Deconstruction of Space and Time, Self-awareness Language, and Presentation of State

Issuing time:2013-05-20 10:33Author:Liu Libin

In the course of development of modern Chinese prints in the 20th century, the creation was mainly based on two factors of time and space. In the process and later on, printmakers have gradually become more conscious of the print language. Obsession with language is only a part of the creative process; some artists penetrate deeper into the presentation of this state so as to establish the personalized understanding of social context.


Since Lu Xun started to promote the modern printmaking in 1931, “New Print” regarded as an effective weapon to criticize the evils of current affairs and immediately became an important part of the Left-wing Cultural Movement. During this period, printmaking groups arose in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, and their works are characterized by the emphasis on the characteristics of the times. Printmaking in the liberated regions in the 1940s reached another peak after the climax of the 1930s, especially the woodcut of Yan’an Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, typically manifested the thought that “art should serve for the era”. Prints made in this period obviously highlight characteristics of the times, but print language did not stand out. In order to meet the habitual appetite of the public, this issue has been deliberately ignored. But it did not mean that there was no personality in artists’ print language, on the contrary in order to adapt to the artistic thought, many printmakers formed the plain and simple print language of their own during that time, and even achieved the progress of nationalization of modern prints. Throughout printmaking in this period, its regional characteristics were not obvious.


In New China, in addition to the continuous emphasis on the characteristics of the times in print creation, another important feature was the emergence of print schools rendering rich regional features, such as Sichuan prints, prints of the Great Northern Wilderness, Jiangsu water-based woodcut etc. Distinctive artistic appearance was presented through particular subject matter and content with special means of expression. Compared with prints made before the establishment of People’s Republic of China, due to better conditions and atmosphere for print creation, printmakers were conscious of exploring the print language, and therefore it was conspicuous to see the aesthetics of print language. After the advent of the Cultural Revolution, personalized creation based on objects such as scenery and family maintained this characteristic.


After the Cultural Revolution, the feature of the times gradually disappeared in printmaking, while regional characteristic was still an important feature of printmaking in a period of time, such as Wu Changjiang to Tibet, Su Xinping to Inner Mongolia, Wang Huaxiang to Guizhou, Chen Qi to the low reaches of Yangtze River, but ever since the indistinct appearance of conscious print language, regionalism was no longer a primary issue. Language exploration in this period had several main features as following: first, highlighting the characteristics of various types of print language and mastering a printmaking language to the extreme, such as Su Xinping’s lithograph prints and Chen Qi’s woodblock prints in the 1980s; second, printmakers showed great interest in abstract formal language, and later towards extreme abstraction such as Tan Ping. At the same time, the conscious language brought a lot of problems, for example, many printmakers indulged in printed traces, or obsessed with the transcendence of printmaking language (namely virtuosity) and lack of rational knowledge, and the virtuoso prints were all the rage during this time.


In fact, printmakers began to explore and reconsider the features of print language since the 1980s, such as Xu Bing’s re-understanding and utilization of the “plurality” of print. At present, obsession of language should be associated with the core issues that should be dealt with in the process of creation, For example, Kang Jianfei emphasis on the notion that “everyone can be artist” led to the absence of artists as subject; Yang Hongwei developed the shape and structure to the limit, and in this way put subject into the picture. They began to expand the extension of the prints on the basis of years of hard work.


Generally speaking, the Chinese print works in the Guanlan International Print Biennial have highlighted this aspect of the results of this, but the language addiction problem has not been completely eliminated. Therefore, the Chinese printmakers basically stand on the same platform with the participants from 80 countries and regions, that is to say, through individual deep exploration, personal contact has been established with the situation, and the regionalism and nationality could be presented on the basis of particular personal style. This “individual” is not referring to the individual of idealism in the 1980s, or individual of cynicism in the 1990s, or the individual of cartoon in the 21st century, but the individual in a realistic situation.


The relationship between economic development and cultural development, cultural development and artistic development, and finally to the development of a category of art, usually is not from top to bottom, but from bottom to top. To promote a category of art can offer successful examples for the entire category of art and even stimulate the development of the whole culture, and thus to boost economic development. This is perhaps the most important revelation given by Guanlan International Print Biennial.


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