2013 XI'AN ACADEMY OF FINE ART, CHINA BA OIL PAINTING
2018 CHELSEA COLLEGE OF ARTS, LONDON, UK MA FINE ART
ART TALK - JINGXIANG LIANG & YUYANG LIN
You went to Xi’an Academy of Fine Art in China. What made you come to London and study at Chelsea College of Arts?
I majored in oil painting in Xi’an, learning from the college tutors whose approaches were relatively monotonous. For example, I couldn’t learn skills from sculpting, which I wanted to have a try.
Tutors you met in China were professional while having their limits in terms of the diversity of style and skill. Do you consider it to be a universal problem?
Yes. I have friends practising art in Guangxi, Beijing, and Zhejiang. The whole studio will share a single style of painting if there’s only one tutor.
Does that mean working for the tutors?
No, I don’t think so. It is just because the tutors could only share what they are familiar with the students. Students’ lacking a creative and critical mind also results in the monotonous model of the studio.
How do you position your practice? I mean, your role, your aim of creation, everything.
I’m still exploring, but I know I want to be an observer of contemporary Chinese society.
Who is the potential audience in your mind?
My tutor at Chelsea also asked the same question as my works seem to be discursive: the photography series Watery City (2017) reﬂects the environmental issue in China, while the animation 3600 Minutes (2018) is about traditional Chinese culture. I realised that most of the time, the audience is just me. I express what I think, what I want to say. My works serve myself.
2018 sees a great leap in the media and material of your works. Do you owe this conversion to studying in Chelsea?
I always have an inclination to explore art beyond painting. And I started to prepare for making some animations two years ago. The year studying in Chelsea ensures me having enough time to achieve it.
Indeed, I am very interested in your animation 3600 Minutes (2018).
I started to learn Wing Chun from the age of 12. My parents introduced their friend, who is a Wing Chun master, to me. He taught me not only the martial skill of self-defense but also the truth of being a man. We always have to make a correct assessment of the situation before starting a ﬁght. if we are quite certain we won’t win, never start it; once start ﬁghting, we spare no effort.
The Wing Chun master Ip Man has said, never fight when you show mercy; show no mercy when you fight.
That’s right. Martial arts are dangerous, so try not to use them. The principle also affects my outlook on life. 3600 Minutes only refers to an imaginary number of me practising Wing Chun and me drawing all the frames of this animation, as the time spent should be deﬁnitely much more than 3600 minutes. I probably used 3600 minutes to learn this set of Wing Chun movements. This traditional culture of Wing Chun has become less and less useful. Compared to hot weapons, the beautiful movements of Wing Chun seem to be weak and unnecessary. Unlike the movies, in which Wing Chun masters are able to see and escape from the bullets; in reality, as long as your enemy shoots from distance, you die. Consequently, I believe people are paying less and less attention to Wing Chun.
3600 Minutes is divided into two parts: the ﬁrst 30 seconds are drawn frame by frame, and then the drawings are converted into animation, which is a relatively traditional way to make an animation; while the latter part is converted from a ﬁlm, which took much less time to shoot and transform. To some extent, I am expressing my concern that technology will replace traditions in all ﬁelds, painting, martial art… Traditions are gone, I’m afraid.
As you grew up in Foshan, the town of Wing Chun, what is the status quo of Wing Chun there?
Thanks to the Wing Chun movies, there are many Wing Chun training centers in Guangdong province. However, the situation may not be what the old masters want to see, as they believe in the strict criteria of apprenticing: they have to know you well in person before apprenticing. This convention has gone as the Wing Chun centers will teach anyone who pays the tuition fee. On the other hand, from a practical perspective, the popularisation of Wing Chun is a good way to enhance people’s ability to defend, especially in China, a gun-controlled nation.
Do you think that practising Wing Chun will have an ideological, or philosophical inﬂuence on the younger generation?
It won’t be that easy. If someone was offensive, the practice would only make him more dangerous.
What’s the title of the set of movements in 3600 Minutes?
It’s called Buddha Hand. According to my master, the Buddha Hand is with a double meaning: on one hand, it is asking people who practise martial arts to be merciful, like the Buddha; on the other hand, you can only visit the Buddha when you’re dead. Here it shows the determination to ﬁght.
Where did you practise the Wing Chun in the film? The surrounding of the second part looks like a martial art hall.
It is the MA Fine Art studio at Chelsea. I found it interesting to bring traditional Chinese martial art into an art studio in London. The other plan which didn’t realise is to let the audience in the ﬁlm gradually go away, as a metaphor of people’s patience with traditional things is quite limited. Also, my colleagues who used to practise Wing Chun with me are now scattered around the world: one is studying automation in the United States; one is studying accounting in North England; and there is another in Florence. I don’t know when can we have a reunion.
I noticed that at the very end of the movements, the edge of your clothes was blown up by a gust of wind, and then fell, and your body relaxed and returned to a very natural state in a sudden. The whole process lasts less than a second, but such a shift of atmosphere is very thought-provoking…
Well, do you feel that your works need interpretation?
No. The viewers can interpret in any way they like. People in contemporary society have less patience with every piece of information. We have a glance then move to the other. For me, the original intention of the artist is no longer of great signiﬁcance. It is a shame but that is our era. As I mentioned above, ideally, I am the only audience of my creation, so I feel no necessity to interpret. When I see an artwork as a spectator, I would like to explore and then get goosebumps. Only if you are willing to explore, will you be able to grasp what the artworks present. Only if you are willing to wait, will you see the buds become blossoms.
February 2019, London, edited and translated by Yuyang Lin