Poster of The Beginning of Two Modules 434x598 - Platform China presents "Tan Ping 1993: The Beginning of Two Modules" in Beijing

Platform China is pleased to announce an improtant exhibition TAN PIN 1993: THE BEGINNING OF TWO MODULES. They invitate Cui Cancan as the curator of this exhibition. The exhibition are showed in two spce,  as Cui finds two clues in numerous creations of Tan, which include 9 videos, sketches, printing, oil painting and installations. The exhibition will be sustained into 21st October.

Tan Ping 1993: The Beginning of Two Modules

By Cui Cancan


“Conceptual art exists as an idea. In this way the appearance of the work is secondary to the idea ofthe work, which makes the idea of primary importance. The system is the work of art; the visual work of art is the proof of the system. The visual aspect can’tbe understood without understanding the system. It isn’t what it looks like but what it is that is of basic importance.”

–Sol LeWitt

“Module”, an element repeatedly occurring in the works of Tan Ping, forms the basic grammar in his creation. Similar to words or shapes, modules go through a new combination based on brand-new dimensions. The previous information contained in the words thus becomes insignificant, and only serves to spark the instinct as certain idea is conceived. When the symbolic value or expressive role of symbols becomes secondary, a system produced by the grammar, or module, is the only thing that matters.

Tan devised a module for many of his works. Whichever module with distinctive systems and rules will be employed is basedon the preconceived notion, and forms only serve as a means to execute the module. Module becomes a machine that creates art. A rich variety of examples abound in works created by Tan. His work 60×60 is composed of four 120cm× 240cm woodblocks cut in measurements of different proportions ranging from 60cm to its integer multiples; Follow my line (《彳亍》) comes as a collection of several hundred sketches, with each drawing drew within two minutes; One Cup(《一杯》) is finished by pouring ink of the same full cup for two hundred times from the same angle; as for the color woodcut series, the wood is cut by a standard proportion of one second, one third andone fourth before being printed on the paper with numerous combinations thatare mutually overlapped.

“Module” itself will develop a work and produce a variable. This variable is diverse in terms of quantity, sometimes several, sometimes several hundred, and sometimes close to infinity. The aforesaid examples provide evidence. A range of means are available in the cutting based on 60cm; the color wood superposed by one secondor one fourth can be presented with several hundred combinations; similarly, the same “module”, the same ink poured on a drawing painted within two minutes can yet produce an endless variety of results. All circles are different from each other, and all traces are different from each other.

Time and space constitute the decisive factor behind infinity. However, deciding the dimensions to be displayed in the space proves difficult as it seems that any dimension is possible when an idea needs to be conveyed. But dimensions that are too large would impair the idea itself due to constriction of form; those that are too small would lead to a loss of information, rendering it impossible to exhibit the strength and dimensions of creation. Thus whether to exhibit or change the space becomes a new concept for Tan to think about.

Tan designed the second set of module system to transform the concept into a visible form. How 60×60 is displayed each time depends on its relationship with the wall space and works on the left and right, making the distribution of distance and proportion the final core of it. Hence 60cm has two super imposed modules, one about the cutting, and the other about the display. The several dozens of sketches of the same size andtime in Follow my line are placed on platforms with different heights. The modules displayed inject elements of different space and dimension into 60×60 and Follow my line. Distance, proportion and distribution among these modules are accompanied by various rhythms and pauses, just like the application of metronomes in time, which will form different time in the end. Therefore, the module is indicative of time.

Sometimes, only the latter of the two modules will be selected. The emergence of the work+40m derived from an idea to occupy the spaceof the gallery. During a period of consecutive six hours, Tan lined out a 40m line on the wood, which was printed into a picture encircling the gallery with circular space. Existing module gives birth to new module, hence the work – 40m as negative space of +40m by accident. Through further logical development by Tan, unreasonable modules are likewise used to occupy and change the space. Module and its derivative formed during the six hours ended up with two kinds of space, positive and negative.Therefore, the module is also indicative of space.

