Sun Xiaofeng. Born in 1972 in Chenghai District, Guangdong Province. In 1994, graduated from the College of Fine Arts of South China Normal University. From 2006 to 2008, worked as the Vice Director and curator of the Development Department of Guangdong Museum of Art. From 2011 to 2015, served as the partner and Art Director of Shanshang Art Space. Currently working as a contributing curator of Guangdong Museum of Art and Director of the Contemporary Art Division of Canton Treasure Auction Co. Ltd.

It was in No. 55 Art Space where I first met Mr. Sun Xiaofeng’s works which were characterized with both clarity and complexity, graphic and dimensional elements, order and freedom, heaviness and lightness at the same time. What strikes me was his creative combination of Chinese ink wash and gold foil, dotted with irregular pale pink and fresh green spots among straight lines. An alchemist’s pot, just like those I saw in childhood cartoons, was given life by gentle brush stokes, afloat in the air. Colorful Chinese ink wash stretched and undulated, whose theme of existence was clarified by a piece of gold foil at the corner. Mr. Sun’s works are rich in symbols, serving as a way to express both familiarity and strangeness. Sometimes some symbol jolts you into reminiscence, while sometimes it enables you to gain new perspectives of current affairs. Put in the right settings, such paintings could connect with the surroundings. Though not crowned with grand, heavy themes, Mr. Sun’s works reflect vivid depiction of life in both synchronic and diachronic time slices, showing his respect and passion for life and his belief in the philosophy that the greatest truths are the simplest. Intrigued and impressed, I decided to gain better knowledge of Mr. Sun and his works via a telephone interview.

Lydia Duanmu

How do you define your works in terms of painting materials?

Sun Xiaofeng

I love freedom. Starting off by learning traditional Chinese painting, I have always preferred to use Chinese ink and wash, which, together with Xuan paper, provides me with total freedom of painting. The use of gold foil complements the whole picture, adding a touch of classic elegance. Many of my paintings are created with a combination of diverse materials, because I don’t want to confine my works to only one kind. The same goes for cooking. As a cooking enthusiast, I always experiment to create the same dish with different ingredients.

Lydia Duanmu

Your works are abundant with interesting symbols. Do they bear any specific meaning?

Sun Xiaofeng

Yes indeed. Among those symbols there are Taoism ones, representing freedom in the Taoism culture, which is symmetric and relative; there are also many Chinese mural elements, which is an homage to aesthetic philosophy of ancient Chinese, representing an accumulation through time that leads to the ultimate pursuit of magnificence. The concept of travel through time and accumulation is expressed through the usage of lines and gold foil. The essence is the relative life philosophy of Taoism, acting without action and freedom yet without control.

Lydia Duanmu

Living in today’s fast-tempo society, people tend to have fast-tempo life attitude, making it harder for many artists to find their places as they try to mirror social maladies through contemporary arts. Your works, though of modern structure, often invoke a déjà vu sensation among audiences. How do you make it and what do you hope your works can bring to the audiences?

Sun Xiaofeng

As a matter of fact, I want my works not to disturb the natural state of the audiences. My painting process is basically a return to traditional elements, which is a process to observe, review and recognize myself, and to explore my potential and respect my natural personality. However, the material society changes, and the passion toward life remains key to human existence. For example, I love cooking. But whenever I see a fresh ingredient, what immediately comes to my mind is not to change its flavor through cooking but to bring out its natural taste, because it is the happiest state. While respecting their original taste when seasoning ingredients, I manage to create a new relationship between my character and its character. This is why by looking at a picture you can have a general view of the artist’s life, just like tasting a cup of tea or a dish which will reveal the character of the person who makes it. Good things carry positive energy themselves. Therefore, they are the way toward happiness. Life is, of course, not without sorrows and regrets. But if we empty our mind and let sorrows be covered by happiness, we may finally achieve a state of freedom. Such a state of balance constitutes the ultimate pursuit of both Taoism and Zen, and it is also the theme that prevails in my works.

Lydia Duanmu

What do you think of the relationship between traditional Chinese ink painting and its modern counterpart? And how do you strike a balance between them in your paintings?

Sun Xiaofeng

Modern Chinese ink painting is not the antithesis of traditional one but its heritage. Their relationship resembles that between reality and history. Here traditional Chinese ink painting is referred in its narrow sense, namely the classics passed down throughout history, instead of works touted by the fine arts authorities which are more “synchronic” than “traditional” compared to modern works. Traditional Chinese ink painting is a huge and complex knowledge system constructed by Chinese painters of all dynasties, one that always has as its core the cultural roots and that never loses track of changes of times. Modern Chinese ink painting, on the other hand, is one of the fruits of the collision between western culture and Chinese culture in the 20th century. It’s part of a bigger picture. It aims to build a language system different from the past, a movement that showcases deep cultural reflection and pursuit of initiative. Modern Chinese ink painting is yet to accomplish this goal, which gives it infinite possibilities and open space to explore. Of course it still needs to be based on the change of times and use its traditional counterpart as reference.

My works focus more on the power and meaning of painting itself. Chinese ink is like a “conductive” medium, through which the paintings gain cultural identity, the signifiers, the signified and the language of modern Chinese ink. This begs the question: does acquiring cultural identity means the finish of a piece of artwork? The answer is negative, because apart from cultural identity, a piece of artwork still needs to find its inner identity in current context and to establish its value based on the thinking and behaviors of contemporary people. Traditional Chinese ink painting and western art serve as the background for modern Chinese ink painting, providing techniques, perspectives, ideas and coordinates for reference. In my opinion, how to strike a balance between the three art forms is a question to which the answer lies in one’s inner gift, and we should maintain a modest and tolerate attitude toward history and knowledge while deepening self-recognition.

