一些有明暗的小木条——李振华和毕蓉蓉的对谈笔记对谈时间:2013年9月2日文本整理:毕蓉蓉振华:能不能简要地讲一讲在国内和出国学习的经历,对你的艺术创作起到什么样的作用?蓉蓉:在国内的时候,我本科读的是国画专业,研究生阶段选择了山水画,主要学习古典山水画。当时导师对我们的要求特别严格,大多数的时间都是在临摹古画和外出写生,除了毕业创作几乎没有参加过展览,因为大家都会认为自己的基本功还不够扎实。那个阶段的学习,有许多的法则要学,所以在自我表达的方面关注得非常少。可能就是这个原因,使我在当时,特别渴望去一个不一样的环境学习。于是我把这个原因和渴望很直接地表述在了申请信中,没想到,非常顺利地就去了荷兰的Frank Mohr学院的绘画专业,开始了我的第二个研究生的课程。在开学的第一天,每个人被要求在自己的工作室布置一个展览。当时我就只能把随身携带的几张写生稿贴上了墙。记得在做自我陈述时,我提到这些写生稿只是一些草稿,会考虑怎么把它们转换成最终创作。但是导师们却认为这些草稿(sketch)本身就已经是很美、很完整的作品了。他们对我的印象是,技法太好,希望我忘记自己的技法。接着就是开始问什么是我感兴趣的,为什么我要用这种方式来表达,有哪一些可能性。我觉得从第一天开始,我就对自己之前的作品或者说是草稿有了另外的认识,同时,一堆新提出来的问题又促使我去做很多新的探索。我觉得当时的这个新开端,并没有去改变我创作作品的手法,而是我的思考方式开始有了转变。振华:我觉得这个过程挺有意思。就是你在海外的导师认为你的草稿是很好的艺术,很有趣,这个和我们在很多情况下理解艺术的现实是不一样的。比如说,我们对于一个小样,会考虑这个是不是能展出来,是不是作品还没有完成,会有这样的疑惑。你觉得这是不是跟这几年的欧美的文化的动向有关系?他们是不是更偏向于展出文献?对他们来说,这是不是一个变化?艺术在今天,任何一个手稿,任何一个小的物件,如果说涉及到指向某个艺术作品的并非是一个完结的过程的时候,它可能都可以被当成艺术作品(最终作品的完成品)来展出。蓉蓉:我能否从这个角度来回答,在国外的学习中更注重Personal(个人)这一面。个人的每一个过程的痕迹——被放大、被展示。在国内学习的时候,我感觉我们非常的注重精神,但是是一种被放大了的精神(宏大的,集体主义的),个人的很自我的精神是被隐藏了的。在国外的时候,大家一直在问你的兴趣什么,你为什么对它感兴趣,一切以“I”(我)来开头。我不知道是不是有在回答你刚才的问题。振华:我觉得你回答的挺好的。我在想作品化的问题。因为在中国,我们很多时候在谈精神性,而方法是借助图像或是物件来延伸这一感受;在海外,好像除了在谈个人表达以外,他们对物件(object)特别关注。因为在中国对过程似乎不是很注重,或者说是不太注重一些思考过程、小样和小的工作细节,他更关注你作品最终的一个完成度,以及完成了什么。你觉得哪个文化语境更物质化?毕蓉蓉:要看从什么角度来回答。我能从精神性的角度来回答吗?其实在我的学习中,我觉得中国古人非常注重这个过程。我们的书法,需要每个个体很多的体悟加入其中,表面看是一些线条,是一些构图,但是这是被加入了精神性的一种语言,对观众的要求也非常的高。我的国画导师以前经常说,当你们每个阶段有了不同的成长之后,再去解读这些线条,你的感悟会是不一样的。比如说我的师兄会经常很得意地说,你对书法的体悟还不够,所以你是体验不到黄公望的线条的精道之处的。我很同意在对待中国的艺术时,当然我指的是传统的艺术,精神性是最重要的,被体现出来的是一种很有共性的美学。个体的精神、体验,都是被融化在过程中,最后需要通过一种很简练的语言来传递出来。这样一种传递是很难以叙事的方式来呈现的。在西方的学习中,当然我跳过了对西方传统绘画的学习,直接在那里学习在当代的语境中对绘画的表达方式(样式和方法)。因此,只能直接讨论在西方当代的文化语境中,我对他们的物质性的理解。我还是从精神性的角度来讨论,就像我之前提到了,在那里,大家天天在强调“我”、“我”、“我”,我对什么着迷,我用什么方式来表达,都是对自我的精神性的肯定,似乎不是很强调共性(宏大或是集体主义的共鸣)。