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The Natural Formation of Various Effects


The Natural Formation of Various Effects
——An Interview with Zhong Biao
 Yin Suqiao = Yin   Zhong Biao = Zhong

Yin: Could you introduce us to the creative origins of your work "Mirage", and describe any experiences that you met along the way that you feel are worth sharing?

Zhong: My artwork began to desire transforming during the year of 2009. It was a transformation that originated in the beginning of that year and appears in a more complete state in the painting "Mirage".

Yin: It acts as a conclusion to your previous artwork.

Zhong: Not a conclusion, but a confluence, it is a natural formation that takes place under various different effects. In fact, each of our today's is a combination of all our yesterdays and all that is today will be included in tomorrow, it is a process of perpetual motion. A conclusion is static, while a confluence is in motion, after which point it flows on to the next formation.
Yin: In this year of creative production, what problems and memorable experiences have you encountered?

Zhong: As I was entering into the final furlong of this painting, my father passed away on the 7th of July. He passed his last energy on to me, I feel as if he has not really left me. This year I have perceived most clearly the vast scheme of movement beneath the surface of reality, the whole of this world from the macrocosm to the microcosm in a state of perpetual motion, the transformation of my artwork could be better described as a realisation of that notion. It concerns the relationship between form and state. If we analyse the words seperately: "state" undergoes constant change, it is intangible; while "form" is the format and exterior appearance of "state" at any given time or space.

Yin: A relatively constant representation.

Zhong: Exactly, "form" is visible, "state" is invisible, "form" is the appearance of "state"; "state" is the source of all "form".  Whether you are in commerce, politics or arts and culture, it is essential to grasp the ever-changing idea of "state", and to allow it to be revealed. If you are in commerce and you are able to grasp the situation, revealing the situation will bring about business opportunities. In politics, if you know the broad tendency of development and move in accord with it you will achieve greatness. In the same way, in the world of art, when an artist's work manages to accurately reveal that "state" and its form of development in a certain time and place, that work will touch the collective subconscious of its audience, it will be opportune within its own time. If you think that an accurate revelation of form is the truth, then you're wrong! Because "state" changes with the passing of time, to attain new forms, if you fail to return constantly to the "state" and move in harmony with it, your artwork will be locked forever in the time in which it was born.

Yin: That's pretty deep

Zhong: I have always been aware of the pulse of the times, and tried my best in my artwork to capture the form of our situation.

Yin: You mean, to capture the relatively constant revelation, or representation.

Zhong: Yes. Only now do I realise, there is no need to try and capture the changes of the spray of a wave, what is important is to return to the trend of the main body of water, and go along with that trend. In this manner, one either retreats into history or advances into progress. Since movement and change are the essence of existence, when we blend ourselves into that movement, we will be freed forever from the feeling of anachronism and the need to lament having missed our chance.

Yin: That is, being able to grasp the most novel changes, without falling behind the forerunners.
Zhong: It's not a matter of grasping or chasing. We all know the importance of moving together with history, or one could say, moving with the times, actually what is most crucial is moving with the tendency. Just as we look at the weather before deciding what to wear when we leave the house, if the weather changes it will cause some inconvenience, but if you've already looked at a weather forecast you'll be well-disposed in any event. A "tendency" is something that is yet to occur, and if you are able to move in line with it, and wait in that spot, the tide will come rolling up behind you of its own accord.

Yin: It seems to me you have a playful approach towards your artwork.

Zhong: I give it my all, and accept what comes. "Moving with the tendency" is a state of mind, it takes a lifetime's effort to realise. When in essence, life and art are two inseparable halves of one whole.

Yin: That seems a very Zen thought. Have you made any research in that field?

Zhong: I am definitely influenced by Zen teachings, although I have never made any research into that area. I'm often told, when I'm describing some new realization, that it comes from some book or another, and the books mentioned include both the Oriental and Occidental, ancient and modern writings, books I've never even read. I don't do a lot of reading actually, I tend to glance at extracts.  Those fragments of civilization form the coordinates of my thoughts and the source of my energy; new sources of energy may appear at any time. We tend to criticize taking things out of context, because we may perceive it in a way that is out of line with its original meaning, but if we are able to perceive the original meaning from a fragment taken out of context, or to perceive new meanings in those fragments, it ceases to be a derogatory term.

Yin: Your words are filled with philosophical ideas. I'd like to ask you this: you take the abstract, the representative, the figurative – so many varied elements of style and place them on the one canvas; creating an artistic language that is rich and varied, and paintings with a powerful artistic appeal.  How are you able to break through the divisions between artistic styles and allow them to be combined together?

