BackFeng Boyi :Clouds, Water and Trees an introduction about new works of Yang Jinsong


In the modern history of China, there area phenomenon of "against the tradition and following the tradition". The so-called "against the tradition and following the tradition" refers to that at the beginning of China’s modernization, some revolutionary scholars devoted themselves to introducingWestern academic thoughts and scientific conceptssystematically, actively involving in the reality, to transform the society as their own responsibility, with hardships and no end.But as they experienced more in the changing world, these scholars, such as Wang Guowei,Yan Fu,Chen Duxiu, Gu Hongming and so on, often turned to the study of traditional Chinese culture with disappointment. Of course, as far as they are concerned, this is only a transformation of their own revolutionary careers, but it is a cultural phenomenon worth ofthinking, in the light of the times. And in the art world, "against the tradition and following the tradition" is not limited to one person or one thing.But the word "tradition"here includes two situations.The first is that after the normalization of style, it is easy to repeat in the built-in mode, away from the critical and exploratory character of modern art, or gotten drunk in the so-called "traditional culture", toward the mystery and even the mire of metaphysics. The second is to emphasize the hidden and complex existence of human nature and the situation of individual life in reality, and to pay attention to the purification, promotion and enrichment of the visual language of individual art.This is not only a reflection of the contradictions caused by social changes in the artist's artistic working,  but also the result ofhis personal temperament, experience and his situation of time and space. It seems to me that Yang Jinsongbelongs or is going to be one of these artists. One side of his former painting art is fragmented, even bizarre, deformed to show the visual appearance of kinship; the other side of his works is full of expressiveness, with a direct relationship to the reality.

Fish No.2  Oil on canvas 360 x 250cm 2007  

His paintings, such as "fish series", is more a representation and metaphor of China's real landscape, hiding the projection of social unrest in his personal spiritual and psychological aspects.His new works painted after 2016  shows an sort of returning, diving back and forth. "It's a dilemma reducing gradually the narrative character of the picture and distancing myself from previous thematic paintings, but at the same time limiting myself to the tangible picture," he said so. “I should gradually weaken the narrative of the picture and make distance from my earlier thematic nature, and keep it within the boundary of figurative at the same time, which is a dilemma. Drawing away the narrative nature from the painting will make the concept of works hard to be constructed. But an infatuation with rhythm and tension of points and lines at the same time will lead me to the circle of abstract expressionism. My works should convey an empty state of anatta and non-me.”The dissociation and returning in the creative process, is not simply to seek paradise, which is a cheap contemporary expression ofescapingfrom too much noise of the reality. Instead, trying to make use of the traditional Chinese cultural resources and through the visual form and language of solar eclipse, cloudatlas, shape of water and words of trees,the artist pays attention to the cognition and awareness of personal meditation, and deepenshis painting language, as well as reflecting the Eastern feelings with idea and mood and getting a different fresh sense of language. It shows that his painting has stepped out of the pursuit of "expressiveness" and highlighted a kind of "unstable" functionin a non-specific abstract relationship and a kind of change hard to grasp. This "uncertainty" isby no means a form for Yang Jinsong, but his concrete and subtle daily experience of survival and his inner feelings.

Watermelon No.2  Oil on canvas  250 x 360cm  2010 

Yang Jinsong's new works all starts from a brush of gray color. He createsintentionally a picture effect: water and sky integrated, willows and leaves tangled. It appears to be a gray without end, but the brush strokes and lines have the rhythmof traditional Chinese calligraphy, hidinghis complex of sadness and sigh of life, and resisting a real nothingness. Although he captures the appearance of the natural scene, which is the main background of his work, he refuses to reproduce the metaphysical landscape. Hispersonal experience permeates symbolically the natural landscape, leading to the scene that he painted, forming the context in which he can refer to freedom and self-sufficiency.At the same time, we can also see his open and free state of creation. This freestretch can fill many gaps created by jumps, mixing the structures of different natural scenes into one whole. He said, Tangible and intangible, image and without image, all of these interweave in the process of painting. I sometimes forget "images" in the impact of brush strokes and search for the beauty of "neutralization". Sometimes my idea rises, and then dissipates.  I’m looking for balance between extreme complexity and extreme simplicity. The images in the picture discrete and integrate again and again. I experience the emptiness statement of myself when I’m painting. Finally I stop painting and finish the picture, which needs courage.Perhaps for Yang Jinsong,the cultural memory that cannot be translated into natural things is invalid. But this transformation itself changes the natural landscape. Therefore, this is not so much Yang Jinsong's creation of visual images, but rather a self-viewfor his own memory and the existence of hisemotion. Moreover, the visual rhetoric of Yang Jinsong’s new paintings is far from being confined to the subject matter of the works itself. It has alreadyextendedto the question of contemporary Chinese painting seeking new possibilities to construct contemporary values in the context of cultural globalization, especially to the question of the modern transformation of the painting art in China, and even to the question of innovations and boundaries.