因此,其他人要去体验我的“我”,就似乎很有必要去解读一些文献,一些过程,通过我的小样、草稿等。所以他们的方式就变的更叙事性,表现出来可能物质性更强。作为艺术家,我觉得在之前的中国语境下,会觉得做作品是一件更沉重的事情,可能在之后的西方的语境下,则变成了一件很愉悦的,享受的一件事情。那振华你是怎么看的?振华:其实这里物质性可以被转化为客观看待的问题,也就是如何通过物件找寻精神联系,中国画教育中的不一样,其实也是回归到每个画者内心的某种觉醒,只不过大家会在某种情况下会心一笑,而不是通过自己的叙事来解释如何到达这一结果。振华:对我来说,大家有一种表象上的同一。比如当我们提到做录像或做装置的时候,很多时候,我们越来越难分出来,这是中国艺术家,还是西方艺术家做的。但是,你会从解释文本中发现差异。比如说读一段艺术家的话,中国艺术家会把这个问题写得很庞大,这是一个什么时代的,一个什么主义的。但是一个西方的艺术家可能会说,我希望这个事儿可能会与我的奶奶(私人的事情和人)有联系,可能我家的小狗就是这样看着我工作的。有趣的是,你从作品能表面地判断这种物质的同一化,但是里面这种讲故事的方式却是特别不一样的。回到我们刚才聊的,我问你物质化,但是你回答了很多精神性。我觉得很有趣。因为是不是我们也在谈宏大的问题,你作为艺术家更偏重哪一个呢?一个是你作品完整性,完成度,另一个是你的小故事在哪里?你的导师看到了你的草稿可以作为艺术,那么你自己的小故事在哪里呢?蓉蓉:有很多小故事。比如说,我刚刚去荷兰念书的时候,我对同学的工作室经常充满兴趣,我会常常去他们的工作室去画一些场景的写生。对我来说,去他们那儿画画,更多的是去感受一个不一样的工作氛围,去了解他们的作品。当我之后看到这些写生的时候,往往会唤起我对这个艺术家的一个很深的回忆。当时的阳光,空气的味道,以及他那时正在创作的作品都会重现在我脑海中。我去年(2012年)在法国做驻留的时候,同样经常会去一些艺术家的工作室写生,有时我对他们的一些小物品非常感兴趣。比如一对艺术家中的一位每天随身携带的小速写本,封面上贴满了各种从包装上剪下来的小标签,因为一直带着,旧旧的,特别有生活气息。然后我就问他们借过来,画下了他们的这个小本子。有时他们抽大麻,我喜欢这些晒干的大麻的造型,很美,我就借过一朵,随手画在了自己的速写本上了。在去年上海的Vanguard画廊的展览中,我就尝试把这些小画以及一些他们送给我的工作室里的小物品,一起和我现场的壁画创作结合起来。我希望观众看到,在一个完成的完整的壁画的背后,有很多小故事发生。之所以,我现在的创作是这样的,是我之前在很多地方游历,和在很多的艺术家工作室里写生有关系。振华:在外滩十八的项目创作中,我们谈论的内容比较多,比如我们谈到一个光斑从窗户进来,在你的绘画上形成的空间关系;也谈到你拿着你的小草稿,天天在那里画画的日常活动,对于这个日常活动你是怎么看的?在你作品完成之后,你画画的日常活动也被投影在墙上,你觉得把你的这种日常活动告诉观众是必须的吗?蓉蓉:我觉得挺重要的。因为在我自己的创作中,我画完,可能就不再这么关注这个结果了,而整个过程对我来说,特别重要,它是我日常生活中的一个部分,并且我天天在画的过程中想象着这个结果会是什么样的,每一天都在做新的决定,下一块应该往哪里生长,或是怎么生长。可能观众会对最终的画面比较感兴趣,但我如果能同时向他们展示整个过程,我觉得会更有意思。振华:我看你的资料,你之前也做了挺多和空间有关的作品,另外还有一些小物件。我很喜欢那个木制的有绿色和白色的小物件。蓉蓉:这个物件其实是从我的绘画中延伸出来的,换了一个材料去探索空间。我有时是在有意识地从各种角度去训练我自己的空间感。学习国画的时候,我对空间有一种认识,让我能从一种平面的角度去理解空间。但是我对真实空间的体积感也充满了很多好奇,所以去尝试用其他的材料去感受一下“体积”。振华:这个小作品我个人挺喜欢,是因为里面有一个挺特殊的东西,就好像里面有一种绘画的明暗关系。蓉蓉:绿色和白色的对比,会给你这个感受。我当时在做的时候,想让这些线条有悬浮起来的感觉,所以就把这一部分画成了绿色。振华:你2010年有一个毕业创作,我这里来看,你是用纸剪的。这个好像和你之前的有明暗关系的小木条有点不太一样,也和更早的比如说透明墙的那件作品不一样。