom. But it does not free the person doing the decoding. This is because defining the meaning of an artwork is the privilege of the abstract artist, who is free of the icon as symbol, not of the task of a passive decoder.

The individual code has become the essential characteristic of modern abstract art. Modernism has produced many masters and excellent artists who rely on personal code as a means of expession. Seeing the works of Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Newman, we need only listen reverently, listen attentively to the explanations of the artists themselves about how they reconstitute the external world in terms of geometrical forms. This kind of abstract art based on individual codes appeared only during the twentieth century. It is very different from the ancient, non-Western art forms similar to abstract art such as the Yang Shao pottery patterns or on the bronzes of the Shang and Zhou dynasty. The essential difference between those early works and modern Western abstract art is that both the codes employed and the decoding process from ancient works are collective, not individual, codes. At the time of the Yang Shao culture, people could easily understand the various decorative patterns employed probably because they were ritual symbols, used during rites to pay homage. These abstract forms were the symbols of the religious and cultural life of these ancient populations, not the symbols of the individual artist. Both the use of codes and the decoding processes were are collective processes. Therefore, I would argue that modern abstract art is the product of the individualism developed from the Enlightenment onwards and is essentially different from any “abstract” forms either from ancient China or from other non-Western cultures.

Individualism is at the heart of Western modern abstract art because that art form stresses the originality and personal artistic growth that great masters and influential artists are able to pursue. Consequently, new compositions employ totally new code systems, and these new code systems stand for a new meaning. This is what some Western modernists, such as Roger Fry and Clive Bell, refer to as a “significant form”. So the pursuit of significant form resulted in the reverence for individualism and originality. Herein lies the quintessence of Modernism. In the 1950s, Minimalism, a representative style of late twentieth century Modernism, moved from the early modernist ideal toward an extreme formalism of what they called “objecthood” and “theatricality”. Various minimalist artists consider the colors of their images as pure matter . As Stella said, “What you see is what you see .” Minimalism strives for an objectified theatricality, which allows the public to step onto the stage with the artwork . At the same time, it possesses a fierce sense of spatial composition and of space conceived as a whole. Furthermore, Minimalism uses a completely objectified space to express a sense of the material that defies interpretation, thus completely discarding the need for codes and decoding processes. Even if Minimalism destroyed the mysterious and individual allure of the codes used by modern abstract masters, and thus precluded the need for their audience to decode their works, it still remains a quintessential modernist principle because it endows the artist with the absolute power to control the space of the artwork (generally through a series of arbitrary forms). In comparison with Greenberg’s concept of art as “just what it is” and Stella’s notion of “what you see is what you see,” pre-Minimalist abstract art focuses on thought, Minimalism on visual perception. But both consider art an autonomic realm.

Needlessly to say, all kinds of modernism (early and late) reject content (either as a picture of reality, an interpretation of the critic, or a statement of the artist). It is this dichotomy (content vs. form) that set up the foundation for modern abstract art throughout the 20th century. One may find, however, there is no such divide between content and form in the practice of the so-called Chinese “abstract” art.

The Chineseness in Chinese Contemporary Abstract Art

After the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the earlier generation of social realist artists turned to individual styles and aesthetics. A debate over formalism took place in the early 1980s. In 1981, Wu Guangzhong, a French – trained painter of the earlier generation, in an essay published in Art Monthly argued against the dominant forms of realism in favor of abstraction, or “no subject, just form.” The article caused a sensation which inspired a number of younger artists to pursue a modern art style. In the second half of the 1980s, the avant-garde artists of the ’85 Movement continued this experimental art, and used a style similar to abstraction in combination with Surrealism and Expressionism to create what I labeled as “Rationalistic painting”. One may think of Rationalistic painting as an alternative form of Chinese Modernism, because it has an idealistic aspect similar to that of early European Modernism, and because its subjects always relate to traditional Oriental philosophical ideas, such as “squire (fang),” “sphere (yuan),””nothingness (wu)” and “being (you)”. For instance, in the 1980s, there was a group of artists in China, in Shanghai in particular, that was concerned with abstract art. In Shanghai, Yu Youhan, Ding Yi, Qin Yifeng, and Wang Zi were the first artists to create abstract works that employed dots and lines. This kind of Chinese “abstract” art, however, is crucially different from the Western modern abstract art rendered in geometric forms.

From the 1990s onwards, many traditional ink and wash painters such Li Huasheng, Zhang Yu, Zhang Jin and Wei Qingji devoted themselves to abstract ink and wash painting whose subjects were dots and lines. This so-called “abstract art” phenomenon took place simultaneously in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong during the last 20 years. In Hong Kong, Lui Chun Kwong, a professor at the Hong Kong Chinese University, and his students such as Man Fengyi, Kwok Ying, Qu Kailin, engaged in abstraction. In the 1980s in Taiwan, Chuang Pu after his return from Spain devoted himself to abstraction in the form of Minimalism and strongly influenced young artists such as those of the IT Part group.

Nevertheless, how can we define the Chinese “abstract art” phenomenon, or identify the essential characteristics of Chinese “abstract art,” in comparison with those of Euro-American?

First, this Chinese abstract art phenomenon is partly a result of the current urbanization trend and it expresses the responses of individual artists to the impact of globalization. Alternatively, since abstract art in general has been marginalized for at least a half of century, the Chinese “abstract art” of the last 20 years can be seen as a rebellion against conventional realism as well as against current urban mass culture, as both share a similar kitsch aspect.

All Chinese “abstract” artists share a common principle: the squares, the dots, and the lines they employ are neither a mere formal decoration (as “what you see is what you see”), nor are they the material expression of the Ideal (as “what it is”). They are engaged in a dialogue similar to the one carried on in everyday life between artists and objects. The squares, dots and lines symbolize the repetition and triviality of everyday life. They are the expression of self-development in an urbanized context that keeps its distance from the outside world. These abstract forms do not represent things. So, its minimalist appearance has nothing in common with the Minimalist style of 1950s USA. These forms are similar to forms found in the records of spiritual exercises of Buddhist meditation. Almost all these abstract artists stress repetition, continuity, and a simple, unaffected state of mind. They focus on creating an internally satisfying spiritual realm. This is why I labeled the abstract artists of the 1990s as “Maximalists”. “Maximalism” means being able to express freely without dichotomy between form and content, matter and spirit, art work and artist, or object and environment. It means being able to go beyond the formal appearance of an artwork, thus expressing the unique feelings of an artist in a unique context, and his personal process of daily growth. There are many artists concerned with these issues. For example, Li Huasheng’s ink and wash paintings are his personal diary; Zhu Xiaohe, with his short lines, copies ancient paintings and masterpieces everyday. Actually, Maximalism consists of using personal feelings to inform the process of abstraction. Zhang Yu leaves his fingerprints on his casual sketches on Xuanzhi (high quality paper from Anhui Province) in order to condense his own experiences in an abstract ink wash painting. We can cite many other artists, including those in the current exhibition visibleinvisible.

Each of them underscores the importance of individual aesthetic experience as opposed to any standard model to define the forms they choose to use. They never aim at pursuing a unique and revolutionary style. On the contrary they aim at a mutual but tacit dialogue between their personal feelings (spiritual realm) and the means of expression (material realm). All this is evident in their “piece by piece” art making process as well as in everyday life. This approach thus transcends the dichotomy of the abstract aesthetic developed in Western Modernism.

Therefore, the minimalist Chinese abstract art that emerged in the 1990s is not the Minimalism of Western Modernism, rather it is an art phenomenon I call Maximalism. First, the paintings using geometrical compositions in Chinese Maximalist art show no relationship with either the “pure matter” of Minimalism or with the abstract expression of the Ideal of earlier works. Second, they have no relationship with elite style, evolution or other modernist conceptions. On the contrary, these works are related strictly to the everyday life of Chinese people living under the assaults of urbanization. The physical form of the works is not to be seen as an independent entity since the essence of the art is not the works on the walls. Whereas Western Modernist art is derived from the relationship between frame and wall, Chinese abstract art focuses more on the relationship between the artwork and the artist’s affect on it as impacted by the artist’s environment, the process of which is an inseparable part of the artist’s everyday life. So, even if these artists don’t consciously attempt to employ coding, codes appear in the dialogue among the artists, their everyday lives and their artwork. Their codes are invisible and immaterial, therefore it is impossible to decode their works in the conventional manner in which art critics and audiences engage. Instead their codes have to be experienced, rather than read, by the public. Therefore, to decode these works, the audience must do more than read the physical form of a work (that is, it’s surface, or text). It must understand the entire process of making the art, the context underlying the work.