Zhong: That's a good question The discrepancy between different forms of expression is precisely what gives them their own characteristics, it's practically impossible to try to alter their characteristics to make them fit together perfectly. The only possibility is for time to run backwards, back to the beginning, at the beginning before the revelation of different styles they were all part of the same whole. In the beginning, in a state of primal chaos, they blended together without boundaries. My new works seek to return to that chaotic state before the birth of the image, and then to call forth and give life to new images out of the tendencies present in that chaotic state. It is a creative process, but also the final results of presentation. Revealing the tendency along with reality.
Yin: My next question: in your previous works you pieced together a mosaic of different cultural symbols, of objects with different characteristics, what logic can you explain to us, with which to interpret those paintings?

Zhong: On what basis do we choose this and not that? Why this symbol and not that one? The only basis is to adhere to the serendipitous meetings created by the movement of the tendency of events, and go wherever that takes you.

Yin: You could say, in fact, that under the influence of various effects, they were arranged that way by your artistic intuition.

Zhong: That's right.

Yin: Your paintings give an impression of vastness, to use an ancient saying, of "Thoughts travel one thousand years, sight travels ten thousand miles".  From the chaos of the 9•11 incident to the economic crisis, you portray such massive scenes, what sort of a feeling do you hope to convey to your audience? Is the relationship between "tendency" and "reality" that you spoke of intended to be experienced in these massive scenes?

Zhong: I'm lucky enough to have come close to the source of all changeability through art. To begin with, I was concerned with the order that hid behind the impression of coincidence; investigating in greater detail I found that first of all that what lies beneath reality is an omnipresent destiny, that these instances of fate create what we know as reality, of course this is no secret. Later I discovered that beneath the workings of fate was this certain tendency in a state of constant flux, that is so immense it goes beyond the designs of man. Let me draw a simple example, when we study history, we often memorise times, places, important figures and events, but these are really only the representations of history, the true face of history is the inevitable tendency that runs beneath those things. It flows onwards, never to be overturned, in that great tendency that runs through all events, if it wasn't one person there'd be another to take his place, if not at this time then at another. Let's not go back as far as the creation of the earth, we can start at the birth of civilization instead: for a few thousand years the earth has been turning without cease, and different events large and small have been occuring also without cease.  Let's do an imaginary experiment on this basis, imagine it speeded up, as if in fast-forward, the rise of the Persian Empire, The First Emperor unifying China, the rise and fall of the Ancient Roman Empire, Columbus discovering the New World, the rise of America, the rise of China, and the vast mass of happenings and endings of all those events, large and small, the scenes of the world rising and falling here and there. One climax is followed by another somewhere else, and this rising and falling in close succession is governed by a power other than human willpower.

Yin: Is there a hint of fatalism there?

Zhong: The New York Times selected capitals of the world for each five hundred years in history.  In distant 2000 B.C., Ur in Iraq was the most important city in the world; in 1500 B.C. the most important city was Thebes in Egypt; in 1000 B.C. there was no centre of the world, by 500 B.C. it was Persepolis; It was Rome at the year zero, Chang'an (now Xi'an) in the year 500 A.D., Bianliang (or Kaifeng) in the year 1000, Florence in 1500 and New York in the year 2000. And no one knows what will become the centre of the world in the next five hundred years to come, all we know is that it certainly won't continue to be New York. But when you think that talent, finance and all those high-end resources are concentrated in New York, why shouldn't it go on in glory for the next five hundred years? It is because successive rises and falls are a law of nature.

Yin: So to put it in your own words, as I understand it, there is some kind of power that transfers it on to the next place?

Zhong: That's right, an intrinsic and inevitable tendency. Going against it can only lead to destruction; if a person's direction is correct and they are eager then they will become a pioneer. Pioneers may make judgements as to the direction of historical development, but not towards the periodic nature of time. The overall tendency of history does not move according to human willpower, whereas people make great achievements when moving in accord with it. Deng Xiaoping himself went through a series of trials and tribulations. He had really seen the overall tendency, and strove to work towards it, but if the time is not right, one can only take the falls, until the day comes when the time is right, when he was able to push forward the development of China. Therefore, one must be in accordance not only with the tendency but also with the times. People who understand this are not easily flustered, they are unhurried. To return to a previous topic, there is an inevitable tendency in perpetual motion that underlies all of destiny, that is to say that there is no part of fate that is not the product of that certain tendency, of course this too is no secret, after all they do say, "chance resides in certainty", don't they? Speaking of this inevitable tendency, we seem to have come back to your point about fatalism …

Yin: That's true,it would be very easy to see it as fatalism!

Zhong: I pursued the question further: what is it that lies beneath that inevitable tendency? It is the boundless movement of universal energy, finally returning to the dependable material world. To turn the question about and make it a conclusion that is to say: the universe is the movement of boundless energy which decides the inevitable tendency of events, which creates destiny, which changes the direction of each following moment. In this way we can move step by step from the world of energy back to reality, and see all these things as parts of a whole.

Yin: These enlightening views of yours combine something of the profundity of the natural sciences, together with religious thought and the ultimate topics of philosophy, I wonder how you were able to attain such a depth of theory from the research of the fragmentary?

