LIVES AND WORKS
LIVES AND WORKS
DATE OF BIRTH
Born in Jiangxi, China in 1974. ?
Graduated from Stage Design Department of Shanghai Theater Academy in 2000. Living in Shanghai, PRC
Solo Exhibition: "Affliction is Enlightenment", Yard Gallery, M50 Shanghai China. 2019. ? ? ? ? ?
Group Exhibition: ?Heaven, Earth, Aggregation?, Shanghai, China.2019.
Group Exhibition: ?Similarities and differences?, Shanghai, China. 2018.
?Zhang Junmin: Exploring the Truth of Life with -Moxa
Author: Wang Lu, Artron. Net
As the saying goes in Huangdi Neijing,??Moxibustion is for diseases that cannot be cured by medicine or acupuncture.? However, when moxibustion is applied to artistic creation instead of health nursing, people will be curious to imagine the results. Now let?s enter into the world of Zhang Junmin to discover more.
Zhang Junmin, an artist majored in Stage?Design and graduated from Shanghai Theatre Academy, insists on artistic creation for over a decade. After entering the studio, we saw his collection of works around which were unveiled in Affliction is Enlightenment, his?solo exhibition?held on April 27th. Near the second floor of his work area, we got a whiff of a scent of moxa. Distinguished from regular artist studios with pigment and painting tools, this place is particularly installed with a /smoke exhaust ventilator for creating a pleasant environment.
Zhang Junmin is quite familiar with moxa and moxibustion, because they have created ?miracles? for him and his family and bestowed him with some enlightenment?of nature and life that are hard for others to touch. Moxa is warming and moving. It helps to promote movement of blood and qi. Meanwhile, it has therapeutic healing benefits. ?It is like a process of finding inner truth through penetrating the surface?, Zhang Junmin said when he explained his intention for creation by moxibustion. Moxibustion represents more the true expression of life than only a symbol of Zhang Junmin.
In the early days, Zhang Junmin made creations covering a wide range of themes. In 2017, he unintentionally picked up moxa sticks, fumigated and left traces on the canvas, which inspired his world for more trials. So, he began to burn and fumigate moxa sticks, make collages by wormwood and moxa fiber on the canvas, and even applied moxa as a kind of ready-made material to bring a unique space to life.
His exploration of moxa for creation is generally reflected in his over 20 works to be displayed at Yard Gallery, including the series of Affliction is Enlightenment, Obstacles to Cognition, At Ease, Universal Reconciliation, Moxa Seeking, Intelligence.?
Artron. Net: In your Yard New Exhibition, we see the series of ?Moxibustion?. What is your original intention of painting in the way of moxibustion and burning? Can you share creative stories of the series of ?Affliction is Enlightenment? with us?
Zhang: I have maintained contact with moxibustion for over a decade and it has created ?miracles? in my life.
For example, my wife was prepared for a caesarean section due to abnormal fetal position found near the time of labour. We preferred a natural labour through some trials. Introduced by a doctor who knew about moxibustion, we tried this method with a grain of salt. Surprisingly, our fetus has been turned over in the next antenatal care. The obstetricians were also surprised at it. (Of course, please use this method as per doctor?s advice. Particularly, for cord around neck, please cautiously use it.) Later, my wife had a natural labour.
There is another story. I have a relative of rheumatoid arthritis. She visited well-known hospitals in Shanghai and got a same conclusion: it?s an incurable cancer. Later, she tried acupuncture in the most scorching days, in particular, the ?fiery dragon moxibustion?. Luckily, all her indicators of the inspection report were normal after one-and-a-half years? curing. When she returned to Shanghai for a subsequent visit, the doctors present all were taking photos. Under modern medical environment, the cure of rheumatoid arthritis can be seen as a medical miracle.
After experiencing these ?miracles?, I began to re-examine my knowledge system. The series of Affliction is Enlightenment are my feelings about these experiences. To be concrete, at the beginning, I just wanted to burn out a circle to express ?completeness? through ?breaking?, but I burned out a shape of a drop of water with more ideal effect. The shape of water drop made by fire is the reflection of the relationships between water and fire. These two seem to be opposite elements, but their essence is the same. Just as affliction and enlightenment, no afflictions in life, no intelligence in life. They both are another manifestation of themselves with the same essence.
Artron. Net: What?s the process of creating the first series of your works? And what?s your ideas at that time?
Zhang: I named my first series of works as Universal Reconciliation?as with the hoping that moxibustion can be used by the general public. At that time, it was only an attempt. When I felt that I could express more things in this direction, I gradually developed a series of creations.
Artron. Net: When you first started your creations through moxibustion, what?s your problems?
Zhang: The most difficult problem at the beginning is creative environment. Especially, when making creations by fumigating, I have to wear a face mask and a pair of eye guard to avoid tears. Sometimes, I need to leave my area immediately because burning moxa sticks together produces a lot of smoke, which affects my sight. Therefore, I repeatedly adjust the environment while watching. Later, to exhaust smoke as soon as possible, I installed this exhaust device.
Another problem is the control of fire, but the process is also very interesting.