Different combinations estimate factors contributing to different time and space, which becomes one of the purposes of Tan in the two module systems created and displayed. Differences behind any uniform module would appear to be very important in the course of creation. Anything irregular would turn out to be the most significant intention expressed by the work of art, namely, the rhyme of time and space. Imagine the proportion of buildings where the differences in proportion are what the lighting and air lie in. The same holds true for module which is the times and rhyme of breaths. For instance, application of module in urban city, such as every floor tile of standard size, every screw of standard type, every wall ofequal ratio, every modular space and universal tool, helps create a large andcomplicated urban structure through which we can exist better. However, where different modules are connected with each other leaves individual freedom for an artist to imagine.

Modules that are frequently used by the artist with their starting point related to art should be regarded as artinstead of being architectural and industrial, just as words are not the preserve of any system.


“Internationalism, experimentalism, iconoclasm, intermedia, attempted resolution of the art/life dichotomy, implicativeness, play or gags, ephemerality and specificity. In adeceptive, affected and fickle world without sense of humor, the spirit of Fluxus is very necessary.

–Dick Higgins

No module is pure module. Once applied, amodule will exhibit elements of ideology, reality and individuality. A case inpoint is the controversy over the design by architect Niemeyer in the urbanplanning of Brasilia, both a text book example and an unsuccessful Utopianfantasy. Should the urban community established from the perspective and perception of humans or based on cars and contemporary transportation tools? Module involves the order and dimension of existence, and as grammar, it also concerns the use of grammar by humans and corresponding purposes for such use.

Concept and module are different. The former hints at the position, vision and future direction for an artist, with the latter only being part of the former. Module serves to execute the concept. When the 9 videos in the antechamber to the exhibition hall are put together, the module becomes a systematic concept which indicates the artist’s understanding of the value, role and spiritual symbol of art.

It took Tan three days to paint Overspread No.2, during which changeable picture order formed for several dozens of timesamid continuous suspension and revision by Tan. The picture has no end in theend and a basis for such end turned out to be unnecessary. Every decisive moment or classic self-centered moment is under constant destruction. Creating a grand form is no longer the purpose, which instead lies in a moving pattern formed by establishment, destruction and coverage. Tan offered a more direct answer in his work The White Wall Project: “ From white wall to white wall, this is at the very core of our act. Upon the conclusion of the exhibition, the whole space will be covered anew, and all things we have created will disappear.The moment when all things disappear marks the completion of the work of art, which is the meaning of the work”.

What stimulated the beginning and finally made such stimulus disappear? The first work Time on the left of the exhibition and the last one …… on the right throw light on the starting point of the clue and the current result. In 1993, Tan created his first work Time featuring interactive space. Moving beyond the plane, he pieced the blocks left from the copperplate used to finish another work of the same name into a straight line in a disordered manner, and put it in a Roman-style building. He tried to breakboundaries in media and build dialogue relationship with the external art. An infinite openness to art, ranging from the Zen in the East and classical spirit in the West, from transformation and experiment of media to changes in the display means, became an ambitious stimulus to his creation. After 10 years, he made efforts to carry out continuous experiments each time, with repeated erasureand revision, accompanied by mutual offset and coverage; he repeatedly poured the same glass of ink for a whole day to seek a state closest to a circle; he used a knife to draw a line in the most authoritative main hall of the National Art Museum of China; he created several hundreds of sketches, each finished within two minutes, with erasure for a fixed period of time. In the end, notrace is superior to another. They are nothing but a stimulus to the next beginning.

Upon the emergence of …, concept wascompletely revealed. By means of the light available in the gallery and incombination with the building, music and dance, it enabled the audience to become part of the work. Art appears and disappears as the light is on and off alternatively. He tried to convey the point that anything can replace art and anyone can become part of art. However, such ambition is not unique to Tan, who, in fact, followed the long dominant tradition in the West since Dadaism. In other words, the concept of Tan and the establishment of “module” has itsorigin earlier. The driving forces behind the forty-year history of art after1940 are diverse: impact of Duchamp on the Fluxus; Pope’s extensions of the concepts of Dada and Duchamp; enlightenment drawn by performance art from the Fluxus, and the gap between minimalism and abstract expressionism in terms ofform; but when the minimalism was taken to its extreme, the conceptual art usedit as a means to establish the concept system different from that of Duchamp before the global contemporary art landscape took shape in 1980s. Tan drew on strengths from the unfinished history and meanwhile voiced his dissatisfaction, reshaping himself and getting connected to life upon a combination of various elements of ideology, reality and individuality.

The works in the antechamber to the exhibition hall were temporarily integrated into a system. This system showed the mobility seen in Tan’s works starting from Time in 1993: a means of mobility and a continuous movement or experiment is like the waves moving inthe river, an indication of continuous transformation one action after another. Interestingly, in addition to their origin as part of the continuity of history in contemporary art, what is their relationship with the past life of Tan? Did the changes in life trigger art? Or did the art as a kind of transforming spirit change life?


Tan also created another work Balance in 1993, which marked the beginning of the earliest “module”. He sought after the sense of history and infinite variables of plane to establish grammar of avariety of modules. The equal red block and white block in the picture look reasonable and simple. Above the two blocks are several irregular color blocks characterized by intuitive distribution. It is during this year that he tookpart in the China Avant Garde Exhibition held in the Haus der Kulturen der Weltof Berilin, which marked the first time when contemporary Chinese art debuted on the world stage on a large scale. The next year, Tan returned to Beijing,became an educator and introduced the design faculty to the Central Academy of Fine Arts; to finish the administrative work, he once suspended artistic creation as the heavy work prevented him from focusing on art. Amid the zigzagging life, he tried to strike a balance to solve the dichotomy between artistic creation and administrative work. He established modules and dimensions to make every part universal and connected in a reasonable way. Inthis sense, life is conceptual, and is also modular.

Reasonable Point turned out to be the best interpretation and metaphor of the exhibition. With a preset module in mind, Tan used a pencil to equally divide the 10cm grid on the picture, followed by a one-second segment in the grid. On the basis of the first module, Tan intuitively selected six points in thenear-central line position of the picture, and connected them with a line starting from the middlemost point, thus drawing an extended line. Such intuitive selection is not dependent on the skills cultivated through anartist’s experience, and is also aimless. It contains all sorts of possible mental movements in the mind of the artist. Next, Tan began to work out the second module, put a cross curve with the points on the above extended line and further extended the line to the boundary of the picture. The existing line and the new extended line would intersect, with four unpredictable points in the picture. Tan made marks, applied colors on a large area and adjusted the colorof points in light of these colors and how many times they are applied. During this complicated process, established modules and intuitive changes continually interact with each other. Unreasonable ideas are absolutely developed in alogical manner.

Therefore, the logic in the work of art isused not only for execution, but also for negation, ending up with aparadoxical situation. The sight of this work of art and these points, many or few, near or far, got us thinking what it is and what it is producing. Changes in concept and modules are all that the world is producing. Hence Reasonable Point becomes the central axis (backbone) of this exhibition.

About the artist

Tan Ping is an artist, educator and PresentVice President of CNAA, who graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts(CAFA) in 1984. He studied in Germany in late 1980s, gain master degree and Meisterschule degree, then awarded honorary doctorate degree of Kinston University, and was the dean of School of Design of CAFA and Vice President of CAFA. In the 40 years art practice, Tan always devote himself to exploring painting, printing, multimedia, design and so on, and nodes of contemporary art been incorporated in his ever-changing art creations.

About the exhibition

Dates: Sep 1, 2018 – Oct 21, 2018

Venue: Platform China

Courtesy of the artist and Platform China, for further information please visit

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