这件作品好像更偏平面。你是不是在毕业创作中,想和之前国内的学习找一个平衡点?蓉蓉:个人而言,我其实没有在有意识地寻找平衡点。从我的资料里,你可以看到,我当时的毕业创作有两件作品,一件是在我工作室的壁画和在空间中的雕塑结合的作品,另外一件就是你刚才提到的在一个画廊空间中的纸本切割的装置作品。我做这件纸本的作品,是因为在半个学期之前,我去美国交换学习时,接触到了一些建筑学院的同学。在参观他们工作室的时候,我对他们的FabLab特别感兴趣,比如激光切割的细腻性,让我觉得这种手段能很好的和我的手工绘画的方式结合。之后回到荷兰的学校,就开始尝试怎么把我手绘的线稿用这用“生产”的方式放大拆散到空间中,也就是说换一种手段把我的绘画延伸到空间中。这件作品是我的第一次尝试。可能在照片中看会有误导,再加上纸这种材料很微妙,我前后放置它们,但在图片中,它们的前后关系会看起来并不明确,和之前上了颜色的木条很不一样。这件作品时间的空间感,是观众可以在我的作品内部穿梭,从这个角度去体验我的“绘画”的空间感。关于新作振华:在你这次展览的新作品中,是不是也会有这个形式的作品出现?蓉蓉:对,但不是以装置的形式出现,而是一件平面的用机器切割的,能表现我的手工痕迹的作品,是一些很微妙的痕迹。这次的展览我是想让观众从不同的角度看到一些我的很个人化的一些痕迹。振华:那么你的绘画和你的墙画,这两种物质(介质)有什么区别吗?蓉蓉:对我来说区别不是很大,我的绘画和墙面的绘画,都是基于最初的素描,最初的对事物的观察和理解。用布面的、还是墙面的、还是在地面的,或是利用空间中的volume (体积),对我来说,都是一些不同的手段把我的观察和理解放大或者强调出来。媒介不一样,空间不一样,会对制作和思考有不同的要求,所以最后表现出来的感受会不一样。我会根据情况来选择一种媒介和空间来对话。振华:你一直讲到这个volume,你怎么解释这个词的意思?蓉蓉:它是一个体积,它不是一个平面。比如和绘画不一样,绘画内部的视觉错觉都是在一个平面上产生。但是在真实空间中,它既有表面(surface),也有体积(volume)。比如层次的概念在平面中和在体积中是不一样的。所以我在考虑将作品和空间进行对话的时候,利用volume对我来说是一个挑战。回到之前的一个问题,在这种情况下,绘画和墙上的绘画最大的不同是,身体性的体验是不一样的。振华:很有意思。不管怎么样,volume是指一个量,特殊的一个量值。蓉蓉:你觉得架上的和壁画有什么区别吗?振华:我看问题有时候会跳开这个问题。谈论的问题,涉及的事可能和别的情况有关。比如它(绘画和墙画)的经济生产方式,它所产生的和观众的关系。绘画还是一个很经典化的东西,我们会把它放在相对高的一个位置去看。空间的绘画则是一个会把你卷进去的一种场,很不一样。我挺惊讶的是会听到你说它们对你来说区别不大。因为那都是你,而从我的角度,从一个观察者的角度,每一个情况都会构成一个你的不同的时间阶段,你怎么去看,怎么去体验,怎么去做这个工作。比如说也有一些艺术家他们还是画在布面上,或是纸面上,但是把这些画在空间里放满,空间里没有任何留白。这就又是另一个概念。这种情况下,我们可能会问,为什么不直接画在墙上,非要画在布面上。这就有一个媒介上的提升,把它提升到另外一个语境和认知关系里。在看的时候,我们会产生一种不一样的感受。蓉蓉:我刚才提到从个人的创作角度来说,它们对我来说是一样的,但确实架上和壁画是两个概念。包括壁画的临时性,这和架上绘画很不一样,但这让我觉得很有意思。这种临时性——让我觉得它不再是很个人化的一种物质,似乎没有一个人能真正的拥有它。从这个角度来说,当我将它们结合在一起的时候,让我觉得,我是在把一个很私人的物品和一个相对公众的物品进行结合。振华:我觉得这里面存在一个问题,就是很难说这两者到底哪一个更公众。比如说,你把一张绘画放在一个公共场所更公众,还是放在美术馆更公众?公共场所很多情况下和美术馆不太一样。我们会有一些有效的或无用的公共性的情况。比如故意去掉它(作品)的光晕Aura,当它出现在公众视野中,变成一个不被识别的图像。或者将它放在一个特别经典化的空间里的时候,大家就会去膜拜它(同一图像),它的光晕Aura就会被夸大。甚至在它前面拉一根警戒绳,虽然还是在公共空间,但是物本身的身份却发生了变化。回到你现在的新的工作上。你有一种作品,非常强调它的手工感,非常淡,非常的清雅,而另一类种,你则非常强调空间感和色块。当你将这两类并置在新的空间中的时候,这个冲突是你故意要表达的吗?蓉蓉:没有,我并没有要强调这种冲突,我想让观众看到的是我创作的一个过程,一步接一步的,我往往会从你看到的这种比较淡的素描入手,这里面会有很多关注对象的或者说是直接描绘对象的一些细节。然后我可能将其细节抽取出来变成绘画,或放大、或变成色块、或变成线条,这时考虑的是这些色块之间或者是线条之间的一些细节问题,最初的对象在这个时候就不重要了。当我在空间中直接绘画时,考虑的则是空间和色块关系的问题,这时我可能要跳出画面来看问题。所以这更多的是在展示一个思考的过程,也是尝试从不同的视角表达同一个对象的方法。振华:你觉得观众会按照你的想法来思考吗?我们在一个很有限的空间里,发现有两种在风格上完全不一样的作品,它们似乎有些联系,但是在视觉上有很大反差。你怎么去处理这种关系?因为你不可能让观众按照你所设想的走两步,思考一下,然后读一段文字,再想想。你怎么从视觉的方法上解决这个问题?蓉蓉:我觉得每个观众的解读方式都太不一样,不同的国家,不同的年龄,他们给我的反馈往往会非常不一样。既然这是我的一个很真实的创作和思考过程的展示,所以我觉得这里面存在着冲突并不是问题。观众从他们的角度去解读我的作品,去提问,或者能够进入到我的思考方式去解读我的作品,我觉得都会很有意思。振华:我们再回到那个小木条的话题。你之前做过两次,你之后还会不会再做?我觉得有意思,你用一些非常细碎的线条,和你绘画中的一些线条有联系,体现出了空间和一种明暗关系。你有没有考虑再次尝试,或做或不做,为什么?蓉蓉:我会再做。因为我在每个阶段都会去继续尝试以前做过的东西,但是之间相隔的时候会比较长,常常要等到我觉得是时候了,我能把这件作品做的更好了,或者能把它带到一个新的环境中去,我就会拿出来继续做。比如现在正在创作的一张画,是继续我在去荷兰念书后的第一张色彩的绘画作品。那张色彩绘画之前,我主要探索的是黑白的水墨。但当时画完第一张色彩之后,我没有在继续创作同一系列的作品,对我来说,在同一阶段,不停的画同一系列的作品,好像比较困难。所以一直到现在,4年之后,我又接着当时的感受,继续尝试。小木条这类空间中的雕塑,我不知道哪天又会拿出来继续做。振华:你从荷兰回来几年了,有时也会担任一些教书的工作,这个在欧洲也很普遍,一方面担任教育的工作,一方面进行艺术创作。但是在中国还有一个比较特殊的情况,就是会有一些行政性的会议,管理机制上的问题。这些情况会不会对你现在的创作有影响。蓉蓉:我只是兼职,只需要在上课的时候去上课,所以没有什么问题,非常自由。振华:你在艺术创作上的变化,你觉得你还需要回到你当时学国画的状态吗?或者说当时的状态对你现在的创作有什么样的影响吗?蓉蓉:我觉得这是一个自然的过程。之前环境发生了变化,接触了很多新的东西,让我给自己提出了很多新的问题,有很多东西还要不断地去尝试,所以让我把原来的东西暂时放在了一边。我觉得其实以前学过的东西一直在影响我每个阶段的创作,包括我对事物的观察方法,对空间的理解。在作品中,对变化,对能量,对线条等等元素的理解,都是在以前的学习中形成的。现在我也不停的接触新的环境,比如说去驻留,都会带给我新的影响。我觉得之前学习的,都会在我的每个下一步的创作中带来影响。振华:我觉得你是一个特别强调体量,能量的人,对你来说,这与你的身体或者性别有关吗?蓉蓉:性别,没有太大关系。但是身体可能有关系。因为我本身体积很小,能量也不太大,所以特别渴望去表达一些自己所不拥有的东西。振华:我觉得你能量还是很足的,而这完全来自你的内在的力量。
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Little Wood Sticks Featuring Light and Shade
- A dialogue between Li Zhenhua & Bi Rongrong