Artron. Net: What have you tried in your creative expressions?
Zhang: I have tried various methods of moxibustion on the canvas. In the earliest time, I focused on ?burning?, ?fumigating?, ?breaking down?. Now, I prefer the integration of these methods. Take Autumn Harvest?for instance, moxa is the representative of Yang Qi, which sprouts?in spring, grows in summer, then harvested in autumn and collected in winter. This piece of work shows the gathering of Yang Qi in autumn. In my creation, I adjusted?the position and size of smog but couldn?t?control colour well. Moreover, in order to avoid a too high temperature of the canvas in fumigating, I splashed water on the back but it seeped?from the other side of the canvas, naturally forming a similar effect of splashing ink.
Later, I made creations through ?breaking down?. Due to bad control, I took a long time for my Affliction is Enlightenment 1, because I burned out a too large place and felt regrettable to abandon it. Thus, I made it up with another canvas and burned it again. After finishing these procedures, I found that the effect of the multi-layer canvas was special, then, I created the series of Obstacles to Cognition.
I express my life inspirations through the series of Obstacles to Cognition, namely, what people see may not be the real, that is to say, people?s cognition often hinders your judgment. Through burning out canvas layer after layer canvas, I hope that people can break down their cognition to find the truth.
For another example, I was interested in the burned texture of moxa at a certain stage, so, I began to research on how to add moxa into my works. This experience contributed to my works of Fiery Dragon?and Blossom 1?of comprehensive materials.
Artron. Net: Will fire cause contingency, even ?accidents?? How do you understand contingency in creation?
Zhang: The fire is uncontrollable and it causes many unexpected accidents.
When I start to create, I try to show my ideas, but in this process, such accidents may deviate or deepen my ideas to an unknowable expression, which often is more interesting than my original conception. Of course, for those non-ideal cases, I have to try again. It?s wonderful to find a balance between controllable and uncontrollable conditions.
Artron. Net: You create concrete images in Intelligence?and?Telling?and use abstract language of mind or consciousness in Universal Reconciliation?and Caution, thus, does the subject of a painting play a significant role in your creation? What about form and style? It seems that no limitation is set in concrete, abstract or comprehensive materials of your works, so will you give them particular meanings? And what are they?
Zhang: Form, of less importance, is an intermediary to express ideas. I want to express my ideas in the most appropriate form, such as concrete, abstract, comprehensive materials, installation or performance art.
Artron. Net: Painting is beneficial to meditation, then, is your personal belief related to your works?
Zhang: My personal belief is related to my creation but plays a moderate effect on my works? presentation.
For example, in terms of Affliction is Enlightenment, some Westerners may feel that this is an expression of Western religion for the cross behind the canvas. In my creation, I did not consider the cross, which is just revealed for the burning-out canvas. And most of Chinese audiences may relate it to Buddhism.
For Universal Reconciliation 2, some audiences feel that every hole tells a story, and some people see ?scars of caution?.
Therefore, the personal belief of the artist is not important. What audiences see from the work is more a manifestation of their minds.
Artron. Net: Can you introduce us the preparations for this exhibition?
Zhang: In addition to paintings, I will display installation works and a piece of electronic image.
Besides, I will burn moxas behind the work of Affliction is Enlightenment to make smog penetrate holes and create a stereoscopic effect.
Plus, I will try to cover images by the series of Intelligence. Audiences can see changes of light and shadow behind the canvas, just like an active eye, so as to display graphic works in new methods.
Artron. Net: Will you make a second creation of your works?
Zhang: Yes, I sometimes take out the works I have done before and continue to burn them. The completion of my works does not mean the end. I will explore further.
Artron. Net: Moxibustion is a typical traditional Chinese culture. How do you understand the ?symbols? in your works?
Zhang: I don?t think ?symbols? themselves are important and they are just tools to help people enter into a same art space from different ?entrance?. What I care more about is the expression of real art and the exploration of truth.
Artron. Net: What?s your current creative status?
Zhang: The painting effect by moxibustion is different from that by traditional pigments. They are conducive to expressing my thoughts. However, colours and hues caused by moxibustion are limited, restraining my creation space. Therefore, I?m trying to make breakthroughs and explore infinite possibilities in the limited moxibustion.
Artron. Net: Thank you and wish you a success in your exhibition?
Zhang: Thanks for Artron.
In China, a lot of contemporary artists use Chinese symbolism in their work, mostly they use the traditional symbols in order to show their status and their level of education. This way of using the symbols would create a barrier to what is trying to be expressed through the art and it makes you lose focus on the true meaning of the artwork itself. Unlike others who use Chinese symbols just for the sake of using them, Zhang Junmin is using the traditional Chinese culture symbol based on his own real life experience. Moxa-Moxibustion made his family member healthy again and is now a major part of his life. The value of his artwork is that it is a true expression of life with no lies, no pretending, no pretentiousness, and it is an authentic experience.
Li Shan (Renowned contemporary artist)
Life to Art, Single to Combinations
--Junmin Zhang?s Exploration in Visual Space
Unique is Junmin Zhang?s artistry. The burned holes and traces of smoke help the images of?mountains, woods, flowers and human figures to express themselves sharply on canvases. Junmin Zhang is not the only artist whose artistic expression is through the media of fire burning on paper?fabrics, or other materials. What distinguishes him is that he is the first artist who creates by choosing moxa stick to scorch and smoke the canvas, collages with mugwort?and moxa as materials, and also demonstrates his artworks in the space built up with these materials.??
Junmin Zhang?s special artistic choice comes from the personal experience of himself and his family. The need to cure diseases and relieve pains led this artist to deep feelings and understanding toward moxibustion, the ancient Chinese herbal treatment. Moxibustion?s infallible treatment?pushed him to perceive?deeper toward nature and life, which might be hard to understand?by others. This?bountiful?gift from nature is curing him and his family physically, and, drives him to reciprocate this unknown world with his artistic curiosity and expressing ability.
If the point-to-point scorch by moxa sticks made of the mugwort leaves can penetrate people?s meridian system, help the circulation and dynamize bodily microcosm, then can this art of burning moxa stick on canvas or other materials mean uncovering the boundless universe, on which human beings are so dependent yet seldom cast a sight, with a brand new way? The well spaced and carefully arranged holes and cavities are the traces of motion and changes of the temperature of fire, combined with moxi energy, witnessed by time. Whereas, inside the holes on the canvas, the traces on the second or the third layers give us a chance to peer inside for the unusual view, thus achieve a reciprocating reflection on time and space.
????????To strengthen the richness and increase changes of the picturesque burning, Junmin Zhang processed the quality and tone of every layer of the canvas, sometimes?with laterite red, sometimes with green, but mostly?he retains the natural texture of linen to create a dislocation and drift between the signifier and the signified. To put it another way, the overlapping of shapes and colors on the multi-layers in the burned holes conveys a new artistic purport, multiplies the single artistic intention of the holes burned in the first layer, complements and extends the artistry of the picturesque images ecto entad. ???
For hundreds of years, in order to unfold genuineness?of images?in a three dimensional space,?artists have been?exploring on the two dimensional surface with drawing and painting, texture quality, color nuance, lights and shades, as well as?shadow volumes, etc.. Take Jackson Pollock?s ?action painting? for example, he attempted to add the elements of time and physical motion to the two dimensional space. Now, the value of Junmin Zhang?s efforts lies in his attempts to burn into the element of time with moxibustion as to achieve a vertical layers of three dimensional space out of the two dimensional plane. This is a breakthrough out of the two dimensional space, a successful trying to overcome the barriers and limits in two dimensional space with the composite structure and semanteme. ????
When we are amazed by this?visual novelty conveyed by Junmin Zhang?s attempts in exploring the layout of all his works, what cannot be neglected, or what we should attach emphasis on, is the cultural root of his chosen method: moxibustion. But for his respect toward and requirement of the life?s quality and living necessity, and his knowledge of natural herbs,?which can be traced back to our ancestors in Shang Dynasty, his artistic expression would only be confined to a common?knowledge and application towards the use of fire. Whereas the cultural connotation bore by moxibustion, as an ancient treatment and nourishment method, is the unique understanding towards the heaven and earth, and all the living entities of ancient Chinese people. From this point of view, Junmin Zhang?s art is impregnated with a strong breath of the culture of ancient Chinese people?s daily routines. What most valuable in Junmin Zhang?s works is it?s being?extracted from real life and rooted in tradition, and?it opens?up a new spatial awareness to people?s visual feelings. ????????????
To Junmin Zhang, this moxibustion-invoked route to the artistically exploring and expressing of the world is already mature through his long and numerous experimental attempts. We can expect more of his rich and diverse works in the future.?
Ling Gao ?Feb 22, 2019
I discovered Zhang Junmin during an Art Fair in Shanghai. I remember myself watching the artworks of the other artists attending the fair and being not very enthusiastic. Suddenly, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw a wonderful drop that irresistibly attracted me. It was the main artwork of the series "affliction is enlightenment" from Zhang Junmin. Although the painting is quite minimalist, there is no need to be a scholar to feel the power released from this creation.
The drop is composed of several points of Moxa-moxibustion, which is a traditional stimulation used in Chinese medicine since several millennia. The heat generated by the moxa mixture reveals pain points where acupuncture can then be applied.
Fire and water, the two indissociable primary elements, are melt together in the painting, thus merging and creating a stronger entity. They remind the principle that one cannot enjoy one specific aspect of life if you have never faced and endured its opposite previously. This balance between the small points of fire and the unity of the drop creates a harmony in the artwork of Zhang Junmin, which encourages the visitor to see beyond the line and maybe further in the depths of him.
Zhang Junmin has outreached the conventional boundaries of the art field. He is not looking anymore for the constant improvement of painting techniques or mixing Chinese symbolism with western style, as main artists are working on. He simply creates art with a matter that affects him personally, and makes it resonate with each of us.
WHO I AM
Born in China in 1974. Graduated from Stage Design Department of Shanghai Theater Academy in 2000
CONTACT THE ARTIST