Liu Lei is a graduate of the Printmaking Department, CAFA in 2017, and she has been engaged in the creation and research of prints from her undergraduate study to postgraduate study. She learns under Prof. Zhou Jirong and has made a study on the “printmaking media” when she was a postgraduate student. Liu Lei has always focused on “paper” though she was only concerned about whether the “paper” was good-looking or not during her undergraduate study, and she has an in-depth study on the form and logic of the paper involved in the prints from the perspective of aesthetics and ideas and interspersed with the development context of contemporary “paper art”. “The Hidden Shape” is Liu Lei’s graduation creation, the production process and texture characteristics of paper run through the creative process, from the perspective of paper to discussing the concept of “plate” and taking an unique way to reflect people’s cognitive actions.
Interview Time: May 30, 2017
Interviewee: Liu Lei
Interviewer and copywriter: Zhang Wenzhi
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Paper is a common item which is also extremely ordinary and important in the field of art, especially in such a literati culture as China, the ancient Cheng Xin Tang paper is the dream of a number of literati poets, now contemporary art is popular but paper is still the most important material for artistic creations. Liu Lei’s long-term artistic creation and her graduation work are also around the source of paper but in her overall creation, the paper breaks through the simple meaning of a material and becomes a medium of prints, exploring the expression of prints and the possibility of the development of language, as the artistic creation, it also contains her social and ideological awareness and sentiment.
As the language of printmaking creation, woodcuts, lithographs and etchings are forms which are familiar to people. Liu Lei, from the 2nd Studio of the Department of Printmaking, CAFA, which is committed to research on the medium of prints, Liu Lei who has an open, active artistic thought process naturally refuses to focus on the medium of prints which have formed a fixed creative mode, coincidentally, she notices the paper, which has also formed a certain basis for research in the 2nd studio of the Department of Printmaking. In the view of Liu Lei, the paper’s characters include the strong, hard and soft, thick and also thin, rough and also smooth, simple and gorgeous, it is through folding, drawing, scratching, tearing, kneading, and shaping that then can produce a completely different effect, which can really interpret the spirit of the creator more than the creator. At the same time she also noted that the superimposition of different stained papers was similar to the concept of “plate” and “chromatography” in the process of producing paper.
Liu Lei introduced all kinds of processes into the papermaking of the 2nd studio, the Department of Printmaking, CAFA, the raw materials of cardboard which are processed with a series of working procedures, including soaking, shredding, beating, papermaking, water absorption and drying, and it is through the combination of paper and other materials, as well as the damaging of superimposed layers of papers in the course that she is able to form her reorganization and construction of various relationships. Her work entitled “Time Tells Me the Form of Pain” uses the traditional papermaking method to produce two handmade papers of different texture, thickness and size and it uses long fiber pulp to express the rough sense of the background while in the foreground she applies papermaking using short fiber pulp, which is easier to thicken while it uses a hard object to scratch the background, with the use of coffee, acrylic, pastel in order to strengthen the rough feeling, and finally uses candles, silk, battens, and other materials to interweave with the handmade paper. The work emphasizes the contradictory relationship between the rough and smooth which implies the ruthlessness of time, and the use of roasted, burned papers to symbolize the helplessness of a man in face of time. The work of “Blue is Not Blue” was finished through multiple papermaking processes because of the adhesion of paper fibers, the overlapped papers can’t be separated, so that it forms a visual effect that is similar to “multi-layer stones”, deliberately considering the contrast between the color series of blue and orange during the pulp dyeing process.
Liu Lei includes her artistic creation in the category of “paper art”, in the history of art, the liberation of this material can be traced back to Picasso’s era, Picasso created “Still Life with Chair Caning” that first applied a collage on the screen, started the discussion on materials, and Duchamp directly gave the finished product a meaning in art and moved it to the museum. Contemporary paper art was born in Europe and the United States in the mid-20th century, through hand-made paper and the use of paper fiber to perform the artistic thinking, so that paper was no longer the carrier of artistic expression, and it was also different from the art of paper cutting and paper quilling. The famous artists from the United States, including representatives of Pop Art, Rauschenberg and representative of Photorealism, Chuck Close have both created the works of “paper art”. “Paper Art” is an art form with a special-interest in the country, while Prof. Zhou Jirong from CAFA and Shi Hui from China Academy of Art are the artists who have had an in-depth study on this form, and Prof. Zhou Jirong is Liu Lei’s tutor.
Liu Lei’s graduation creation “The Hidden Shape” is a breakthrough on the creative road of paper art, which is a continuation of the creative ideas that overlap different stained handmade papers, rendering the progressive transition from the black color to red or green color, and uses an engraver to cut it off and reveal the internal secrets, the black color represents the image on the surface, while the state of the intermediate state is more real, and also closer to the essence of the kernel. Liu Lei is able to simulate her understanding of the process of human cognition, people’s cognition starts from the appearance, people don’t know how far it is from the truth, perhaps it might not exist at all, but she firmly believes that behind the appearance it is no longer the appearance, the changes and traces of the parted paper reveal the truth behind and also through the changes of color to reflect the limitations of human cognitive behavior.
The “plate – print” model, which is born out of the printmaking art, shows the relationship between the artist and present life as well as the outside world through the paper material, which constitutes the methodology of Liu Lei’s artistic creation. Liu Lei thinks that she is still in the embryonic stage on this road, which is difficult and long, which is in need of constantly examination and goes beyond the self, in order to achieve which is like her works of art that need to turn over layers and deepen, in order to get close to the real core of things.
Image Courtey of Liu Lei