Secondly, concerning the spatial form of paintings, Maximalism is a search for the infinity of space. The Maximalists have no interest in the wholeness of their compositions, which emphasize the difference between center and edge. They do not create independent or self-sufficient paintings. On the contrary, they aim to express their spatial concepts through repetitive forms. Therefore, most of their works are repetitive series. Their “wholeness” is realized in a series of partially completed works. According to the Maximalists, there is not fixed, isolated or unchangeable space limited by a frame. Space is a kind of relationship, always moving and metamorphosing. Some use different “formal principles” to express this infinity. For instance, in his early works, Xu Hongming used the Chinese traditional perspective method — the use of multiple vanishing points in stead of the single point of the Western perspective — to create his own abstraction. He used the method as an aesthetic means to express infinite space. His latest works explore the ways to express spatial infinity by using infinitely subtle changes in color. To take another example, Zhou Yangming and Zhang Fan superimpose innumerable grid layers to create the visual illusions of infinite depth. By unceasingly changing the combinations of rounds (karyon), the latest works of Tan Ping are metaphors referring to the eternal uncertainty of spatial relationships and compositions. This idea of uncertainty, or ambiguity, in fact comes from traditional Buddhist and Taoist philosophy which consider the physical world as increasingly transmuting space.

Conclusion

Therefore, the “space” in Chinese abstract art is neither a composition portraying the spiritual idealism aimed at by the early Modernists, nor is it the closed, unchangeable, theatrical space of the Minimalists. On the contrary, Maximalism seeks to express the infinity of visual space, not its wholeness. It is anti-wholeness and anti-theatricality. Furthermore, the space of Chinese abstract art goes far beyond its physical presence; it consists both of its interior and exterior space. One cannot truly understand the “space” inside the painting without a thorough comprehension of the conceptual space of the artist.
By Gao Minglu

Damien Hirst is rewriting the rules of the market

“Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” sounds like the name of a new work by Damien Hirst, but it’s actually the title of his solo sale at Sotheby’s. The ambiguity is appropriate because Hirst’s rank as an artist is inextricably linked to his status as a headline commanding businessman who wields considerable power over the buying and selling of his own work.

The “Beautiful” auction raises many questions, including: Is Hirst sabotaging his own market? On several stands at Art Basel last month, new and vintage Hirst works remained unsold. Hirst’s studios are not only extremely efficient in keeping his official dealers well stocked with a good range of spot, spin, and butterfly paintings, but in making direct sales themselves. At a time when some gallerists are experiencing a minor slowdown, one dealer suspected the artist of orchestrating an “end-of-boom fire sale” to accommodate his alleged over-production.

True believers, however, see Hirst’s abundant serial output as essential to his oeuvre. Harry Blain, director of Haunch of Venison, whose back room is busy in the trade of Hirst works, explained: “Just as Warhol and Picasso were highly productive, it is an important aspect of Damien’s market that he is prolific. There need to be enough works in circulation to sustain the growing global demand.”

Are primary dealers becoming cuckolds? Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist Oliver Barker claims that the sale has “the wholehearted support of Damien’s dealers…who recognise his rulebreaking charisma.”

However, Jay Jopling, owner of White Cube, sounds a tad ambivalent. “8,601 flawless diamonds notwithstanding, ours has never been a traditional marriage,” he said in Sotheby’s press release, evoking the financial sacrifice his gallery made to coown Hirst’s diamond skull when it didn’t sell outright. One collector close to both Jopling and Gagosian told me, “I love Damien’s work, but his treatment of his business partners is abusive and selfish.”

Certainly many gallerists believe the auction is “a horrible precedent”. However, some view the sale as an almost philosophical event. As dealer-collector David Mugrabi explains, “It seems to be a game for Damien. He’s seeing if he can get away with murder, just as Duchamp did with his urinal.”

What are the strategies of the auction houses with regard to the primary market? Whilst Sotheby’s goes public with a straight-fromthe-studio sale and is rumoured to be courting Takashi Murakami, Christie’s buys the multi-location primary gallery Haunch of Venison.

According to Haunch’s director, “The two auction houses have entirely different approaches and relationships. Christie’s vision is more considered. It recognises the best interests of artists themselves. Damien is one of the few who could pull this off.”

Interestingly, Phillips de Pury aligns itself with Sotheby’s move as senior partner, Michaela Neumeister, asserts, “This Hirst sale would have been a perfect project for Phillips. It’s so fast-forward. We have been the crossover pioneers of morphing business models. Art is all about transforming and border testing, but the dealer logic has been very conservative.”

However, when artists become their own dealers, Dr Neumeister says, “I worry for their freedom and their peace of mind. It’s time consuming and distracting. That’s why it’s great Damien has his alter ego. Frank Dunphy [the artist’s business manager] is a genius.”

What will the auction contain? The answer to this question is the key to the success or failure of this high-risk event. With its solid gold eighteen-carat hooves and horns, The Golden Calf is either a decadent masterpiece or a derivative work targeting a nouveau billionaire. In the end, it is important to note that the sale is not guaranteed and to remember that Hirst’s personal collection is called “Murder Me”.

So, one must agree with Sotheby’s Oliver Barker when he declares, “Damien is totally fearless. He’s not just an outstanding artist, he’s a cultural phenomenon.”

The Art Newspaper

ART REVIEW; Just Enough Color in a World of White

The watercolors of Paul Cezanne rank high among the wonders of Western European art. For this reason, the chance of seeing 46 of them at the Acquavella Galleries is not to be missed.

The most remarkable thing about Cezanne’s watercolors is not so much what he did as what he didn’t need to do. He never manipulated the medium. The white of the paper was an equal partner, not a dance floor on which Cezanne would come on like Nijinsky.

There are landscapes in the Acquavella show — among them ”The Bellevue House on the Hill” (1885-1890) and ”The Mill at the Pont des Trois Sautets” (1890-94) — in which Cezanne almost seems to stand aside while the paper does its full share.

He does not spell out the wooded hillside that leads up to the Bellevue House, but the house itself rides high and steadily. We can read it floor by floor and sense just how much of a climb it would be to get there.

There is nothing ”clever” about what Cezanne does, here or anywhere else. He just leaves it to us to marry the extensive untouched white of the paper with his own perfectly judged touches of color, here and there.

With the ”Mill House,” we know from a photograph taken around 1934 by the Cezanne scholar John Rewald that this was a dreary place in scruffy country. But the artist once again let the white of the paper do much of the work.

The mill house, as he showed it, is light enough to dance in the air, almost. The everyday industrial chimney shoots upward toward the sky, changing color as it tops the tree line. The image as a whole has balance, form and proportion. This is a white world, flecked with yellow and green. Maybe it was never like this (the mill no longer exists), but he makes us feel that this was a place to treasure. He shows us how to look, but he also shows us where to live.

Cezanne was the only man who could paint a rose without describing it and leave us convinced that we have seen it. He did this in the ”Rose in Greenery” in the present show. The greenery is an upward oval of pale green leaves, nuanced with blue and purple.

We never see the rose, but we know that it is there because of the touches of pale pink that surround a white center. We do not see it, but we smell it.

The show also has a magnificent wall of still lifes, some of the grandest of the artist’s evocations of rocks, a very fine group of single-figure portraits and some views of the countryside around Aix-en-Provence (including Mont Sainte-Victoire).

There is also an affectionate little ”Game of Love” in which men and women carry on like puppies. But Cezanne’s erotic interests could come out even where they are least expected, as for instance in the ”Two Melons” (circa 1885). What are those two melons doing, one asks oneself, if not making love?

For the colossal sensuality that Cezanne usually kept private, the great drawings of the rocks above the Chateau Noir are the place to look, no matter how indirectly he showed his feelings. There are two such drawings in this show. Rocks are rocks, and we don’t usually think of them as having feelings. But in their tender conjunctions, an undeclared love has its place.

Something that we may never see again on a single wall is the group of eight still lifes that all date from 1900 until 1906 (the year of Cezanne’s death).

