From not being to being, or from being to not being
In todays world, the first thing that an artist encounters when beginning creation is realize self-growing and reflection in the vast art history. Whats so-called art history is actually accumulation of knowledge, common sense, experience and customs. They are sometimes tired and old, but of course some are long and new. The vast art history surely will create gnaw-old-people type rentiers. It should be clear that there are many famous artists out of old college calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting class among todays China art world. Here, original creation of artists falls down to be Saints and Bibles. It seems that all achievements of being an artist is to become some certain master or the student of some unknown masters. While, our art criticism does not play its real part, for most of its time, its definition of artist is to allow him to find his origin. But art activity of Zheng Xuewu is just to remind us of reflection: whether one artist can refuse all etiquette and conventions, from not being to being? In fact, todays so-called art civilization means always to Tang and Song and Greek, and many are fake artists without art element. Zheng Xuewus art action is actually back to origin point of art. There are no what so called art portal, catalog, material, system and streams. All is from need of free voice. Zheng Xuewu consciously has no origin, and becomes a cross-boundary traveler.
Honest speaking, if it stays before 1990s, Zheng Xuewu, as an artist can basically be crossed out. Although at that time, Zheng Xuewu already shows out at exhibitions big or small, this kind of showing out has no clear boundary and difference. Zhengs growing mature in 1990s has no connection with his former creations. I even think some artists enter-level and future creations have no connection. He becomes himself after wasting him for a long time. Zheng is almost is kind of artist.
Since 1990s, Zheng Xuewu tries to use the abandoned lead words to his creation. Chinese words become ever-growing art language in his art practice since then. Both Chinese capital and other elements combination game in his No Title serial (1995), in China Image (2004), inscriptions on ancient bronze objects and single storks are shown exaggeratively on frame front view, or even closer Zens Words (2007) of words without any meaning fill the whole picture like pose (Zheng Xuewy: about Zens Words), vision elements of his creation are continuously realized. It does not appear at the right as tool of spreading knowledge, but is continuously separated. In our experiences, meaning of existence of Words should come from combination of words as well as word and thing. There is customized language situation for world recognition. Words that are closer to today have even more complicated meaning attached to it, so that it should use various dictionaries to know the details. In thus meaningful excessive attention, word as original of word retreats. We just ignore that even single word has kind of self-beauty. This is obvious to Chinese character with pronunciation, style and meaning in one. He allows words to get away from its meaning. He ignores relation between word and thing, has no expectation of array and combination of words to refer to our world. Word is just word in paper. He only gives word temporal location on paper. For example, No Title 95-50, tens of words like Wen, Shi, Mu, and Wen just leaves their language situation and meet by accident. The amazing thing is there words may lose their meaning to not being, but gain being of art beauty. Array with no order of words naturally soften their self-meaning. Original word for expressing turns to be beautiful signs. Word becomes flowing line and rhythm is just responsible for beauty.
From the point of Art onto-genetics, art activity of Zheng Xuewu is like childrens game and doodle. This kind of art activity can track back to humans childhood. At that time, art is intuitive and has no selection of materials. Art materials of Zheng Xuewu includes rubber English capitals, numbers, foam plates, hard plastic material, glass plate, metal materials, Stone carving, rubber sculpture, plastic erosion, cloth and paper, all color materials that can draw water and can leave track easily on paper. Traditional print making uses one piece or pieces of plate to print works. But because Zheng Xuewu uses different materials, his works is formed by different plates. Every lead word or every materials print part is a plate. Whats more, Zheng takes no notice of prints tradition, using hand drawing to fill space of print. Introduction of hand drawing frees his creation from tradition, becoming wandering ghost that cannot be classified. But all because this, Zheng Xuewus print-like picture combines beauty of print picture as well as freedom of hand drawing.
If we take a closer look, it may not be difficult to find that, the materials that Zheng Xuewu uses are all daily-used articles. He seems to tell us, ignorance to our daily world is just ignorance to art. By his regularization, materials are regarded as daily articles without any art features now change to be artistic things. One becomes his grave-digger? Thus we have the reason to ask how Zheng Xuewu will answer the basic question of what is art. Another important question is, maybe he truly gains happiness from addition, or even beyond that. Those materials with signs find their places in his art world. But in the en, art is both personal and single, but also public and plural. A true artist can and must find his way to public. From human history angle, more complicated art works can also be explained. I notice in his works in his early period, almost all criticisms or even he realizes there is unique meaning. But except technique uniqueness, seldom can further explain art. I guess this may be auto difficult status. Around 1999, Zheng Xuewu begins addition by selection. This period, Zhengs materials are not just abstract print pleasure----Colors Regularization (works of the same title in 2000), but begins kind of meaningful question. I didnt try to find form which time, or which work does Zheng find Artistic China. But what is sure is the existence of artistic Old China. His creations are not just simply from not being to being, but give our world Art. Furthermore, it goes a complicated art reflection process from old being to new being.
One Wall of China (2001), Ink works (2001),The Art of War (2002), Confucianism (2003), Youth to Chairmen Mao (2002), Track of Warring States Period (2003), Chinese Calligraphy (2003), Sunset (2003), Sprit of Mountain and Water (2003), Han Wind (2003), Left Rhyme Serial (2003), China Image Serial (2004), Century Text China Millennium Monument (2005), East Mirror (2006-2007),Zens Words (2007), Century Text Shandong Qufu (2008) and Tiger in Cage (2008), all these are Zheng Xue wus personal art history. Just from these titles like wall, ink, mountain and water, Chinese character, Lady's Maid, Jian Book, inscription and Confucius Cemetery, Confucius Temple, and Confucius Family Mansion, he already becomes a creator of Artistic China. From careful study to these works related to China, it can be roughly seen, around 2003, his composition of his drawing has already undergone art shift from maximalism to minimalism. Due to full-around offence of classic China Picture, China Image, China Figure, China View and China Sign, and his works has cultural attractive beauty implication. For esthetes in different culture field, in western views, it is he and uniqueness with space meaning. But in local Chinese view, it is collective memory with time meaning, past and future.
Different from No Title serial in the middle of 1990s, artistic quality of these works not just relies on physical array and combination of material color, texture and quality, but has cultural memory, imagination and reflection in it. What is the relation among Zheng Xuewu and vast Art History, and the world he lives? In the maximalism stage of Addition before 2003, we witness art products such as old version picture, poster, inscription, wall brick, seal cutting, calligraphy, especially use of Chinese character, if we admit Chinese character is kind of style art. Here, he not just vows to arts old China. What we are familiar of China Picture, China Image, China Figure, China View and China Sign, as well as free handling of materials, plus hand random drawing, forms paper marvel of dramatic and exciting intertextuality, dialogue, refusing, fighting away, comprising and reconciliation. In certain meaning, this piece together marvel is just what China faces. Take attention of todays China situation, there are more detail thinking in his Century Text and Tiger in Cage. For century text, paper roll, book table, book box and modern altar (China Millennium Monument and traditional altars like Confucius Cemetery, Confucius Family Mansion, and Confucius Temple), that are formed by 120000 pieces of papers, Zheng has self-definitions. He thinks Century Text also records history specially, full of interesting and dull things big or small, worlds or Chinas. but it specializes in that you know many things are there in it, you can help to read it. Because every roll is sealed, the contents are just kind of existence, allowing you to feel the paradox of words or non-word, reading or non-reading. (Zheng Xuewu: About Century Text). When I and my book are deep involved in Confucian world, we are the embodiment of outside world, listening to Confucians voice in peace, trying to talk with them, trying to connect past and today, tradition and contemporary era, peace and noise. Of course, I talk softly with honorable real world outside: Xu---keep quiet! (Mei Ruiting: The dialogue with Zheng Xuewu on the implementation of Performance in Installation works at Qufu in Shandong Province). If you can his Century Text device, then read these worlds, you can find an interesting question, Zheng Xuewu does not believe reliance between meaning of phrase and things. When he explains his works, in fact, there is no self-hiding and self misreading. It is because Zheng Xuewu puts rolled finished products onto ancient and modern altar, what he faces is submersion of non-rolling and closed papers. It is the same with Tiger in Cage which should have even open and dynamic treatment of desperation and hopeless.
China Image in 2004 is the beginning of Zhengs minimalism. He temporally leaves Addition that he is familiar. Here, his type of piling, complication, noise turns into reduction and reduction again, to single color and material. Besides China Image, this kind of art practice can also be seen collectively in Oriental Mirror serial from 2006 to 2007. Seen from now, Zheng Xuewu just selects inscription, Buzi and landscape. Buziis picture sign that is embroidered or weaved by golden threads and color silks hanging on office uniforms. Because some coats have Buzi nail on the chest and back, thus it can be named as Back Chest. Buzi is both sign of position of sovereign and ministerin Ming and Qing Dynasty, and signature of their hagiarchy. No matter it is scripture or Buzi, they are both signature of Chinese traditional authority. Meanwhile, scholar language of Landscape is another political ideology of Chinese tradition. If increase of addition is from not being to being, from old being to new being, addition thus disassembles political and cultural art pictures into single work, crossing, sun, moon, algae, water wave, tree, stone, flowers and etc. most original drawing elements. From many to one, from being to not being, Reduction is also a process of idea Disenchantment, and in the end all left is what so-called China Image, or secret of Oriental Mirror. By now, we vaguely get in touch with Zhengs most pioneer irony feature in his art practice. No matter for our history or reality, he is a critical realist with world vision.
I tend to describe modern China as China Reform activity. No matter big cities or small towns, culture or material, all evidence shows that present China is the most vast construction land in human history. What so-called modernization is just over-around China Reform activity. What we do here is removing and relocation. As an artist, Zheng Xuewu contributes his efforts to China reform action. I, of course, describe his work as removing and relocation. But what I want to continue to ask is: when we fall all into ruins, where shall we locate our China and Chinese heart.
Heping, Doctor of Arts of Nanjing Normal University, culture criticism scholar, 2009 8 Aug. 2009 Trip