10 Zhu Yancun, The Ancient Tea-Horse Road No.2, mixed media on paper, 102 x 79 x 13 cm, 2014

Physics and Geography

It is different from the comprehensive academic material experiments which are familiar to us, this tries through freely choosing and misappropriating the medium to eliminate the boundary of painting and even intentionally keeps a distant from traditional physical attributes in painting in order to break away from the logic of art history. It is also different from most of the practices of contemporary painting, which mainly trace the history of art and the corresponding images, ideas, and other rhetoric discourses, to create a new narrative. Zhu Yancun does not follow this, he does not only adhere to the way and pattern requirement of the basic discourse of painting itself so that the experiment itself is completely based on the physical attribute of paintings, which is committed to the archaeological excavation and application of mineral (a coloring material) and plant pigments. Of course, it is not strictly the archaeology of pigments and precisely speaking, its purpose is to use a pre-modern medium and system to attempt a new painting language, rather than to present the physical composition and the color characteristics of pigments.

Zhu Yancun searched for and chose plants and minerals, which had never been processed into pigments for his use and he even refused to use a brush, instead directly used leaves, bark, grass and petals as material and brushes for the creation, most of the time. In addition to the use of grinding and adding glue into some mineral pigments, he also used a brush sometimes, but under normal circumstances, these plants are pigments then he worked with brushes, or used his hand as a brush. Therefore, to control the composition, rhythm, brush strokes, and color levels of paintings it depended on hands, eyes and body which were all fully mobilized. Nevertheless, he has never considered such a practice as a performance or performing, for him, painting is a true purpose. That is to say, he sees himself as an artist.

Here, such a “specimen”practice process is also dependent on the support of the triple time structure: firstly, the timeliness which is accompanied by the change of geography in the process of creation, secondly, the timeliness in the process of creation, the color of painting, light and shadow structure sometimes implies the time and climate, in which he searches for pigments and forms an impromptu creation, thirdly, after the work is finished, the fermentation, cracking and even falling of mediums changes images which is also timeliness. In my opinion,the triple time structure creates another new anthropological dimension for paintings. It is necessary to reiterate that, although all of these are facts, Zhu Yancun refuses to consider it as the focus of the practice, and he still wants to go back to painting, returning to the screen, intending to develop a new awareness space.

Vision and Awareness

Because all the images are from the location of pigments, the themes are basically scenery. However, the materiality of pigments (including papers), and Zhu Yancun’s unique drawing skills determine that the final presentation of the screen isn’t a landscape painting in the traditional sense any longer. It is neither a reproduction, nor does it resort to symbols, whether the pigments and brush strokes, or composition and form, it intentionally strengthens the overall visual planarity and construction. At the moment, color is complicatedly attached to pigmentand it is difficult to identify the material of pigments on the surface, at the beginning of the creation, therefore, the relation between it and color is extremely subtle and even a “separated”relation. Due to color it will change and be accompanied by the change of the material of color, it means that it seems to be attached to the material. But even so, I think Zhu Yancun stresses vision and the possible awareness of space at the moment of viewing.

Nature and Painting

Zhu Yancun is sensitive and conscious to pigments and media, this is from the printmaking training and the related teaching experience, but I would like to talk about it starting from his sketches in Xinjiang in 2000. Actually it still depended on the experience of print to rationally organize the screen in the sketch, while it started to directly use color. He didn’t choose color on the basis of the practice of knowledge and experience, but more relied on perception and the experience of a type of action, so we can consider it the presence of the practice itself, perhaps it is the so-called consciousness of “I am” for Zhu Yancun.

In fact, it also means that Zhu Yancun has not thoroughly thrown painting to nature, this kind of direct material involvement, withdraws brushes and all the related experiences and knowledge, giving way to hands and body. But the problem is that in the process of drawing, the composition, shape, and even the relationship between “brush strokes”, are practically dependent on the existing knowledge and experience of painting, visibly showcasing the interest of expressionism and the color of symbolism. It can be said that the knowledge and experiences in the screen actually withdraws the natural attribute.

However, physical attributes and natural features of the pigment and body is one of the major decisive factors of the style of painting. Because the simplicity of plants and minerals themselves, he does not intend to make modern professional pigments, the harmony of brush strokes is actually a harmony of raw materials and the harmony itself can’t change the tone of color and the basic attribute, which makes the overall tone of the painting appear simple and plain. This also means that, although pigments are restored to plants and mineral materials, it is not a ready-made article, essentially it is still material and media that service shaping, style and concept. As mentioned before, Zhu Yancun’s purpose is neither depicting nature, nor involving nature, not a conceptual practice about nature, not a construction of a hidden theatre, precisely speaking, he just uses nature to resort to the possibility of a new kind of painting language.

In fact, each discovery of a pigment in the history would create a revolution in painting. In this sense, Zhu Yancun started from pigments because he followed the path of art history and found the gap of painting and the perspective of reflection at least, although he couldn’t match the sages and masters. It is different from the construction that escapes the history of painting/ boundary of art history, not a quick innovation of the form and style of painting, but it tries to intervene in the rigid order of contemporary painting from the angle of production, based on the experiment of pigments.

Courtesy of the author, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO


Related posts: