“Sculptures are not difficult to make. What is difficult is putting ourselves in the right mood to make them.” The first time I encountered the quote above, I was taken aback by Brancusi’s conclusion; I had never considered sculpture’s greatest difficulty to lay in the attitude of its creator. Now, however, I believe the quote holds two different meanings: the first, that sculpture questions the conditions of being human, and the second, that it is difficult to find “the right mood” in which to create. Many years have passed since I first encountered Brancusi, and yet I still find myself hoping to use “The Right Mood” as a title, a homage to the great sculptural masters of my youth. Now, my hope is that the unique works and “The Right Mood” of the artists participating in this exhibition can be experienced by all.
“Illusion” was created by artist Wen Hao after filling a series of molds with plaster powder. Each structure is made completely of this powder; no water was added and the structures remain uncured. The resulting work is held together by the sheer pressure of the molds, leaving it incredibly fragile. Hao has recreated Buddha’s reasoning that “everything exists as an illusion” by producing these works inadvertently; no motion was intentional. Molded by the push and pull of the body, the plaster took on a familiar shape: that of a bottle. Gravity will eventually break the plaster apart, returning the material to its initial state. This simple act of molding has allowed Hao’s current mood to remain embedded within his work, even after gravity takes effect. The audience now has the pleasure of experiencing the visual joining of these two forces, of gravity and of the human body.
“Stainless Steel Cup” reflects the fluency, skill, and technique of its creator, whose driving force was to produce an expressive subject. This approach is best exemplified by their brushwork and choice of color. In comparison, “CD” differs completely. The use of an airbru sh caused each color to be superimposed, making clear the interactions between layers. The transparency of this method reveals the painter’s mood, allowing the viewer to become completely immersed in their process. In addition, the size of the CD in the painting is equivalent to the size of an actual CD. This objectivity makes “CD” more of a “thing” than a painting, and in turn, perhaps the artist more of a “creator of the physical” than a painter. Better yet, “CD” is more an object than a depiction of the artist’s mood. “Hand” is a failure of traditional painting. The initial work was created using classical techniques, but the black lines that follow completely differ in mood. To point out these “mistakes” would be a reminder of the artist’s failure. These two opposing moods, of the “correct” and the “incorrect,” free the piece from the declarative attitude of traditional painting. United, they result in a unique type of beauty. “Stainless Steel Cup,” “CD,” and “Hand” represent the three moods of artist Zhang Yangbiao.
Everyone has imagined a moment in which they’ve become a star. Standing on a stage in front of oceans of people, all eyes trained on them, this moment is extraordinary. Fantasy is a kind of construction. In the areas of life one cannot reasonably fulfill, fantasy allows the construction of another self, one who can achieve the unlikely. Zhou Mo’s series of photographs originate from people’s ordinary, everyday needs. After accidentally Photoshopping her profile picture over a photo found on the internet, Zhou found the result quite interesting. In her piece “Singing Girl,” the original image was sourced from a movie, but Zhou covers the head of the movie’s heroine with her own. The result is someone with self-confidence, someone outside the mainstream, someone who’s indepen dent, and someone who is neither Zhou nor the original character. Zhou says her motivation for the piece came from the similarities between herself and the heroine: they have the same hairstyle and both love to sing. Another work, titled “Pretty Girl,” showcasing a woman with incompatible body proportions, embodies a sense of drama, one created by the oddness of the original photograph combined with the everyday context of Zhou’s profile picture. The shared construction between these images creates a strong fantasy of the self, one that when seen, allows the viewer to take part in the illusion. Zhou has many pieces like this one, which was created out of admiration for the subject’s figure. The original photograph used in “Emma Zhou” is of a celebrity. Zhou believes it rare for stars to reveal their daily lives to the public, and thus felt compelled to replace the woman’s eyes with her own. From Zhou’s work, one can see the sensitivity of her subjects; she’s discovered a new kind of person, a new kind of mood, through her fusion of the public and the personal.
Li Zhiwei’s work is small, unique, and exquisite; her sense of space is incredibly delicate. This meticulous attitude is reflected in the accuracy of her spatial reconstructions; the fragments of two beer bottles joined in such a way that their mouths seem woven together, the most slender piece of each bottle mounted on top of the other. She’s created a rich, beautiful rhythm, fluidly unifying the traces of artificial manufacturing with the bottle’s natural cracks.
Bags of rubbish-like parcels are piled on top of one another in the corner, rending the structure almost unnoticeable. This is Liu Jiadong’s “Go to the Corner.” Liu often finds himself in an anxious mood when working: sometimes he confronts his material and is filled with inspiration, and other times he finds himself powerless in the face of his work. Over time, one may find themselves so filled with anxiety that, like Liu, they reach for a broom and sweep their studio clean, gathering together all the garbage and spare material scattered across the floor. The result is a neat, orderly studio. But only after placing each parcel of rubbish into one of the room’s corners did Liu finally feel at peace. He shows that through actions, one can change their mood. “Untitled” is a work Liu created eleven years ago. The characteristics of the piece differ greatly from those of “Go to the Corner,” clearly displaying newspapers, an umbrella, and a stool. In “Untitled,” these materials hold multiple identities and contexts. They do not relieve anxiety like “Go to the Corner,” but rather create poetry out of space, assigning beyond-ordinary meanings to each object. These two works represent how Liu’s language as an artist has changed.
Returning to “The Right Mood,” we realize that people do not always feel “just right.” It’s safe to assume that Wen Hao experienced many failures before accidentally shaping a piece of plaster correctly. Zhang Yangbiao may not have felt his piece “Hand” was a serious work of art until now, simply because the experience of creating the piece was inconsistent with his understanding of tradition al painting. What did Zhou Mo feel when, after looking at numerous photos online, was suddenly inspired to create her series of Photoshopped images? What mood is Li Zhiwei currently in? Using something as common as broken glass, she created a rich, yet delicate spatial experience. After cleaning, Liu Jiadong experienced a sense of inner peace that completely altered his view of s culpture. These questions and reflections are exactly what I hope to evoke in this exhibition’s visitors.
Article by Ou Ming
Translated by Ellie Locke