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"A Realist's Shower of Demon Expulsion" (Selected) Qiu Zhijie

"A Realist's Shower of Demon Expulsion" (Selected)

Qiu Zhijie


  As an original problem in traditional art—from Venus in the sacred wooded waters to the only excuse in Chinese art for the beauty of a feminine body "The Bathing Yang Concubine"—bathing has often been defined as a graceful acceptance of bounties bestowed from nature or the world. At the same time, due to one's nakedness while bathing, the removal of clothes, and the water temperature's shock to the body, the sense of bathing as "cleansing" began to inhere notions of "pondering" and "reflection." This meaning grew with modernity: in this period, people are no longer part of nature; the association with water in bathing is no longer an association with nature, but a face-to-face battle with oneself. Cleaning is slowly becoming self-examination, this self-examination eventually became the most apparent location of political condemnation in Yang Jiang's novel "Shower".


  It is quite obvious that Song Yonghong's subjects in bathing have turned their backs on the former classical tradition, and belong to the modern tradition of self-reflection. However the premise of self-reflection is to first become a person who can be distant from the self; this is the unfortunate source of schizophrenia in contemporary society. Modernity's growth along with photographic techniques was certainly no coincidence; it is precisely the pursuit of "subjectivity" that is made possible by the desire to segregate one's vision from the self. Once obsessive voyeurism has progressed to an extreme, it turns to the self, and the self becomes complex under this sexual prying. People begin to need a mirror. This mirror was developed from the reflections of Narcissi's lake as photography, then to film and television, connecting historical imageries. As a type of figurative painting, Song Yonghong's paintings draw their symbolic meaning from the bathroom.



  This series of paintings by Song Yonghong clearly mark the third period in his artistic career. From the print of "Campus Life – Strange Environment" we begin perceiving a disordered expression of the weary, subjective and expressionist youth. Among the shadows filled with unpredictable mystery and desolation, the self is caught in a stronger fatal force. This mystery is entirely of the senses, because the techniques of printing are incisive but wordless. In his paintings from the early nineties, we saw a complicated narrative style with piled and listed elements. The interesting details were paired with a chaotic entirety, mutual absurdity and personal wild dreams became channels for venting. Now we see a method of venting that's different from expressionism: it is not to emphasize and express the degree of pressure, but to use the process of narration to make the actual pressure humorous. This is a type of exorcistic creativity, resembling the process of psychotherapy. The action of speaking out secret details is in itself a diminishing of these details, and Song Yonghong's paintings begin to be playful without pressure. Paintings from this period are filled with traces of language, and the vocabulary of details can be found everywhere. To speak of the world as mad is to guarantee that oneself not become mad despite the intense pressures.


  In Foucault's description of nineteenth-century psychotherapy, water was used to force the patient to admit their insanity. Water extorted confession. In the new period, we see Song Yonghong returned to the absence of language, simple elements with monotonous color arrangements rebuild a sensitivity and locale that cannot be expressed by language. The absurdity in life, in the end, originates in the inner-self, the balance between the desire for insanity and rational self control is the destiny of us all. The ‘many mouths and tongues' of adolescence give way to a grown-up and metaphysical obsession with the eternal, when the obsession with ways of the world deepens it becomes a painful knowledge of fate, and all becomes absolutely clear. At such a moment, to experience destiny is an exorcism of the atrocity of destiny, and painting is no longer a tool of expression but a tool of sensitivity, and language has completed its duty.

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