So far from leaving things out, in these complex constructions, he continually raised the stakes against himself, as in the ”Still Life With Apples and Inkpot” (1902-06).

The great intruder in this watercolor is the massive inkpot. Everything else echoes the red and the gold of the apples.

Not only are the red and gold present in the apples, on the surface of the table and on the walls, but they also give themselves an encore in that, as Mr. Rewald said, ”the contours of some objects have been repeated so often that they almost seem to be vibrating.” As for the inkpot, it has something weighty to add that is all its own.

Mr. Rewald, in agreement with his longtime colleague Lawrence Gowing, went on to say that ”those strange staccato outlines that Gowing aptly called ‘vibrating edges’ somehow integrate themselves perfectly into the sea of washes which surrounds them, so that — whether this was intended or not — they pulsate in unison.”

Throughout this astonishing wall, Cezanne takes his repertory company of household objects — bottles, a decanter, a skull, a patterned rug, a spirit stove, seasonal fruits and kitchen essentials — and he makes them do something new every time. Never do they look like the last work of a dying man.

As William Rubin reminds us in his foreword to the show, Cezanne wrote to his dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1903: ”I am working doggedly, for I perceive the Promised Land. Shall I be like the great Hebrew leader, or shall I be able to enter it?”

Ai Weiwei’s spider’s web for Liverpool

LONDON. Tate Liverpool has commissioned the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to make an ambitious installation for the Liverpool Biennial, opening next September. This will span the width of the historic former dockyard where the gallery is located. The engineering firm Arup is currently conducting a feasibility study for Web of Light which will be concluded by the end of this month.

The work will consist of illuminated crystalline strands suspended from steel cables which stretch across the Albert Dock. A spider made out of crystals will hang in the corner nearest to Tate; the entire installation will weigh over eight tonnes. The gallery will need to raise around £400,000 to realise the work.

Ai Weiwei has already made an installation for Tate Liverpool included in the exhibition “The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China” earlier this year. Fountain of Light was a two-tonne eight-metre-high steel structure illuminated like a chandelier which floated in the middle of the dock.

Simon Groom, formerly Head of Exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, now director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, says: “Ai Weiwei very much liked the architecture of the Albert Dock, as well as the sense of energy in Liverpool which he compared to Beijing. Given the success and popular appeal of the first work, it seemed only natural to want to pursue something of an even more ambitious and spectacular nature, and Web of Light promises to be the ‘must-see’ landmark public work for Capital of Culture. The work is incredibly ambitious, and of a scale to dwarf every other major public commission—but this is what happens when the ambitions of a country like China collide with those of a city like Liverpool!”

Damien Hirst, go away!

Last night I switched on my TV to a programme called Imagine. A programme about contemporary art, and how it is selling for more than some of the masters these days. Well, rubbish is what I said, the show presenter, Alan Yentob, proceeded to by a piece of wood painted red for £3,500, and it was literally a piece of wood painted red. Hell, there was a doorway which looked like part of the exhibition space because it was an open doorway. on sale for £5,000.

How the hell I am ever going to make a living from art when I just can`t come up with ideas like that? I might as well just crap on the canvas and call it something. That’s been done though. 🙂 Damien Hirst, he is another one, how can you sell something for millions of pounds which looks like a high school project, aaargh, it makes, me so angry. I am struggling away and trying to get people to notice me and it just doesn’t happen. I think I need to do something really meaningless and just say “hey, it’s art”.

Anyway, it is my plan to start a new art movement called “The Painters of the 21st Century, Who Paint” Anyone want to join, drop me a comment.

The Developer of Modern Art: Paul Cézanne

The French painter Paul Cézanne was one of the most important figures in the development of modern painting, in particular abstract art and cubism, a

Paul Cézanne. Reproduced by permission of Art Resource.

Paul Cézanne.
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style of painting in which geometric shapes are used.

Struggling to become an artist

Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, on January 19, 1839. His father, Philippe Auguste, was the cofounder of a successful banking firm, which afforded Cézanne financial security that was unavailable to most of his fellow artists. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon, where he met and became friends with Émile Zola (1840–1902). This friendship was important for both men: with youthful spirit they dreamed of successful careers in the Paris art world, Cézanne as a painter and Zola as a writer. Consequently, Cézanne began to study painting and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Design) in Aix in 1856. His father was against the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix. Although Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, at the same time he was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix, where he remained until 1861.