 

CHINESE / Lydia Duanmu

孙晓枫

1972年生于广东澄海

1994年毕业于华南师范大学美术系

2006—2008年任广东美术馆拓展部副主任,策展人

2011—2015年为汕上空间合伙人及艺术总监

现任广东美术馆特约策展人、广东崇正拍卖当代艺术总监

在北京的55号院艺术空间, 见到了孙老师的作品,画面干净,又复杂,平面,又立体,整齐,又自由,厚重,又清透。 我看到了水墨与金箔之间的舞蹈,那些不规矩的淡粉,翠绿的小圆点在直直的线条下对自己定位的选择,小时候在动画片里的小炼金壶被淡淡的刷了一笔,然后任性的漂在空中。那些舞动的彩色水墨块最后被角落里一片金铂而明确了存在的意义。孙老师的作品里符号太丰富了,这种表达方式既熟悉又陌生,有的时候某种符号能唤醒一种遥远的记忆,有的时候这种符号能带给你对当下的一种认知,这些画面放在合适的场景中,就可以与周围的能量产生链接,它没有多么凝重的特定主题,但却诠释着生活,各种横向纵向的时间切片,我想孙老师必然是一位尊重和热爱生活的人,大道至简。我决定电话采访他.

Lydia DuanMu

从材料上看您怎么定义自己的作品?

孙晓枫

我自己本身是非常追求自由的,我学国画出身,但我从小喜欢水墨,水和墨以及宣纸可以把我的绘画带到这种状态。运用金箔 ,可以体现高古的这种感觉,对画面整体也起着彌补和修复的作用。很多作品也都是综合材料,我不想定义于某种固定的材料,如同我喜欢烹饪一样,我会用不同的调料创造出一种食物的新味道。

 

Lydia DuanMu

您的作品中有很多有意思的符号,他们有特定的意义吗?

孙晓枫

对,在我的作品中有很多道家的符号,我觉得这是受道家文化内在自由的理解,这种自由是对称性和相对性的,同时也有许多中国壁画元素,我对中国古代先人美学是崇尚的,在我的画面里就有对这种时间上的沉淀和最后华美的追求表达。画面里许多线条和金箔也是在表达时间的穿越和沉淀,所有的情绪是一种无为而为的感觉,最终归于生活的即自由又无法掌控,道家的生活哲理,相对性。

Lydia DuanMu

在当今的这种生活节奏下,人们的生活态度也是快节奏的,当代艺术就是承担了提出和指出当代社会的集中问题,这也是为什么很多艺术家焦虑的为自己定位的原因。您的作品结构非常当代,但是又让人回到了某一个以前似曾相识的情景,所以您是从哪一个角度来建立这个跨越的桥梁,由此带给人们的思考是什么?

孙晓枫

其实我的画面是不想打扰被人的,对许多传统元素的回归状态,也是对自我的认识过程,重新审视和观察自我的一个过程,对自我天赋的发掘和对自然性格的尊重,是我作画的基本状态,不管物质社会如何变化,但人们对生活的激情和热爱,是存在的基本道理,如同我喜欢烹调一样,我看到了一种新鲜的食材,就会很兴奋,在我的脑子里没有想接下来该把它做成哪种菜系,而是如何把它本真的自然味道调动出来,那才是最幸福的状态。在尊重食材本来的性格同时,通过我的调味,我的性格和它的性格就建立了一种新的关系。这就是为什么你通过看一幅画就大概能看到艺术家的生活状态,你品茶或品食物,也会感受到茶师或厨师的性格。好的事物本身就承载着能量体,所以追求这种美好才是幸福之道。当然生活里有很多不足和遗憾,把自己的状态放空,让很多美好和不足层层覆盖,最后提炼出一种自由的状态,不管是道也好,禅也好,最后都是在追求这种平衡关系。我的画面里无处不在的诠释着这种平衡。

Lydia DuanMu

您是怎么看待传统水墨和现代水墨的?在您的画面里您是怎么把握它们的关系的?

孙晓枫

传统水墨和现代水墨并不是一个对立体,其实是一种上下文关系,即是历史与现实之间的关系。我这里所说的传统水墨是一个狭义的概念,特指历史上流传下来的经典,而非现在那种由美协系统倡导的作品,因为这些作品和现代水墨是共时性的,故构不成“传统”的意义。传统水墨是一个由历代画家建构出来的中国式的知识系统,庞大而驳杂,但并没有丢失内在的文化根性以及和时代之间的交织。现代水墨是二十世纪以来关于中西文化冲突的局部表现,是整个大的文化格局中的一部分。现代水墨的任务就在于建构一个和以前不一样的话语系统,其中也饱含着深刻的文化反思与能动性。现代水墨的任务仍然没有完成,它处在过程的某个阶段,所以现代水墨具有无限的可能性和开放空间,当然,它仍然需要时代的嬗变作为依据,需要以传统水墨作为经纬的参照。

我的作品更加关心绘画自身的能力和意义,是我在利用水墨这种媒介,媒介有一种近似于“导电”功能,自然而然地获得了作品的文化身份和其中的所指能指,获得了现代水墨的话语,这一点恰恰是可以讨论的地方:当作品获得了这种身份以后就成立吗?不然,作品仍需要在当下的语境中寻找更为内在的身份,即是以一个当代人在时空轴中的所采取的行动与思想来确认其作品的价值。传统水墨和西方艺术是一种背景存在,提供了养分,如技法、角度、观念和坐标等。如何把握它们的关系,这要从内在的天赋里面去寻找答案。我认为应该是在不断深化自我认识的同时保持对历史与知识的谦逊与包容。