LIVES AND WORKS
LIVES AND WORKS
DATE OF BIRTH
Zhang Xiaorui: A Good Night in the Nature – About Lu Bainian
About the writer: Zhang Xiaorui, graduated from Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, studying Art History, who is now living in Beijing, works on art reviews, case studies of artists and independent art projects. In 2017, she finished her field research paper “China Contemporary Art and Lower-class Consciousness Since 1990s”. She has also published several articles in social media platforms such as art.ifeng.com and ARTouch.com.
“The sunlight of the dusk is shining on the high table and chairs. Through the French window, the light on the ceiling inside the house also illuminates with a soft and warm tone.” Quoted from somewhere.
Lu Bainian prefers to pick up inspirations from the nature, such as light, darkness, water, air and mist, etc., in his works. The abstractions of nature elements are somehow metaphors. Darkness indicates a mysterious power or the nihility of existence; mist might be a kind of myth; and light has the power of warmth. The nature itself is always generously offering its affluence for people to use. The spontaneous gaze at nature comes from a sense of intimacy from the heart, which is closely related to the growth of human beings. Human history is born in the nature. However, for most people who are living in the current century, it becomes confusing to get close to the nature, along with the numbness and the lack of imagination.
For Lu, the village life during his childhood is an Ali Baba's Cave. Back then, the nature was his carnie. Even though he has been living in the city after middle school, the feeling from his childhood has always been hiding in his life. With the migration from village to city, facing a more material and fast-speed society, looking back on the life in hometown, there is a desire of returning. If a person can get closer to the nature in his/her youth, he/she will get more spiritual wealth. Animism includes the understandings and respects for life. Soil is breathable, but concrete isn’t. In this modern world, people are arranged between work and consumption. In comparison, our mind is more peaceful, enriched and clean in the self-sufficient farming life.
Lu has a tall and thin figure, and with a pair of old-fashioned glasses, you will find him gentle and courteous. He frankly admitts that he is easy to be moved by tiny things. When he was young, he was scolded by his father and being called “sissy” just because he always cried. But due to the sensitivity and sensibility, he gradually grows his interests in arts and poems.
The romanticism of the “Young Werther” time was always likely to turn to literature. Under the influence of Tagore and Gu Cheng, Lu started writing poems since middle school. In his mind, writing was a way to get rid of loneliness, with no necessities of techniques (which is important to him). And he just let his words flows.
When the cold wind came, the body was trembling. My lover, don’t misunderstand, the heart is firm.
At first glance, this line seems to be talking about impetuous love. However, the object in this poem is not a specific person. Like in Cao Zhi’s The Goddess of the Luo and Qu Yuan’s The Songs of the South, the goddesses are metaphors to their political ideals. In Lu’s poems, there isn’t any sharp confrontations, but only energy released in a gentle way.
The white dove with brown beak, suddenly flew away from me. (inspired by the civil war in Libya, sincerely pray for the people there.)
Around the house, a green lush grows. Why there’s still melancholy in my eyes?
The breeze of the early summer, please stay, or take my heart with you along with your chillness.
The pupa doesn’t know that she will become a butterfly, for which I envy.
Nature, literature and an expressive soul intertwine together. Poetry is a free state, an arcadian dwelling, but the real life is a drifting-away nature, which needs to be anylized and experienced. The separation of nature and reality will bring the most interesting energy.
Gazeing at “A Pool & A Scheme”
During his undergraduate studies, Lu had a chance to visit Xinjiang and Gansu. The journey to the west suddenly threw him into a paradise which was both strange and familiar. When he was standing on the gobi in Xinjiang, he felt that the wind, the sand and the stone was arousing his childhood experience. When he was little, he was living a village life, but he moved to the city when he started to understand things. So he has already forgotten “that feeling”. When returning to the pure nature, the vastness and profoundness of the gobi desert of Xinjiang made him astonished, with some memories or thoughts in his heart being deeply touched. This familiar feeling was aroused in a place which was thousands of miles away from his hometown. The communication with nature brought about a conversation between him and his ego.
“A Pool & A Scheme” is an echo of this conversation. When making this installation, screen print is used to print cards blue, and then the cards are cut into small round pieces, by which a pool-shaped installation is fully covered. A machine fluctuates from the inside of the installation and creats a wave-like motion. The blue is quite dark, like the Yves Klein blue. The wave in such a small “pool” is just like this catabolized society where unnatural things happens. And the little blue pieces are like the human beings, drifting with the tide. When the observer stand by the “pool”, gazing at the surging waves, this blue seems to have a comforting effect, eliminating the impurities and doubts. Or it might be the opposite, it amplifies and enhances the emotion, which is the same as “when you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you” (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil”). The pond recreated by machine and printing is not an aesthetic imagery of the natural landscape anymore, it’s an independent device, more like a machine which captures ideas, or just a kind of prop of art. What’s really important is the gazing itself and the conversation’s reaction that the gazing brings.
At that time, Lu was preparing for his graduation project. According to the requirements of the Print-making Department, he chose screen print to make the “water droplets”. After printing thousands of papers on both sides, the “water droplets” were simplified and abstracted into blue round pieces. There were about 100,000 “water droplets” in the “pool”. The sound of the ocean wave was abstracted into the background sound of the machine inside the "pool", which was plain and mechanical, at the same time, as sober as possible. In the process of making the “water droplets”, the technical requirements of print-making has been eliminated. Print-making itself usually focuses on the composition and the decorativeness, using techniques such as etching and aquatint to highlight the appearance, the ultimate goal of which is to produce a visual picture. While making those “water droplets” was more like labouring, repeating one single action for half-a- year’s creating process.