 Willow No.10  Oil on Canvas 360 x 210cm  2017

Ocean No.10  Oil on Canvas  360 x 210cm 2018

 Cloud No.4  Oil on Canvas  320 x 192cm  2017

At the moment, it seems that the expression of art is starting to reach a certain level of "purity", which can become a quiet field in which we can explore. Because "for the life" as the original heavy mission of art has been quietly dispelled.Pure art seems to have developed its own independent objective basis, and art is also more and more truly returning to "itself." Of course this is not to say that art has a "self" isolated from the world. That means that our imaginations and requirements for art have changed in many ways, and this change is precisely the new form of art change with times. Art has gradually become a high-level, marginal human language.From this point of view, Yang Jinsong not only inherited the traditional Chinese culture, but also extended the humane care since the social transformation. He said that his purpose is "rewriting of the traditional subject matter, drawing out the image elementsfrom its language, reproducing the spiritual temperament of the traditional painting, finding the general sense of visual elements and using the technique of fragment amplification to re-create.”However, the sensitivity to the contemporary cultural situation leads Yang Jinsong to change his old methods of artistic creation. What the artist needs is to embody this conceptual thinking and practice in a way and a language that is prescribed as "art". Therefore, under this background, we can examine and find out that his visual field is introverted gradually into his personal inner experience from direct concerning realty.

October 2001 155x200cm 2001
Yang Jinsong keeps a low profile with a quiet personality. He does not want to be involved in the "party of reality", but seeks the purity of heart in our "world”, willing to follow the heart, as well as to obey the rule of the nature, and that is all. Never floating with the stream, he thinks alone, and always stays in his artistic garden,even with a little feeling and interest of anivory tower.This also makes an annotation to his distancefrom the art world. Especially aswe look at his new paintings, we can find the realm concerning human nature in everyday plain scenes, without the grand narrative stories. The art he isseeking for,is freefrom external constraints with an independent thinking,which is refined, mild and quiet, long time, without popular variegated colors, and through which we can see the other side of the integrity of literati in time and reality. Compared with the ejectingworksof avant-garde art, Yang Jinsong’s paintings are dilute and peaceful, and far away from the so-called "enterprise artist". His new works seem to have no trace of the current popular language, which follow the tradition of “forart" from the May 4th Movement, as the result of thinking for art itself. This kind of language seems a kind of alternative, but it can purifyour mind and impact us on reason. In front of his paintings, the fashionable colors appear being tasteless, even though they are only in black and white and grey. He said, "Images sometimes come out slowly, and at the end I actually forget that there is a process of self-growth for painting, as if my mind has experienced life and death several times in a moment.”Still, as long as we see his confident and steady eyes, everything to him, and to his workingswill be clear inour minds. The spirit of self-sufficiency in traditional Chinese culture, the positive moral practice of Confucianism and the philosophy of avoidance of the Taoism have been cleverly combined to form a middle course of his self-preservation, providing us the resources of thought in art and in spiritual meditation, and givingus constantly the possibilities for thinking and judgement. We can say thata person who is "into the world" too much is dwelled in the reality and would lose himself.If a person is based on his own personal experience,and is"out of the world", being faithful to oneself, he can find the existence of “original self”.

Willow No.3  Oil on Canvas  496 x 232cm  2016

Ocean No.3  Oil on Canvas  496 x 232cm  2016

Cloud No.3  Oil on Canvas  320 x 192cm  2017

In Chinese contemporary art circle, it is very difficult to determine clearly Yang Jinsong's artistic track or give a specific definition for his position. If avant-garde art means an incongruity with the usual art scene, then of course Yang Jinsong’s paintings belong to it. But this definition is too widespread and empty.If China's avant-garde art were to be referred to the so-called post-modernism from 1990s until today, his paintings are probably in between.Because his art is a restoration, returning to the beginning of artistic creation, getting closer to the relationship between human andthought, human and the language of painting, as well as the relationship between art and the origin of human survival. By the measure of modernist art he is quite humanist. Compared with postmodernism, he rejects meaningless creation. For realism, he is an introverted self-oriented creation.He said: "Drawing new paintings, hoping for a change, from willow trees to clouds to the sea, the images begin to weaken, or the subject matter becomes less important, the lines in the picture appear to be self-generated, forming an aura of works, and it is also a way of externalizationof my heart, sometimes as a mechanical memory of the arms, and as a relationshipbetween my heart and the scene. Calligraphy practicing, painting and reading are a Trinity, for me it is really true: 'a rest of crazy heart is Bodhi'. “Therefore, in my opinion, Yang Jinsong is one of the artists who do not fit into the popular art model. Or it could be said that Yang Jinsong's new works, as a case of contemporary art ecology in China, provides a reference of visual sample for the transformation of contemporary painting.