Tan Ping, Untitled, 2013; drawing, 54.5x79cm

The incidental effects between oil painting and printmaking are different. Although both of them are associated with the unconscious, the oil painting has traces accidentally left on it by the body’s motion, while printmaking is generated by an “error procedure”, in the process of production, at the same time, it is also a result of the media itself. There isn’t any independent significance for media itself in traditional art, and it is just treated as the most basic condition in the reproduction of an object. The form relies on the media, which rarely plays a direct role in reproduction, which is constituted by the form. Based on the language of media, Tan Ping’s works build a relationship between the media and the spirit.

The effect produced by the media is determined by the nature of the media and the artist. Regression to media is a historical process of modern art, from the separation of form and image, to the performance of the pure form, to the independence of the media. First of all, the independence of the media was the breakthrough of the traditional graphic art, which has been a common phenomenon, rarely recognised by people. The media determines the form, and also destructs the form. That is, understanding works according to the language of media, the image and form will be excluded, but focus on the effect produced by the media under the action of some force. Generally speaking, etching is shaped by lines, producing the effect of simulation with the dense arrangement, or creating an expressive or abstractive effect by permutation and combination, reaching a spiritual strength. Tan Ping’s copperplates depict only one line, a slender and delicate line, without any image (form), reflecting the traces of the media. Similarly, Tan Ping’s woodcut only features the relationship between the black and white, and the results that are made accidently by the dust left in the printing process, making the contrast between the white and black vivid. The most important explanation of this kind of works is that the limit of the form or beyond the form, from the concrete to the abstract, from the abstract to its limit. Limit isn’t the form, and directly appears through the media. It has developed with postmodernism by following the idea of modernism. The media is presented by way of form, but the meaning is the relationship between the artist and the media, the process of the artist practicing with the media, and the result of simply rendering the media characteristics, rather than the form. From the image to the abstract, schema plays a decisive role, different types of media can even achieve the same or similar schema, while the expression of media can be without any purpose, it isn’t capable to determine and predict. In fact, this is also the advantage of the media. It’s impossible to analyze the works of Tan Ping in accordance with any off-the-shelf schema, and the exclusion of the schema is what Tan deliberately pursues. Tan has created a series of minimalist paintings, where, in the huge canvas only a single color features, extremely like the works of Minimalism, which is also a product of the media. Tan isn’t the originator of the media, but as far as possible makes use of the characteristics of the media expression that are not copied or interchangeable, to create a form that is different from any form of modern art. A color was repeatedly painted on the huge canvas, covering the previous paintings time after time, featuring a single color on the surface, but each layer reveals a hint of the background below. Therefore, the work is not an interpretation of the visual surface, instead by a covered process, which is a record of the spirit and will, a performance through the purity of media.

Tan Ping’s work “+40 M” is a limit, the simplest material and technique, the simplest trace that is created by the action on the material by the body. Compared with the copperplate lines which are rational and a technique, woodcut lines are related to the body and original. It commences in a broad space, as Fred called “theater effect”, it isn’t a visual experience which is able to be grasped at a glance, instead, it follows the traces and experiences the time in the process.

The process of realization of “+40 M” isn’t the destination to the final visual effect, the characterization of the media is to indicate the symbol of the life process, although its characterization is simple, people won’t feel it easy to understand, what the artist pursues is neither a nice visual effect, nor the understanding of the audience, especially without explanation. Compared with other works, “+40 M” pays more attention to the role of the media, when the body practices on the media, which must has the condition to interact with the body, the language of the body is hidden in the characterization of the media. As the characterization of life, media doesn’t refer to a literary poetic fiction, instead, a creative pressure. The minimalist limit itself is not the purpose, while the concept can’t cover all the visual results, he is exploring the non-traditional expression in the traces of the media, even if we believe that the images of the language and the abstract resources are facing a crisis, traditional media can still create a new expression. The materials, tools, production are all original, or can be said to be traditional, as people are traditionally constructed, the expression of media is a form of contemporary art, so that Tan Ping’s media is a regression, that’s the nature of media, because it’s the body acting on the original media. If life is understood as a type of creativity, challenging the limit of the media is to create the ultimate challenge.

In a sense, the characterization of the media is the characterization of the body, unconscious physical activities create new objects in the media. Just as Tan Ping’s works did. Tan Ping’s sketch is abstract, ultimately abstract, and the traces, unconsciously left by charcoal by the body, rather than a generalization and simplification of the objective images. Modernist painting stresses the unconscious function of the lines, the unconscious construction and accumulation of history, culture, and identity reflect on any line. It’s certain that Tan Ping’s lines have this nature, what is different from the modernist lines, generally used to shape or compose, is that his lines are independent. His lines don’t express any object, is the result of the body directly having an effect on the media, the dense arrangement of lines and respectively floating feeling is like the different survival states of life. Alternating with the media, this effect would disappear, that he has made full use of the incomprehensible and smoothness of the media, media speaking itself, certainly under the joint action of the body and the media. It’s possible that Tan Ping has a better understanding of skill and ideas than other artists, his arbitrary lines always have a better expression than others, more directly reaching into his psychology, with a more attractive force under the action of the media. It’s possible that it has both.

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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