Paul CÉZANNE L’Après-midi à Naples [Afternoon in Naples]

In 1861 Cézanne finally convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris, France. He planned to join Zola there and to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but his application was rejected. Although he had gained inspiration from visits to the famous art museum, the Louvre, particularly from studying the painters Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) and Caravaggio (1573–1610), Cézanne experienced self-doubt and returned to Aix within the year. He entered his father’s banking house but was bored with the work. At the same time he continued to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix.

The remainder of the decade was a period of uncertainty for Cézanne. He returned to Paris in 1862 and stayed for a year and a half. During this period he met Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), and he became familiar with the revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) and Édouard Manet (1832–1883). But he was never entirely comfortable with Parisian life and occasionally returned to Aix, where he could work and be alone.

Works of the 1860s

Cézanne’s paintings from the 1860s are odd and bear little resemblance to the artist’s mature and more important style. The subject matter is dark and depressing and includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a general theme concerned with death.

A fascinating aspect of Cézanne’s style in the 1860s is its sense of energy. Each piece seems the work of an artist who could be either madman or genius. That Cézanne would evolve into the latter, however, can in no way be known from these earlier examples. Although Cézanne received encouragement from Pissarro and other artists during the 1860s and enjoyed the occasional critical backing of his friend Zola, his pictures were consistently rejected by the annual salons (art exhibitions in France) and earned him harsh criticism.


Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants

Cézanne and impressionism

In 1872 Cézanne moved to Pontoise, France, where he spent two years working very closely with Pissarro. During this period Cézanne became convinced that one must paint directly from nature. The result was that romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. In addition, the dark range of his palette (range of colors) began to give way to fresher, more vibrant colors.

Cézanne, as a direct result of his stay in Pontoise, decided to participate in the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874. Radical artists who had been constantly rejected by the official salons organized this historic exhibition. It inspired the term “impressionism,” a revolutionary art form where the “impression” of a scene or object is generated and light is simulated by primary colors.

After 1877 Cézanne gradually withdrew from the impressionists and worked in increasing isolation at his home in southern France. This withdrawal was linked with two factors. First, the more personal direction his work began to take, a direction not taken by the other impressionists. Second, the disappointing responses that his art continued to generate among the public at large. In fact, Cézanne did not show his art publicly for almost twenty years after the third impressionist show.

Cézanne’s paintings from the 1870s clearly show the influence of impressionism. In the House of the Hanged Man (1873–1874) and the Portrait of Victor Choquet (1875–1877) he painted directly from the subject and used the short, loaded brushstrokes that are characteristic of the style as it was forged by Monet, Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919).

The Forest

Mature work

During the 1880s Cézanne saw less and less of his friends, and several personal events affected him deeply. In 1886 he married Hortense Fiquet, a model with whom he had been living for seventeen years. Also, his father died that same year. Probably the most significant event of this year, however, was the publication of the novel L’Oeuvre by his friend Zola. The hero of the story is a painter (generally acknowledged to be a combination of Cézanne and Manet) whom Zola presented as an artistic failure. Cézanne took this as an insult to both him and his career and, bitterly hurt, he never spoke to Zola again.

Cézanne’s isolation in Aix began to lessen during the 1890s. In 1895, owing largely to the urging of Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir, the dealer Ambroise Vollard (1865–1939) showed a large number of Cézanne’s paintings, and public interest in his work slowly began to develop. In 1899, 1901, and 1902 Cézanne sent pictures to the annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris. In 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d’Automne. While painting outdoors in the fall of 1906 Cézanne was overtaken by a storm and became ill. He died in Aix on October 22, 1906. At the Salon d’Automne of 1907 his achievement was honored with a large retrospective exhibition (an exhibit that shows an artist’s life work).

Cézanne’s paintings from the last twenty-five years of his life led to the development of modern art. Working slowly and patiently, he developed a style that has affected almost every radical phase of twentieth-century art. This new form is apparent in many works, including the Bay of Marseilles from L’Estaque (1883–1885), Mont Sainte-Victoire (1885–1887), the Cardplayers (1890–1892), the White Sugar Bowl (1890–1894), and the Great Bathers (1895–1905).

