On May 18, the postgraduate exhibition opened at CAFA, when I casually strolled into the museum, I was attracted by the work of Xing Yanchao, the bricks placed in two circles are engraved with patterns, in the middle of the bricks a scroll hangs printed with the images of rubbings, where a green landscape painting is looming, in another showcase it presents the rubbings and an album by the artist, attempting to interpret it through his own writing. The first impression is that he is a very versatile student, involved in Chinese calligraphy, engraving, rubbing, interactive installation, text on Chinese painting, so that I remember this piece of work – “Xing Yanchao • The Sky Started to Turn Dark While I was Still Wandering at the Entrance to my Hometown”, and I would like to have a further interpretation.
From Oil Painting to Mural Painting, From Shandong University of Arts to CAFA
Xing Yanchao once studied in Shandong University of Arts, majored in oil painting, and now studies in CAFA as a postgraduate student. Xing’s father is a particularly solid northern man, engaged in the logistics of a school, so that Xing Yanchao grew up in a school’s environment and learnt Chinese calligraphy from a skilled teacher. His artistic enlightenment started from traditional art, and he started formally and systematically studying the conventional test subjects such as drawing and color when he was a student in the high school.
After he graduated from Shandong University of Arts, Xing had been a professional artist in Jinan for several years, and he found himself a studio for painting, while he made money from contract projects, he mainly followed the teacher to undertake projects in mural painting in hotels and museums. These projects usually lasted for one or two months, which broke the artist’s creative ideas, so that Xing Yanchao hoped to further research the accumulated artistic ideas and thus have a better platform to improve himself, so he decided to apply to CAFA for a postgraduate degree in the Department of Mural Painting, after two years of working.
Theory Guides Practice and It Deepens the Understanding of Creation
Xing Yanchao is a student of the School of Plastic Arts, where he feels that the disciplines of practice rarely interact with the disciplines of humanities, but he is an exception, in addition to participating in the creation of the School of Plastic Arts, he is also actively involved in the professional courses in the School of Humanities, and even made PPT to participate in the discussion in the classroom rather than simply visiting, therefore he became acquainted with many students of the School of Humanities, so that he met his current girlfriend, a graduate of the School of Humanities.
Obviously, Xing Yanchao is eager to think and he has systematically heard the courses of “Chinese Contemporary Art from a Global Vision” by teacher Song Xiaoxia from the School of Humanities and “Study of the 20th Century Culture” by teacher Xichuan, as well as the courses by Huang Xiaofeng, Liu Libin, during his postgraduate study. These courses gave him a lot of creative inspiration. Xing Yanchao thought artists’ creative thinking often started from sensation and vision, while the humanistic thinking focuses on mentally analyzing, often reaching deep into the back of a phenomenon, through these courses our thinking would be deepened, and it would inspire a new perspective of observation, if there are some theoretical thoughts, his own creation will have an added humanistic thickness.
For the professional learning of the Department of Mural Painting, Xing Yanchao believes that the courses of the Department of Mural Painting give consideration to a variety of artistic media language and it also diffuses the artistic vision of the students, the internal communication of the School of Plastic Arts is very frequent, and many workshops are open to all the students during the period of study, and students can participate in the creative practice of other artistic categories, such as Xing Yanchao who joined a woodcarving workshop.
“The Sky Started to Turn Dark While I was Still Wandering in the Entrance to the Hometown”: The Conflict and Melancholy between the Ideal of Hometown and Reality
The graduation creation of Xing Yanchao is an interactive video installation entitled “The Sky Started to Turn Dark While I was Still Wandering at the Entrance to my Hometown”, this work is closely related to his personal identity and understanding of homeland feelings, in his own words, he has planned it in his mind for a long time, that he would use this piece to express his feelings when he is faced with his hometown and reality.
Xing Yanchao has always been confused by his identity since his childhood, his father is from Zhengzhou and his mother is a Sichuanese born in Yueyang, his parents are both workers in the railway system, they have been living and working in the railway workers living area of the Western Suburb of Jinan. Since 1999, when the economic development and urbanization began, many residents began to move out, and the community schools began to be merged with Jinan city, but many poor families or senior people who love the quiet suburb still continue to stay in this community. The infrastructure of the community became dilapidated over time. When Xing Yanchao comes home each time, his mind is submerged with a strong sense of loss, and hopes to “obtain raw materials locally” and through the creation to carry his feelings. Xing Yanchao once followed teacher Yuan Ye to study ancient Chinese art, Yuan Ye has a good knowledge and research of the stone reliefs of the Han Dynasty, and Xing Yanchao is also interested in stone reliefs, which greatly inspire him.
The bricks of the work are the waste bricks brought back by the artist with the bike used by his father for commuting and then the current events that happened that day were engraved on the bricks, revealing a strong sense of reality, the falling dusts from the carved bricks were processed and grinded for pigments used for rubbing. The image reflected on the scrolls of rubbings is “The Peach Orchard and the Fairy Land” by Qiu Ying of the Ming Dynasty, drawing its materials from “Peach Blossom Spring” by Tao Yuanming, depicting the happiness of living in seclusion in the literati ideal, and Xing Yanchao alludes to the ideal home in his work, the audience can see in the distance a clear animated image, while he/she closely sees it gradually disappearing, only to see the waste bricks and the news of the scrolls of rubbings. Man from Wuling inadvertently found paradise, but he “could not find the road” when he looked for it again, Xing Yanchao through the interactive installation echoes this process, bringing the viewer a little melancholy and a reflection. Hometown and home are the main emotional clue of the work of Xing Yanchao, but the hometown is only an imagined “nostalgia” in the concept of time, at the same time, the real home scene and an ideal utopian imagination are juxtaposed in the visual presentation, to realize walking between reality and the ideal.
Xing’s tutor Associate Professor Ning Fangqian thinks that his work both reflects the universal phenomenon of the “rootless sense” of the current migration, and an artist’s social responsibility. Currently, Xing Yanchao has finished the “Rubbings Set of the Sky Started to Turn Dark While I was Still Wandering in the Entrance to my Hometown and the Album of the Story of the Peach Blossom Paradise”, which is one of the planned six albums, in which he applies ancient Chinese literature classical books with an utopian quality to convey his thought of reality and the ideal world. With this current basis, he has some new creative ideas and goes on further to expand and explore new forms of expression in the subsequent creation.
Artists love freedom, and a large number of academy graduates would choose to be a professional artist, Xing Yanchao currently wants to work, while continuing his creation. He believes that artists should not always lock themselves in the house to create, but really participate in a social life. He feels that he is able to make contact with people at work, which is a process for a person that is able to continuously interact with society, to understand the subtle relationships between people, between art and society, to find problems, making them his own creative nourishment, and also obtains some material security. Because Xing Yanchao’s girlfriend graduated from the School of Humanities, he is currently engaged in the work for the exhibition at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, Xing will soon go to live and work in Shanghai.
Photo Courtesy of Xing Yanchao, text by Zhang Wenzhi, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO.