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A White Stream of Consciousness

2015/11/14 ~ 2015/12/26
2015/11/14 (六) 15:00-17:00
  • Technique as a Type of Body Memory Through Disorder and Norms…. About the Paintings By Tsong Pu

Technique as a Type of Body Memory Through Disorder and Norms…. About the Paintings By Tsong Pu

By:  Li Meizheng

Whenever I view Multi-colored Bamboo by Taiwanese senior artist, Tsong Pu, the painting makes me think of the style of Jackson Pollock.  I am not necessarily saying that there are any shared aspects in technique or concept.  On the contrary, I see a meeting between carefree freedom and cautious restraint that produces a similar image composition (the mesmerizing sense of space in an abstract painting).  Pollock swings his wrists freely and randomly according to a physical rhythm, utilizing gravity to drip, pour, and spatter onto his canvas to subvert traditional painting concepts regarding the brush and canvas.  However, the concept of free fall that Tsong Pu has adopted starts with the segmentation of one centimeter squares using pencils on a blank canvas approximately 300 in scale.  With colorful prints in each grid, the entire canvas is filled up as if stamped with seals.  With either a purposeful or unintentional frequency of color, it is as if pointillism techniques are evenly distributed to provide a glimpse at a sense of space with distinguishable distances.  Perhaps coincidentally, the artistic forms come from the artist’s concepts on human nature - drip, pour, spatter/segment, stamp, pointillism, and other techniques are all the results of a selection of body rhythm.  Abstract painting emphasizes the relationship between the artist’s body and the image of his works.  The motions of his body are thoughts, and the rationality and sensibility in his thoughts are the practices of willful selection.

Many people link Tsong Pu’s works with minimalism, though the artist has inevitably resisted this type of classification.  After all, his creative context is the product of countless, interwoven, internal and external factors.  The definition of minimalism lies in using the most basic elements of art to control and achieve minimalism.  The process of minimalism must be based on the previously experienced complexities.  A person who has always lived a monotonous life would not be able to to use this technique properly.  So, this concept of constraint “from minimalism” is actually a type of spiritual reformation. After the death of Richard Lin, known as the Taiwanese master of minimalism in art circles, Tsong Pu seemingly became the spokesperson for interpreting the spirit behind his paintings.  In terms of form, “minimalism” was indeed a commonality they shared.  However, due to the education of their respective eras, there are still many differences to be found in their creative concepts.  First influenced by concepts of Bauhaus architecture, Lin’s works were later impacted by Malevich absolutism.  Even Miro once stated that no one could compare to Richard Lin in a white world, affirming his position as a pure and absolute master.  In the early 1980s, Lin returned to Taiwan from England for an exhibition, which would have a profound impact on the participating artists, including Tsong Pu.  Perhaps it was due to a sense of rebellion that Tsong Pu felt a disdain for the conservative art education taught in schools.  Later on, he also had serious doubts about the market for mainstream art.  As a result, he felt strongly impacted by the Lin’s absolutist concepts.  In terms of form, minimalistic geometry may have been a common element they shared.  But, Tsong Pu, who studied abroad in Spain, retains a demand for texture within the images of his creations.  And, these differences can be seen when comparing their works.  “

The mainstream art market underwent many stages of evolution. “To wait and see before acting” is a conscious form of restraint.  “Luxury is a type of emptiness” is a complex and personal experience for artists.  Adhering to materialistic thinking to pursue purity confirms that “minimalism” is a type of disorderly constraint.  In a rapidly changing era, using creation as a type of life practice is not easy.  For example, Agnes Martin, who suffered from schizophrenia, went to live in seclusion in Mexico and try to rehabilitate himself from his complex mental condition.  Through a seemingly unconscious repetition of rules and symbols, he regulated his sense of spiritual unease, which resulted in ghostly colors and a mesh grid painting style for his works.  In this regard, I am curious how Tsong Pu, who lives as a hermit in the city, will rehabilitate himself from his bustling past. 

Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.

The decision to create is the art industry’s most rugged path.  For an artist, establishing a style seems to be an unwritten rule.  However, has changing styles also become a sort of “responsibility” in the long journey of art?  Changes due to complex external factors occur naturally.  Changes that happen due to necessities are also normal.  The works of French artist, Roman Opalka, only comprise of the repetitive writing of numbers across a canvas, while establishing a style for “art that regards time.”  He also took on the spirit of “adhering to the same” for his entire life, causing much admiration.  Tsong Pu has stated he once had to struggle amongst change and the unchanged.  I believe that change and the unchanged will fluctuate with age.  Over the decades, he faces the four-sided, planar canvas, while selecting a few basic elements for his compositions: geometry, colors, and lines that roam repeatedly across the canvas.  I suspect that Tsong Pu himself cannot even recall whether there is a repetitive composition.  Of course, the most intriguing parts of minimalism lie in the seemingly similar differences.  Those types of differences can seemingly draw a comparison with the seemingly subtle changes in every person’s lives.  Now, in the space for the exhibition, there is a series of twelve new works that are similarly sized (162x130cm).  In their compositions, there are changes in his habit for symmetry.  He selects “deviant” patterns to generate a sense of rhythm to his images.  With an orderly arrangement of grids, seals, points, and geometric hard edges, they are followed by subtle and elegant colors and lines, such as ornaments hanging on the image.  This series of works is also given a humorous name, highlighting the more than sixty years of life experiences of this artist yet which retains the mischief of a young heart.  

Having known Tsong for many years, I am aware that he lives a colorful lifestyle and has a vast network of friends. In his heyday, he often partied late into the night. Therefore, it is hard for me to associate him with the kind of artwork he produces. Why do his works not echo the ups and downs of his life?  I cannot help but think of the hard-to-view inner world of this senior artist.  Perhaps he might have suppressed certain aspects of his emotional personality. But, using these affairs to review the talent of an artist is a bit harsh.  Without “excessiveness” then there is no need for learning about “norms”.  Perhaps materialistic pleasures are the blossoming of body sensations.  However, placing a stable focus on a canvas is a specific action for rectifying the heart.   So, repetitively drawing lines, segmentation, stamping….this is the storing of external changes to the constantly change cycle of life.  Works such as Death of The White Snake, No Horizon, and Adamant Debate all feature an architectural perspective from a bird’s eye view. Tissue papers are collaged evenly onto a canvas to create protrusions, which serve as symbols of a rapidly changing world and all its complexities. The architectural and geometric colored shapes represent an essence of matter. The desire to desire is also an just a delusion. These elements, which have been be deliberately spawned into existence, exist in a real yet unreal world and are constantly in motion or standstill.

Tsong is not intentionally emphasising the essence of Eastern philosophies. He just simply understands that purity is a reflection of one’s spiritual awareness. Through the practice of formalism, he forces himself to adhere to a repeated workflow to constrain his floating thoughts and tame his wild and unruly mindset. Does he practice art to reach spiritual enlightenment? I can only guess. In Dream of the Red Chamber, Gu Cheng comments on Xue Baochai quest for enlightenment were as follows: Xue Baochai knew life was meaningless, therefore she would never feel sorrow. And, by meaningless, Gu meant that every aspect in life was meaningless. She worked as a needleworker and had to comfort her mother, which led her to understand the emptiness in life. It is through this catharsis that allowed her to become a monk and live a life without emotions. Then, what is Tsong’s view on life and its meaning? Maybe, we, as outsiders, can only study his works to find the answers to those questions.

I my world, you will always remain untainted.  What has been tainted is this world.

To practice minimalism is to practice the art of reducing complexity to similarities. And, a practitioner of minimalism is one who adheres to the motto: Less is more. To realize that life is meaningless requires superhuman wisdom. Every person can draw the line between life and death. However, it is where this line is drawn that reflects a person’s representation of this world. A square cloth is like a sky. The cloth is painted in white. Above squares are more squares, and above lines are more lines. To go with the flow is what best describes the practice of formalism. Although people can present themselves however they wish to the outside world, one can never surpass their inner purity.