Time: September 2, 2013
Text by: Bi Rongrong


Zhenhua: You studied both in China and abroad. Would you briefly tell us its influence on your artistic practice?

Rongrong: I gained a BFA in Chinese Painting and a MFA in Chinese Landscape Painting in China. Back then our lecturer was very strict with us. I spent most of my time copying classic Chinese paintings and painting from nature and rarely participated in any exhibition except the graduation show. We all thought there was a long way for us to go in terms of laying a solid foundation for Chinese painting. During that period, I needed to learn a lot of rules and didn’t pay much attention to self-expression.
Probably that was exactly the reason why I looked forward to studying in a different environment. I put that in my application letter. Luckily for me, I got the offer from the Painting Department of Frank Mohr Institute in the Netherlands very smoothly. So I started my second MFA course.
One day before the term began, each student was asked to organize an exhibition in his/her studio. I put some of my sketches I had at hand on the wall. I wrote in my personal statement that these sketches were drafts and I wanted to think about how to make them into final products. But my lecturers thought the sketches were already very beautiful and complete. They saw me as a student with good skills - too good actually. They wanted me to forget about my skills. Then they asked me what my interest was, why I wanted to express in this way and what the other possibilities were. I felt that since day one I started to see my previous works, or say drafts, in a different way. In the meantime, the questions they put forward pushed me to make a new exploration. I think that was a new beginning. But instead of pushing me to change my approach, it helped me to think differently.

ZH: I think such a process is quite interesting. Your lecturers abroad thought your drafts were good art. That’s interesting, and quite different from the general understanding of art here. For instance, when facing with a small draft, we would wonder if it is a complete work and could be exhibited.
In your opinion, does it have anything to do with the cultural tendency of Europe and US during the past few years? Are they inclined to present an archive? Is it a new change to them? In today’s context, any manuscript or tiny item, even if they are not complete artwork in the traditional sense, can be presented as a (final) artwork.

RR: Maybe I can put it in this way. I feel that education abroad attaches more importance to the personal side. Personal traces are magnified and valued. When studying in China, I felt that we placed an emphasis on spirit, a grand and collective spirit, but the personal sprit was neglected and depressed. When studying abroad, people always asked what your interest was and why that was. It seems everything started with “I”. I’m not sure if I answered your question.

ZH: Good answer. I’m also thinking about how to judge if a work is complete or not. In China we talk a lot about spirit and tend to extend it through images or objects. In foreign countries, it seems besides personal expression they also pay much attention to object. Chinese don’t attach much importance to the process: the thinking process, drafts and trivial details. They focus more on the completeness of a work and what it fulfills. Which cultural context you think is more materialized?

RR: It depends. May I answer it from the perspective of spirit? During my study I felt ancient Chinese attached much importance to process. Let’s take Chinese calligraphy for instance. It takes understanding and perception. On the surface, it features lines and composition. But they are in nature a language with spirit, and it places high requirements on viewers if you want to learn to appreciate them.
My Chinese painting teacher often said that during different stages of one’s life, one’s understanding of those lines would be different. One of my senior schoolmate’s also said that without insightful perception of calligraphy, one would never be able to truly appreciate the subtle beauty and elegance of the lines under Huang Gongwang’s brush.
I agree that when dealing with Chinese traditional art, spirit plays an important role and is embodied in the form of a kind of shared aesthetics. Individual’s spirit and experience are melted during the process and eventually conveyed in a succinct language. Such a transformation process can hardly be presented in a narrative way.
When studying in the West, I skipped the learning of Western traditional painting, and dived directly into the study of expressions (pattern and methodology) of painting in a contemporary context. In a sense, my perception is somewhat confined to the context of Western contemporary culture. But I still want to talk about the issue from the perspective of spirit. I said before that I found people in the West put an emphasis on “I”. For instance, they often start with “I am interested in…” or “I want to express in what way”. Such could be seen as a sign of acknowledgement of the spirit of selfness. It seems they don’t attach much importance to generality (grand or collective resonance). If others want to experience the “I” of mine, they need to do some reading, of my drafts, my writings and the process of my creation. In this way, narration naturally takes shape, and gives out a stronger sense of materiality.
As an artist, I feel that under the current context of China, to produce a work seems to be a grave task. But probably in the Western context, it will become something pleasant and enjoyable. What’s your take on that, Zhenhua?

ZH: Materiality can be treated as something objective. In other words, spirit can be traced through materiality. Chinese painting education is different from the West. But in nature they both want to touch upon the inner world. It’s just that Chinese tend not to explain how to reach such a purpose through narration.

ZH: In my view, similarity on the surface increases. For instance, when facing a video or installation, it may be hard for us to tell if it is made by a Chinese artist or a Western artist. However, there’s distinct difference in the explanation texts. Chinese artists tend to talk about something very grand. Words such as “era” and “-ism” are often spotted. But a Western artist may say something like “I think this has something to do with my grandma (something or someone intimate to him/her)” or “My puppy would see my work that way.” It’s quite interesting. Similarity on the appearance leads to two very different ways of storytelling. Just now I asked a question about materiality, but the answer you gave involved a lot about spirit. I think that’s interesting. As an artist, which one do you prefer to deal with? Grand topics or smaller ones? Where are your small stories? Your lecturers saw your drafts as Art. How do you see your own small stories?

RR: There are many small stories. For instance, when I first started my study in the Netherlands, I was very interested in my classmates’ studios. I often went to their studios and made some drawings of the scene. To me, it was an opportunity to experience a different working environment and to learn more about their work. Afterwards, when I saw those drawings again, they would remind me of that artist, quite vividly. The sunshine, taste of the air and the works s/he was working on would all reappear in my mind. Last year (2012) I did a residency in France. I also went to other artists’ studios to do some drawings. Sometimes I would be intrigued by the little objects in their studios. For instance, on the cover of an artist’s small sketchbook, there were all kinds of labels cut from different packages. He carried it with him all the time, so it felt like the pad was full of the smell of everyday life. I borrowed the sketchbook from him and made a drawing of it. Sometimes those artists would take some marijuana. I thought the shape of dried marijuana was quite beautiful and would make a drawing of that. In an exhibition held at the Vanguard Gallery in Shanghai last year, I tried to integrate those small-scaled drawings and little objects that those artists gave me with the on-site mural I was working on. I wanted viewers to see that behind a large and complete mural work there were also many small stories. That’s a key element of my creative process. Many things are connected with the final work I present.

