09 Gao Zhenpeng was creating the Savior of the New Century

One year ago, the WeChat platform of CAFA ART INFO serialized the comics of “The Days Related to Phoenix”, to depict the story of the creation of Xu Bing’s work “Phoenix 2015” in a relaxed comic manner, and it was created by Gao Zhenpeng, when he came to our office with a stack of copyright agreements, I felt that this student had a strong sense in copyright. He will graduate from the School of Experimental Art, CAFA with his graduation creation of the year, “Thank Goodness It Can Turn”.

Night Made My Creative Thinking More Active   

During the period of graduation creation, Gao Zhenpeng generally slept at 3:00 am or 4:00 am, and got up at noon. When I questioned him why he did not sleep at night, he said that compared to the daytime he was more clear-headed at night, because there was always a lot of phone calls and specific work waiting to be dealt with during the day, many creative inspirations and thinking disappeared with these trivial things. The entire environment was particularly quiet throughout the evening and his own state was also very quiet at night, in addition, the information from his circle of friends was also relatively relaxed, including the things that he was interested in and the reading in the circle of friends would offer him different thoughts.

Gao Zhenpeng said that art is an innovative study and job that was easy to breed “procrastination”, because there was not any standard or reference for all jobs, it demanded a certain degree of fate and coincidence to finish a work under certain circumstances, which was endless at the beginning and too dispersive to grasp, so that one would endlessly modify it. In addition, Gao Zhenpeng shared a recent research result by a psychologist that said: the person who began a work early, but ended it late was the most creative.

The Most Important Thing to Do Art Is to Be Yourself  

Gao Zhenpeng majored in copperplate etching when he was an undergraduate at CAFA, and his professional teacher was Li Fan, who was the first teacher to teach him contemporary art, Li has led him to convert to conceptual art from the traditional artistic thinking. In coursework, Gao Zhenpeng was inspired by a type of toy in his childhood, to create a paper installation, a piece of A3 paper was posted with photos of four different characters, and another piece of card was hollow-carved, along with pulling the cardboard, the images of different characters were shown, and Li Fan praised his creation at that time. Li Fan once arranged a classroom work that demanded students express their thoughts on “data”, and Gao Zhenpeng created a work according to the gear transmission of a bicycle, he felt it was of a sense of industrial design when he recalled it. The development and inspiration of thinking and concepts that he had when he was an undergraduate laid a foundation for the learning in the School of Experimental Art.

Gao Zhenpeng’s graduate supervisor is Prof. Xu Bing, and he recalled the hardship to prepare for the postgraduate examination for three years. He still clearly remembered the scene when he met Prof. Xu Bing for the first time, who was reading a book of Jêbzün Milaräba, Gao bravely made an appointment to meet Xu Bing at the coffee shop of CAFA Art Museum like a venerable agenda meeting with a master, he showed Xu Bing a stack of assignments and his own project ideas, told him he wanted to be his postgraduate candidate, after seeing his works and listening to his elaboration, Xu Bing said, “It’s both fine for you to be my postgraduate candidate or not, what kind of artist will you be in the future is a destiny”, which made Gao Zhenpeng disheartened, so Gao was could not sleep that night, and wrote a message about his understanding of the talk and sent it to Xu Bing, he was eager to be approved of by Xu, who simply replied to him stating “the wild goose flies over the quiet pond but does not leave a shadow on the pond.” In fact, it is a normal situation for students to take part in the postgraduate entrance exam to CAFA several times, while it is lucky and excellent for a student to succeed the first time round, of course, Gao Zhenpeng is also lucky that he ultimately admitted to being a postgraduate of Xu Bing.

When it comes to the study of the School of Experimental Art, Gao Zhenpeng said that, Xu Bing hardly talked about his specific creative skills with the students, but excavated the individual different characteristics and weakness according to students’ interests, and considered it as the start of the creation. As for the overall teaching of the School of Experimental Arts, from which Gao Zhenpeng also thought he had harvested a lot, including open thinking, for example, the performance of Song Dong and Lin Yilin, Jia Zhangke’s film, and especially the “Self-Expression” course by Lv Shengzhong that he finished at the beginning of the postgraduate course which was completely the in-depth excavation of the individual, namely allowing everyone to talk about the most personal experiences, and even some private and embarrassing things, through the courses the students had the clearest understanding of themselves, at the same time it also allowed all the students to become closer. Gao said the greatest achievement during his graduate study was he was aware of self-consciousness, and also found a place to show himself, rather than previously giving himself a benchmark that he failed to meet.

Gao Zhenpeng’s graduation creation is similar to an installation with mechanical power, but he chose rice paper, the work entitled “Thank Goodness It Can Turn” seems to be a snowflake, and also the movement of a mechanical watch. His creative motivation is to apply exotic materials to make a machine, while this machine is contrary to industrial production and capital value, in order to express his question of machine production now. The whole piece has referred to the shape of a Sanskrit mandala and the power is output to the center from the eight directions, so it drives the two sets of gears in the middle to move the largest one in the center, this is called the sun gear, while the surrounded ones are called the planet gears, which is reminiscent of the celestial run, and it also tries to question our daily dependence on technology. The works selected rice paper as the physical material, which is the carrier of Chinese calligraphy and painting, often used to copy scriptures, and it is an important carrier of Chinese culture, Gao Zhenpeng thought Buddhism and Taoism culture was a reference value for people facing difficulties in modern life, because many modern plights were the result brought by capital production and consumption, while the Orient believes that the relationship between humans and nature is symbiotic.

Each occlusion of the work is very strictly designed, if you do not personally see it on site, I guess many people think it a mechanical model made by a mechanical engineer. Gao Zhenpeng’s score in science was better than the one in liberal arts, but he chose liberal arts in order to learn art, he said the division of science and liberal arts in China was absurd. In addition, the data of the structure of work were mostly counted out with the Pythagorean Theorem.

He Hopes the Valuable Contemporary Art Can Be Accepted by More People

As an artist, Gao Zhenpeng thought the relationship between the current public and contemporary art was not close-knit, and there were problems between them. How to use an appropriate cultural docking to allow everyone to understand the language of contemporary art is a problem that Gao Zhenpeng often thinks about.

Last year, he fortunately participated in Xu Bing’s “Phoenix” project, being in contact with his teacher and his creation from a life and daily perspective, combined his experiences and observations to draw the whole creative processof “Phoenix” in the form of comics, which has also been widely disseminated on the internet, and it made him feel very pleased. He felt that everyone was very happy to accept contemporary art, they needed it, but they did not find a suitable method. For this problem, Gao Zhenpeng thought the image was a good form, compared to the text, the image was easier for people to understand, it did not need the accumulation of basic knowledge, and it also matched people’s reading habits with new media platforms which was a new field that could be developed in both academic and commercial terms. Contemporary art is young, and it is an art form waiting for the test of time and also needs the public involved and especially some works which really inspire people, Gao believes that it is a battle to find a popular way to lead the public to become interested in it, allowing more people to participate in it, sharing valuable cultures. Of course, the premise is the culture and art is indeed valuable which is the responsibility of contemporary artists.

After graduation, Gao Zhenpeng will rent a studio, continuing to engage in his favorite artistic creation.

Photo Courtesy of Gao Zhenpeng

Text by Zhang Wenzhi, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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