内化 —— 从风景到人的景观
Internalization – From Landscape to Human
In the notes that Leonardo da Vinci takes when drawing the Vitruvian Man, he believes that the way that blood flows is related to the movement of the nature; the way that blood flows is the same as the way and the direction of rivers in the nature; the range of the mountains is the same as that of the human muscles. People can always be touched by the sceneries of the nature.
From the romantic and poetic surface of the landscape to the waving “pool”, there is a resistance like an undercurrent. The “water” surging under mechanical function is like an invisible force, or a pair of invisible hands. Natural sceneries transformed to unnatural scenes. The true nature is fading away from people’s life.
From 2017 to 2018, Lu participated in an education project in remote mountainou areas in Yunnan, China, and became a volunteer teacher. During that time, he was amazed by the dynamic scenery on the one hand, and was astonished by the hardship of local people’s life. It was difficult for him to believe that life can be that struggling. As a kingdom of plants located in subtropical monsoon climate zone, Yunnan has abundant rain and sunshine, which made it a perfect sample of the nature. Although the locals are under a relatively fall-behind economic condition, they still have an optimistic, simple and powerful spirit. The people there are just like the luxuriant plants, which linked Lu’s creation and thinking with this experience.
Lu once took a photo of a slightly older child (maybe 14 years old) riding a motorcycle, carrying five little kids to school. This was completely due to the bad conditions. The parents were busy working, who won’t have time to take their kids to school, let alone sending them to learn the cello or Latin dance. And these children may have to climb over the mountains or walk several miles to school, and there may even be wild animals along the way. As a result, one older child riding a motorcycle and carrying three children to school might be the best way to deal with it. However, the poverty in materials doesn’t mean they are living a poor life. Hiking in the mountains and fishing in the river, the locals are actually living an agreeable life. They are contented, and spiritually rich. It is not an exaggeration to say that they are living in an Arcadia. But so many doors of the world already existed, and they exist in the remote and backward areas, like a sample of poverty. In a techinicalized era, they have become the structural surpluses of the society’s mainstream.
To visit a place as a tourist, one can just be a bystander, consuming everything that can be consumed in that place. While one year is enough to appreciate the local customs, to feel the vitality and experience the local life. In Lu’s memory, country life is still sweet and gentle. When facing such poor and backward living conditions, should we judge their lives under the perspective of consumerism? Since they are the people who live there, simple and happy. For us, as strangers, where do the sorrows and surprises come from after witnessing those situations?
After working as a volunteer teacher, Lu continued his post-graduate studies, during which he went to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, to study as an exchange student for half a year. Some people seem to be born with a familiar with certain places. Looking at those monuments, original art works, museums and hills, Lu’s first trip to Europe seemed to be a return. European civilization, or Western civilization is rooted in Hebrew and ancient Greek civilization. As a main component of ancient Greek architecture, columns has also become a representative of architecture, civilization and power, from the earliest Stonehenge to the obelisk in the middle Kingdom of Egypt, from the ancient Greek temple columns to ancient Rome’s Trajan's Columns, even the American skyscrapers seem to be the enlarged Doric order. "Using Lego as a Pillar" reflects today’s consumerism. In a world where materials accumulated, the pillar of civilization seems to be full of crises. The manly characteristic of the column style makes the building itself pointing to the physical symbols, including belief, power and values under Patriarchy.
When creating "I said let there be light", he went to the abandoned demolition areas, and used spray paint to draw yellow strips on the walls, like a golden rain. In ancient Greek myths, there is also a description of Zeus turning into a golden rain and dating with Danae. In a desolate place full of garbage and weird smells, these "lights" seem to be claiming that the light once existed in this area is now freezing at the moment when the observer see it. The light is fair, so is the virus. Whether poor or rich, the forces of nature can not be limited. "When the Night Falls, Only a Few Stars Appear" continues to present the expressions of lights. When we look up to the starry sky, the primitive scenery gives us a sense of belonging, and it is a kind of purity which transcends time and space.
In his latest work, “A Clear-cut Flag”, Lu cuts and sews parts of the flags of various countries into a brand new flag. Various colors and shapes become a decorative image, deconstructing the power and disputes behind the original flags. In the past, there was a claim that the world was always moving forward. But right now we are already living in a post-pandemic era, when the entire world has to "rest" because of the pandemic. This opportunity prompts us to re-evaluate the contemporary life and ecology. When designing flags, the representatives of nature are always chosen, such as the star, the moon, the maple leaf, and the kangaroo. The earth witnesses the history and time, while people always have longed to poetically dwell on this land. People place flags on the divided land to represent their powers. While this recreated flag is not intended to claim some kind of privilege or power, but to dissolve the definition of a flag. Crossing all the boundaries and stereotypes, it is only the integration of color and life. From Xinjiang to the west of Yunnan, from the real trip to Europe to the spiritual wanderings in his heart, Lu's journey will continue. In fact, when you see that flag, you will understand that wherever he goes, he always retains a scenery in his heart.
WHO I AM
Lu Bainian, born in Fujian, China in 1993, student in Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts.
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