ZH: During the project for the Bund 18 Temporary Art Space, we talked extensively. For example, we talked about when a light spot penetrated the window, how would you represent it in your painting. We also talked about how you saw drawing as a daily activity. When your work was completed and hung on the wall, in a sense, your daily activity was also projected on the wall. Do you think it’s necessary to tell viewers your daily activity?

RR: I think it’s quite important. When I finish painting, I don’t pay much attention to the final result. To me, the process is particularly important. It’s a part of my daily life. During the creative process, every day I would think about how the final work would eventually look like and every day I had new decisions to make. Probably viewers would be more interested in the final work, but I feel it would be interesting to show them the entire process.

ZH: Previously you also presented many small works and works that were closely related to the concept of space. I like the wood sticks in green and white.

RR: That was an extension of my painting. I tried to further explore space with a different material. Sometimes I would intentionally push myself to deal with space from different angles. When studying Chinese painting, my understanding of space was quite fixed. But I was curious about the actual sense of volume of space. So I tried to use other materials to explore that “sense of volume”.

ZH: I like that work very much. There’s something special about it. It seems it contains the relationship between light and shade that is often characteristic of painting.

RR: The contrast between green and white would give you that impression. When I was making the work, I wanted to make those lines ‘float’. That was why I painted some parts green.

ZH: The graduation project you presented in 2010 involved paper cutting, which was different from the little wood sticks or the piece featuring a transparent wall. Your graduation project seemed more two-dimensional. Why was that? Did you try to find a kind of balance between your graduation project and what you had learned before you went abroad?

RR: I didn’t intentionally want to find any balance. I produced two pieces for my graduation project. One was a combination of the mural in my studio and sculptures. The other was the one you just mentioned, an installation involving paper cutting. When I went to study in the US as an exchange student during my course at the Frank Mohr, I got to know some friends from the architecture school. When visiting their studios, I was particularly interested in FabLab. The subtlety of laser cutting made me see that it could be well integrated with my painting. Later when I went back to the Netherlands, I started to try to extend the lines in my painting further into the space through that technique. That work was my first attempt. If you only saw it in a picture, it might be a bit misleading. Paper is a subtle material. I placed them into front lines and back lines. But in the picture such an arrangement might not seem so obvious. What I wanted to experiment through that work was to let viewers walk into the inside of a work and experience the sense of space of a painting from a new perspective.

About recent work

ZH: Do you present this kind of work in this exhibition?

RR: Yes. But they don’t appear in the form of installation. It is a two-dimensional work cut by machines and highlighting some of the subtle traces of my handwork. For this exhibition, I want viewers to see some very personal traces of mine from different angles.

ZH: In your view, in terms of media, is there any difference between painting on canvas and mural?

RR: I don’t think there’s a big difference. Both are based on my sketches and my observation and understanding of things. Canvas, walls, floors or volume of space, to me, are just different channels to convey my observation and understanding. But of course, different media would raise different requirements in terms of production and thinking. What will be finally put on display will be visually different. Depending on different situations, I will choose different media to communicate with space.

ZH: You mentioned the word “volume” several times. How would you define it?

RR: It is something three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional. Visual illusions caused by painting are two-dimensional. But in actual space, it has both surface and volume. The concept of “gradation” is different in a two-dimensional context and a three-dimensional context. How to make use of volume to communicate with space is a challenge to me. Let’s go back to your previous question. Under such circumstance, the biggest difference between painting on canvas and mural lies in bodily experience.

ZH: Interesting. Anyway, volume is a special quantity value.

RR: What you think is the difference between painting on an easel and a mural?

ZH: I tend to skip this question. It’s not a simple question and relates to many other factors. For instance, their economic production modes and the relationship they produce with viewers. Painting is still a highly canonized art form and we tend to place it on a higher position. Murals deal directly with space and would bring people into a certain ‘scene’. It’s very different.
I was surprised when you said you didn’t think they were much different. But that’s probably because we take different positions. You are the participant and I am the observer. For instance, there are artists dealing with painting on canvas and on paper. But they tend to fill the whole space with those paintings without leaving any room. If that’s the case, we may ask why not directly draw on the wall rather than on canvas. It relates to the property of media. Different media have different ways to play with context and perception, and will give out different feelings to viewers.

