Bacchanal-alike indulgence and self-discipline are in the painter Shi Guo in both his life and art, as said, by himself. Perhaps only the one who is familiar to him could cross through the conflict in him and the unique value arisen from the conflict. Although he always stress on that his creation is conducted in the unconscious condition, like drunk, or Zen practicing, or meditation, his experiential is still under certain skills and concept, thats sure. Fortunately, he is not a bombastic figure and in fact he launched his experiment since 90s, which he calls it as a revolution, a cultural self-consciousness of Chinese ink-Painting. I have to say he has contributed much in the field and must take a special post in the history of Chinese Painting.He tried to find more possibilities for ink-Painting between the vanguard an the tradition, not alike those pessimists who say no to ink-Painting because of its self-limit, but considering that the ink-Painting is a good cultural identity and symbol of great Chinese culture, and we need only a transfer to develop it to fit the Contemporary era. From his own words as above we may see how he regard personal experience and cultural mission he feel he is bearing. In this age that POP culture is so popular individualism becomes more and more significant. In the very complex cultural context full of conflicts, separation and combination and exchanging, ink-Painting must be more active to bear a historical mission for human culture, which shall be a clear consideration for a serious and faithful artist.
Critics RecommendationBy Huang Zhuan
石果 团块的包装NO2 纸本水墨 89178cm 1999年
Accordingly, in the Portrait series that I began in 1989, I abandoned the fan form, and changed to experimenting within a regular square format, as well as strengthening the clash between ink and colour on the surface, using seeping effects and introducing abstract symbols. I was pursuing the tension, depth and force of the form. There was also a sorrowful emotion of introspection. This process continued until late 1992, after I had returned from Moscow. In 1993, in the expressive format of my Capriccio series, I deliberately enlarged and detached the abstract symbolic element of my Portrait series. The metaphorical tadpole sign was born in this period. The content of the works, by referring to the misfortune of individual experience, expanded it to a more open cultural and spiritual level. The expression in the works emphasized transcendence. The tadpole sign not only suggested the indomitable tenacity of life, but also described the innate connections between spirituality and the physiological state in nature and in ourselves.
在石果的生活和艺术中一直混合着两种不同的东西,照他自己的话说,就是酒神式的放纵和理性主义的自律。也许只有真正熟悉他的人才会知道,正是这种矛盾的气质构成了石果作品中某些具有特殊价值的因素。虽然他一再强调他的实验过程是在某种无意识状态下完成的,甚至认为无意识才是绘画的灵魂,但是很显然,这种类似东方禅宗和西方酒神精神式的创作观,如果不与某种具体的实验方案和语言技术策略相联系,它就很有可能成为一种时髦的夸夸其谈。幸运的是,石果不是一位夸夸其谈者,从九十年代以来,在他自己称为图式革命 的艺术实验过程中,他已经逐渐将自己的艺术由一种生存方式提升为一种文化领悟,从而显示出它在中国当代实验水墨画领域的独特位置。 石果将他的水墨艺术的实验态度称为在传统与当代先锋文化之间寻找可能性,他不像中国画的悲观主义者那样将水墨媒介的局限作为理由去否定水墨画的当代性,相反他认为水墨本身所具有的文化身份和象征特性,尤其是它具有的内省性格,都是我们对它进行观念性转换的资本。他的这样一段话有助于我们了解他是如何将水墨艺术实验中个人经验与文化使命结合起来的：在一个文化相对主义流行的时代,一种纯粹的个人终极性追求反而更有意义。但是我们并不准备用个人来涵盖人群或遮蔽历史。我的偏爱,并不仅仅表现为对传统本土价值的迷恋,而是对那些文化特质反面可能性的好奇。在多向的冲突、分离和融解中,水墨画才可能有当代活力。在这里,我们不但可以体会一种历史主义和人文主义的态度,也能看到一位严肃艺术家的清醒和真诚。
Interview format: Written correspondence Guangzhou-Tianjin June 1995.
Zhang Yu: For several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I for work purposes studied traditional ink-and-wash paintings and copied a large number of ink-and-wash and meticulous-style portraits, shanshui landscapes and flower-and-bird paintings. At the same time, I was creating my own comic serials, spring-festival paintings and meticulous-style portraits, and I had my own understanding and knowledge of traditional ink-and-wash painting. Objectively speaking, the beginnings of my ink-and-wash experimentation cannot be separated from the broad background of the violent impact of the art of the mid-1980s New Wave on traditional art models. Because of my period of studying and copying traditional painting, the modern ink-and-wash work that I began to create in 1986 was the Fan series. The motive for this was, first, that I had a strong desire to express the feelings of my young days. Second, it was an analysis of the traditional programs of brush-and-pen, and also contained a certain character of sorting things out, as well as of new experimentation in traditional materials and techniques. The main strategy was the introduction of some methods of western modernist art in dealing with the expression of spatial structure, but the traditional form of the fan itself directly limited the play of the modern feel of the experiments.