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Opens in Beijing


The interior of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in 798 District, Dashanzi here in northeast Beijing and the exterior of the UCCA featuring a large brick chimney soaring through the building to 164 feet above the ground which is a highly visible landmark and beacon for the arts district. / Courtesy of UCCA

By Chung Ah-young
BEIJING ― The saying “Except for money and big studios, Chinese artists have everything they need,” is indicative of Chinese artists who suffered turbulent times in the 1980s with the birth of contemporary arts.

But now Chinese artists seem to have everything “including money and big studios” at least in 798 District, Dashanzi here in northeast Beijing.

With the growing international presence here, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) opened Monday in a transformed Bauhaus-style electronics factory in the flourishing 798 art zone. Factory 798, a former military electronics complex designed by East German architects, was decommissioned in the 1990s.

The art center is the first of its kind as the only non-profit institution and the most comprehensive contemporary art institution in China founded by the Ullens family from Belgium.

The institution is currently holding an inaugural exhibition exploring the 1980s artists under the theme of “85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art,” as the first comprehensive display of Chinese contemporary artworks from 1985 to 1990.

The exhibit presents a total of 137 seminal works including painting, photography, video and installation by 30 renowned Chinese artists from that period such as Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing, Geng Jianyi, Huang Yongping and Zhang Peili.

UCCA Artistic Director Fei Dawei told reporters at the press conference on Nov. 1 at the center that this is the first major exhibition exploring the revolutionary movement of artistic and social transformation.

“Some of the most important works of contemporary Chinese art at the time were unknown to the world until late 1990s when they felt the influence of rapid economic development and the widespread fame of the political pop artists,” said Fei, who is a specialist on the 1985 Movement.

“Our exhibitions are Chinese and international. We want to hold different cultural exhibitions and believe that contemporary arts are not just about Chinese contemporary arts and Western contemporary arts but they are different perspectives,” he said.

He explained that the opening exhibition focuses on the revolutionary period in art history when Chinese artists broke free from decades of socialist realism and began a process of intense experimentation.

The center reconstructed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, in collaboration with Ma Qingyun who leads a well-known Chinese architectural office MADA s.p.a.m, covers a floor space of 8,000 square meters.

Comprised of two main halls situated side by side, the 86,112-square-foot building features 31-foot-high ceilings to accommodate monumental works.

Wilmotte said that he tried to install effective lights, which was one of the most important elements in architecture by regulating the quality of interior light, ensuring maximum natural light in the building without harming works with direct exposure to sunlight.

“Natural light using daylight is controlled and diffused through the center of the roof to protect artworks,” said Wilmotte.

“Also, I tried to revive its architectural identity by symbolizing a large brick chimney soaring through the building to 164 feet above the ground which is a highly visible landmark and beacon for the arts district,” he said.

The center will also offer educational programs such as art tours, screenings and lectures for schools and communities, which is also part of the efforts of the Ullens institutions.

Guy Ullens began collecting Chinese classical paintings of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties in the 1980s. He has also developed an interest and understanding of Chinese art in the mid-1980s Chinese Avant-Garde movement.

He said the focus of his collection has shifted to Chinese contemporary art. He has had strong links with China since childhood, as the son of a Belgian diplomat who was stationed in China for many years, where his uncle also served as the Belgian Ambassador. Guy Ullens retired from business in 2000 to focus on humanitarian and cultural activities with his wife, Myriam.

“To spread art knowledge to the general public as the only non-profit institution in the country,” Guy Ullens explained his purpose for the opening of the art center in Beijing.

His collection features more than 1,500 works by several generations of Chinese artists.

The Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation, established in Switzerland in 2002, promotes Chinese contemporary art by sponsoring events worldwide, lending works from its collection to museums and art centers, and organizing major exhibitions in China and Europe.