RR: What I meant is I see them as two equal forms of media. But certainly painting on easel and mural are two different concepts. For instance, a mural contains a sense of temporality. It makes me feel like a mural is no longer something personal and no one can truly “own” it. In this regard, when combining them together, I feel like something very private meets with something very public.

ZH: But I think it’s hard to tell which one is public and which is private. For instance, which one do you think is more public: a painting in a public place or in an art museum? The two venues are quite different. We would take some actions to highlight or erase its publicity. For instance, when dealing with the same work, we could intentionally wipe off its aura so that it would become something unrecognizable to the public. Or we could place it in a highly canonized place so that people would feel they are almost compelled to worship it and its aura is magnified in this way. Sometimes we even resort to security tape. Due to the different actions we take, the identity of the same object would change.
Let’s talk more about your recent work. It seems they could be divided into two types: one puts an emphasis on handwork and feels very light and elegant. The other features a sense of space and color blocks. When displaying the two types in one space, do you want to emphasize on the sense of conflict?

RR: No, I don’t want to highlight such conflict. I want viewers to see the process of my creation step by step. Usually I started from sketches, which you called as light and elegant. Many objects and details could be incorporated during this stage. Then I might pick up some particular details and focus on how to turn them into paintings, color blocks or lines. At this stage, I would think mainly about the details of those color blocks and lines. The initial objects no longer mattered.
When producing a painting in a space, I needed to keep a distance from the image in order to figure out the relationship between space and color blocks. In this regard, it’s a presentation of my thinking process and of how to represent the same object through different perspectives.

ZH: Do you think viewers would follow your thinking process? We present two highly different types of works in one limited space. There seems to be some connection, but the visual contrast is huge. How will you deal with it? You cannot control how viewers would see the work. You cannot ask them to see for a while and then think, do some reading and think again. How will you solve the problem by visual approaches?

RR: Different viewers will interpret the work in different ways. Viewers from different countries and of different ages will give me highly different feedback. As long as it is a sincere presentation of the process of my creation and thinking, I don’t think the conflict will be a big problem. No matter how viewers interpret my work and whatever question they may propose, I think that would be very interesting.

ZH: Let’s go back to those little wood sticks. You’ve dealt with the object twice. Will you try again later? By resorting to some trivial lines and building a connection with the lines in your painting, you manage to represent a kind of light–and-shade relationship within a three-dimensional context. I find that quite interesting. Do you think you will try again? Why?

RR: I will keep trying. At different stages, I will try something that I’ve tried before. But I will wait for the right timing. When I feel I can do it better or differently, then I will try again.
Take the painting I’m working on for instance. It originates from the first color painting I created when studying in the Netherlands. Before that I was mainly engaged in black and white ink painting. But when I finished my first color painting, I didn’t keep exploring. Persisting with the same thing during the same stage is not my cup of tea. Four years later, now I feel that I’m ready to resume my exploration.
I cannot say for sure when I would once again experiment with those little wood sticks.

ZH: After you came back, you also did some teaching. It is common in Europe for an artist to do some teaching while still keeping pace with his/her artistic practice. But in China all kinds of administrative meetings will take people a lot of time and energy. How will this affect your practice?

RR: I’m just a part-time teacher and don’t need to go to school when there’s no class. So that’s not a problem to me. I have a lot of leisure time.

ZH: Do you want to go back to the state when you were learning Chinese painting? Or say, does the state back then have influence on your current practice?

RR: I think it all happens naturally. New environment and new things constantly push me to ask myself many new questions. As there are a lot of new things that I want to try, I would put what I have mastered aside for a while.
But what I’ve learnt always has influenced my practice. Its influence can be found in my ways of observation, perception of space and understanding of changes/energy/lines. I’ll also keep trying something new. For instance, I apply for residency programs. It will bring me new influences.
I believe everything I’ve learnt would have influenced my future exploration.

ZH: I feel that you put much emphasis on volume and energy. Does this have anything to do with your body or gender?

RR: I don’t think it has anything to do with gender. The body, probably. I’m a person of small volume and small energy. I guess that’s why I look forward to expressing something beyond my possession.

ZH: I think you’re full of energy and it all comes from the inner force lying within you.
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