Huang Zhuan: I have heard that at the beginning of next year you will participate in a group exhibition of Chinese contemporary experimental ink-and-wash, organized by the Rim Foundation in America. The title of this exhibition is Returning to Homeland (held at the Gallery on the RIM in San Francisco in 1996). May I ask how you see this title? Do you consider that it is connected with your current experimental work?
Zhang Yu: I think that the implication of the theme Returning to Homeland is based on local culture and spiritual orientation. It is about re-establishing the art of the east in the new orientation of an open and pluralistic international environment, and finding the cultural fulcrum of ink-and-wash painting. It reflects a positive cultural attitude, and I approve of your theoretical viewpoint. As for the goal of re-establishing Chinese contemporary art on the orientation of the new world geographical pattern, returning to homeland should only be a cultural strategy. The fulcrum of ink-and-wash culture should be established on a contemporary character with local characteristics.
Zhang Yu: Indeed, to transmit the ancient cultural and artistic format of ink-and-wash into a new format of contemporary ink-and-wash that is able to represent our era has always been my ideal. From the mid-1980s until the present, I have always been a positive participant, which primarily comes from an intense emotional need and cultural enthusiasm and from the feeling of responsibility that comes with being a contemporary artist. In the 1990s, contemporary ink-and-wash experimentation made great progress, and formed the two great streams of abstraction and expressionism. The progress of this experimentation was further expressed in artists paying more attention to their own social environment and cultural situation, stressing the experimentation with their individual visual language, and the integration of life experiences with the international destiny and contemporary trend of the development of ink-and-wash. This gave ink-and-wash an even greater liberating potential in terms of visual tensile power and scope of reference in terms of visual language.
Huang Zhuan: Can you discuss in simple terms some of the unique working formats of your creative process?
Zhang Yu: In my view, the greatest task that the development and promotion of contemporary ink-and-wash face is the renewed understanding of the ontology of ink-and-wash, and its reconstruction with a contemporary character. It is to carry out an effective modern transformation of the formats of traditional ink-and-wash. In other words, it is about how traditional ink-and-wash will discover, in the shared fulcrum between local culture and contemporary culture, new points of growth and possibilities, how it will, from the starting-point of maintaining its local temper, enable ink-and-wash to have more contemporary characteristics of mentality, and realistic qualities of criticism. Of course this also includes the problem of transforming the qualities of its visual language. As a visual language or cultural sign, ink-and-wash features a transcendental and spiritual character. In fact, it has the characteristic power of human dignity that is independently able, without relying on any other physical image, to express characteristics of modern thought. Besides, the ontological format by which each age expresses itself should be unique, so that the construction of an ontology of contemporary ink-and-wash paintings should not only be an artistic question, but even more importantly should be a targeted cultural question, a question of how to present the spirit of a culture.
从语言上，这一符号对控制水墨的随机性，强调水墨的受控性和稳定性，以及用暗喻符号拓宽水墨性言说的维度也起到了较好的效果。但经过这段实验，我逐渐感到象征符号的暗喻形式，在释放水墨的当代文化容量上仍有局限，限制了水墨表现的某种原创状态和动力能量的自由，也使水墨实验有可能偏离本土性和纯粹性这个文化前提，这也是我放弃暗喻符号而开始进入抽象性水墨实验的原因。在《墨象笔记》中我开始重新强调水墨表现的自在状态，希望解决当代水墨性话语的国际化和本土化双向的推进。目前在做的《灵光》系列以更为单纯的光、残圆和墨块图式使这一逻辑方向更为直接、明确和具有文化和精神上的针对性。In terms of visual language, this sign emphasizes the controllable and stable nature of ink-and-wash in the face of controlling its randomness, and using metaphor and signs to broaden the dimensions of the ink-and-wash statement also produced a rather good effect. However, during this period of experimentation, I gradually came to feel that the metaphorical form of the symbolic sign was still limited in its contemporary cultural capacity to set ink-and-wash free. It was impeding the freedom of some original state and kinetic energy in ink-and-wash expression, and also resulted in the possibility of the ink-and-wash experiment deviating from the local character and purity of its cultural precondition. This was also the reason why I abandoned metaphorical signs and embarked on abstract ink-and-wash experiments. In Notes on Ink Images I began again to emphasize the free state of ink-and-wash expression, hoping to resolve the problem of promoting the two-way internationalization and localization of the contemporary ink-and-wash discourse. The Inspiration series which I am currently producing uses even simpler light (光), broken circles (残圆) and solid ink schemata (墨块图式) to make this logical direction even more direct, explicit and culturally and spiritually targeted.
Huang Zhuan: You really do have an idealistic bent. This refers not only to your works, but also to your pursuing several academic activities of a social nature since the mid 1980s. You have been to Russia, Belgium and Hong Kong during this time to hold solo or group exhibitions. You have also presided over editing World of Chinese Traditional Painting, Trends in Chinese Modern Ink-and-Wash Art in the Late Twentieth Century and other publication series. On the basis of these two identities, can you talk about your views on the trend of contemporary ink-and-wash? Do you believe that it really has the potential to enter into a dialogue with the contemporary culture of all mankind?