Zhong:  I'm undeserving of such praise. Whatever the discipline, they become similar if you dig deep enough, the world is a whole. What is interesting is the relationship between tendency and the tangible world. By removing the layers of the tendency of events, one is directly linked to the energy of the universe, even if all we are able to perceive is the "tangible" when truly there is no separating the two. Take for example the Wenchuan earthquake, we often bear witness to the phenomenon of an earthquake, when in truth, even before an earthquake hits, there has been no cease in the movement of energy beneath the earth's surface, it simply breaks out finally at a certain moment. Various effects have combined to create this chance phenomenon, Naturally the factors leading up to the Wenchuan earthquake can be traced back to the beginings of the universe. Each ready-made fact is the current result of the movement of the universe. In fact, within the cause and result relationships of all things, what is known as the cause is really only the last step, behind that reason lies the vast movement of the universe.

Yin: What we are talking about is a combination of the unlimited destiny of time and space, wrapped together, creating the events of the present.

Zhong: That is precisely it 

Yin: In that case, this painting may also be seen as your own experience of the various forces of destiny manifest in the universe, presented here to us. Can we understand it as such?

Zhong: Yes. By returning to the primal state of chaos, we are in fact connected to natural energy, style is a product of natural revelation, therefore all forms of expression are in essence part of a whole, they have never in fact been divided.

Yin: In that argument, what appears to the eye of an outsider as different artistic styles, are at the root of it inseparable, you are returning to an innate tendency that was present before any revelations ocurred, where no divisions exist, is that correct?

Zhong: Exactly, formation naturally ocurs wherever the path takes you.

Yin: Just like the roaming warriors in martial arts novels, a skilled fighter that doesn't carry a sword.

Zhong: It's like the ideas of crossing borders and of having no borders. Crossing borders is a restructuring or expansion that occurs after formation, it requires the expenditure of a great deal of effort and energy; whereas a state where there are no borders is both the beginning and the end, our final destination is to reach a state where there is no beginning, no end and no borders …

Yin: I believe you've grasped the essence of the problem. I have another query, many Chinese theorists, including artists, are all striving to establish a theoretic system with faith in and respect for a contemporary Chinese people. With your reflections in mind, where should we start to consider this problem?

Zhong: Any worthwhile theoretic system strives towards the truth, regardless of international boundaries.

Yin: Having walked out from under the Western monopoly on artistic power of speech, Chinese nativist art has become influential with the public, and made China noticeable on a global scale. Your artwork often appears in international exhibitions, how do you see this side of things?

Zhong: If we become preoccupied with showing China's power, we are only demonstrating that we are still in a weak position. Those in a weak position will often strive to show how powerful they are. Whereas the truly powerful allow for the existence of other civilizations. It's always a case of the East triumphing over the West or the West triumphing over the East, that's a natural phenomenon. If the West comes out on top, it's because they have accumulated power that puts them in a better position, at a certain point they will definitely come into power, then the focus of power will shift, and a new rise of power will take shape, and it will go straight back the other way. From a macrocosmic viewpoint, such natural phenomena cannot be considered in terms of good or bad, from the micrcosmic viewpoint, however, when an exterior power incurs upon us, a national feeling of resistance is perfectly understandable, this too is a natural response. Therefore, what is important is not the division of power between East and West, but an exploration and use of the gathering and dispersal of those energies.

Yin: Your artwork, "Mirage" combines sound, video, painting and installation to give the audience a new sensory experience. What prompted you to make use of multi-media to correspond with this notion of time in motion? What led you to this idea?

Zhong: The world is in a state of perpetual motion, it does not stop for even a moment. We live in reality, the forces which facilitate the occurences of reality move in the realm of energy. This work is a holistic expression of art, which includes audio, video, painting and installation. The misty fog drifts towards the wall, creating a variety of forms. Messages from the macrocosm, microcosm and the realistic worlds are woven together and switch from one form to another. Although the movements are manifold in their directions, the general trend rolls forward with an unstoppable force. A direction is created, then it thaws and vanishes into the universe. Upon the 38 metres of wall space, the rapid video slows down, and gradually condenses into a painting, the painting originates in the universe and is expressed by the video, all dark matter gradually transforms into history and reality, with each and every space no longer isolated, but interconnected. From the depths of the gloom, we move towards the light, step by step; through the reflection in the mirror we sink, step by step, back into the darkness. The process continues, unchanging, unceasing. The audio element is the sound of that our planet emits  into space.

Yin: The exhibition design is a real breakthrough both in terms of format and content.

Zhong: The audience experience the vast tendency that shifts beyond the power of human willpower to control, and the multitude of scenes that that creates.

Yin: It seems there is little to link the idea of a power that moves outside of human willpower to the title "Mirage"?

Zhong: Mirage is the reappearance of another space and time, of what once was. Encompassing the past, the present and the future, it shares with the work of art identical attributes. Although in reality the title "Mirage" is not as broad as what the artwork portrays, it is an opening, a link with the vast world beyond.


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