Source: The Korean Times

Wang Guang Yi: “Porsche”

当代艺术的Ullens 中心打开在 北京


Ullens 中心的内部当代艺术(UCCA) 在798 区, Dashanzi 这里在东北北京和UCCA 的外部的以一个大砖烟囱为特色腾飞通过是一个高度可看见的地标和烽火台为UCCA 艺术区/礼貌的大厦对164 英尺在地面之上

由钟安培小时年轻
北京- 说法“Except 为金钱和大演播室, 中国艺术家有一切他们需要, ” 是遭受动荡时期在80 年代以当代艺术诞生的表示的中国艺术家。

但中国艺术家现在似乎有一切“including 金钱和大studios” 至少在798 区, Dashanzi 这里在东北北京。

以增长的国际存在这里, 当代艺术的Ullens 中心(UCCA) 打开了星期一在一家被变换的Bauhaus 样式电子工厂在茂盛的798 艺术区域。工厂798, 前军事电子复合体由东德建筑师设计, 退役了在90 年代。

艺术中心是第一作为唯一的非盈利机关和最全面的当代艺术机关在中国由Ullens 家庭建立从比利时。

机关当前举行就职陈列探索80 年代艺术家在“85 新波浪之下题材: 中国当代艺术诞生, ” 作为中国当代艺术品第一全面显示从1985 年到1990 年。

展览提出一共计137 精液工作包括绘画, 摄影, 录影并且设施由30 使中国艺术家有名望从那个期间譬如Wang 广义, 徐堆, Geng Jianyi, 黄・永平和张・Peili 。

UCCA 艺术性的主任Fei Dawei 告诉了记者在关于新闻招待会11月的1 日在中心, 这是第一主要陈列探索艺术性和社会变革的革命运动。

当代中国艺术最重要的工作的“Some 当时是未知的对世界直到90 年代末期当他们感觉迅速经济发展的影响和政治流行音乐艺术家的普遍名望, ” 前述Fei, 是一名专家在1985 年运动。

“Our 陈列是汉语和国际的。我们想要举行不同的文化陈列和相信, 当代艺术不是仅关于中国当代艺术和西部当代艺术但是他们是不同的透视, ” 他说。

他解释, 开头陈列集中于革命期间在艺术史上当中国艺术家任意打破了从数十年社会主义现实主义和开始了强烈的实验的过程。

中心由French 建筑师吉恩・Michel Wilmotte 重建, 与带领一个知名的中国建筑办公室MADA s.p.a.m 的Ma 庆运合作, 包括8,000 平方米地板面积。

由二个主要大厅组成肩并肩位于, 86,112 正方形英尺大厦以31 脚高的天花板为特色容纳巨大的工作。

Wilmotte 认为, 他设法安装有效的光, 是最重要的元素的当中一个在建筑学由调控内部光的质量, 保证最大自然光在大厦没有危害工作以对阳光的直接暴露。

“Natural 光使用白天是受控和散开通过屋顶的中心保护艺术品, ” 前述Wilmotte 。

“Also, 我设法复兴它的建筑身分由象征一个大砖烟囱腾飞通过是一个高度可看见的地标和烽火台为艺术区的大厦对164 英尺在地面之上, ” 他说。

中心并且将提供教育节目譬如艺术游览、掩护和演讲为学校和社区, 并且作为Ullens 机关的努力的部分。

人Ullens 开始收集歌曲、元、Ming 和清朝的中国古典绘画在80 年代。他并且开发了兴趣和了解中国艺术在80 年代中期中国Avant-Garde 运动。

他说他的汇集焦点转移了到中国当代艺术。他有强的链接与中国从童年, 作为驻防在中国许多年, 他的伯父并且担当比利时大使一位比利时外交官的儿子。2000 年人Ullens 从事务退休集中于人道主义和文化活动与他的妻子, Myriam 。

“To 传播了艺术知识对公众作为唯一的非盈利机关在国家, ” 人Ullens 解释了他的目的为艺术中心的开头在北京。

他的汇集以超过1,500 工作为特色由几个中国艺术家的世代。

人和Myriam Ullens 基础, 2002 年建立在瑞士, 促进中国当代艺术由主办事件全世界, 借运作从它的汇集对博物馆和艺术中心, 和组织的主要陈列在中国和欧洲。

来源: 韩国时代

Wang 广伊: “Porsche”

2007 年11月5 日
类别: 当代艺术的Ullens 中心打开在北京 。标记: , , , , , , , , 。作者