The first time I met Lou Nick (李爻Li Yao) was by his poetry and sculpture. Reading his words, one cannot help but feel that the reality is seemingly insignificant to him, and nothing matters. Yet from time to time there has been a secret worry paradoxically embedded in his heart, one that is almost in despair. Perhaps this has something to do with his family background. With favorable conditions, his parents constantly exerted pressures of various sorts to him in an attempt to force him into taking over the family business and the complex relationships associated, without being able to understand the love and dedication he has for arts. Therefore, Lou Nick has chosen to “escape” again and again to against the high hopes from his parents, even went so far as to break with them. So much so that he kept on trying to numb himself with alcohol for many years, only to realize the fact that it has made his soul all the more awakened. His crazy words and insane behaviors after got drunken made him a madman in the eyes of those who don’t know him, thus sincere loyalty and contemptuous looks have never been any foreign to him. In his earlier years, in order to live as well as keep on artistic creation Lou Nick would often take part-time jobs and rely on friends for help due to his financial situations. Many things have changed since then, and I often joke and say he should have just stayed in his hometown, living an easy life as a dandy from wealthy family without worry of food and clothing. Lou Nick’s father once said that for some people suffering is doomed, but it is a self-inflicted one for Lou Nick. No matter what kind of distressful situations he is in, Lou Nick has not given up his love for sculpture. I think it is because of these unusual experiences and his firm belief that forged the unique tension in his works. Of course, efforts of many years are not enough, talent cannot be over emphasized.
In this country where falsehood is ubiquitous, straightforward and pure are things of on the verge of extinction. Economic development and the interests demand have forced people to speed up production; machinery has replaced the uniqueness of craftsmanship; people have gradually forgotten and lost traditions, and accustomed to the mass production from the assembly line. Lou Nick has for many years based his creation on the simple and natural limestone, without premeditating specific images prior to his creation. It is as if spontaneity and uncertainty are all over the place, which can be liken to the philosophy of Zen, which stresses the emptiness within the being or the being within the emptiness, i.e. “existence”, “being” and “otherness” When it comes to artistic style, Lou Nick invented a way of working called “Burin Flow”, from a poet’s temperament and sculptor’s insightfulness. By hammering and chiseling, he has broken away from the “beautiful” of mainstream aesthetic orientation. His works are like products of the ancient times, disrupting the audience’s habitual thinking, bringing shocks to the perceptions of viewers with images. His sculptures are different from those that are hot and popular currently. They carry the power to revolutionize anything out there, from the coarse and heavy materials used to the hand-polished handlings throughout the process, to those works presented in a way that can hardly be regarded as pretty. There is nothing is not originated from his heart sincerely. In others eyes, to turn up nose at pleasing the market demand is to destroy his career completely, and is not a wise creation approach, but in my opinion it is a rare and precious thing. People today are living their life with heavy a heart, bowing before fame and fortune on their knees. Being duplicitous, they are sophisticated at ways of the world, and prudently react to different circumstances in a careful manner, while having had their backbone thrown out the window. Social and economic changes have become ever more intensified, whilst artists are no longer the makers of human spirit, but veteran traders being skillful at maneuvering the ways of business with sophisticated experiences. Abide by principles and have faith in arts should have been their duties, yet in this era of focusing solely on profit those who don’t are really like the minority few.
It was as if a man fell off from the sky when I met Lou Nick for the first time. He seemed to be a man of determined but a bit of splitting. With small stature, he is but very strong, but unlike what I thought a man from Shandong should be. Worn dirty and old clothes, he left with me no trace of the particularity hid in his words and works at all. The untamed air over him did not agree with the quiet and dignified temperament presented when he was handling the sculpture. All in all, there was a good number of paradoxical and reasonable stuff from him when I saw him personally for the first time after looked at his works. A weird swordsman like character!
As to Lou Nick’s unconstrained and uncontrollable style, I finally found the origin later from his paintings. He has never been institutionalized by any so-called institutions of fine arts, nor had he any “rules and regulations”. With his brushes moving on the canvas freely, he’s so much like Chaim Soutine, from the feeling of painting to the methods employed. Traditional as well as wild, his artistic style is in direct contradiction to current popular taste out there. Perhaps painting for Lou Nick is an alternative way of emotional abreacting and contemplating other than words. It is about whether his inner appeal can be met. Influenced by the Buddhism since late 2008, Lou Nick’s painting style has gradually changed, with no more unbridled exhilaration and bizarreness. Simpleness and quietness has become what he pursues in the scenes. However, there is one thing remains the same, something like what Giorgio Morandi had practiced with all of his life, “(I) would rather let my works sleep in a drawer than just trader them for money.”
For a man merely spent a few years in school and never received arts education, I admire his perception of art, and like to compare his sculptures to those of Giacometti’s. With a disdainful look, he always keeps a pride of his own kind, or perhaps more precisely, he is always immersed in his own world. Lou Nick speaks highly of Modigliani. Unlike those self-acclaimed “artists” nowadays, he merely refers himself as a mason. Apart from those artistic expression methods in his field, he has dabbled in many of other areas too, such as music, film, and literature, as if they were parts of his body. When he meets some congenial friends he could be quite a talker on these topics. Even when some professionals come along now and then, he can get their eyebrows raised.
Over the years, he has encounter a lot of people, gone through many things, Lou Nick still has the spirit of pressing on to the end, no matter how bumpy the road of arts may be. After all, night is needed to pave the way for the down. I still remember the first time when I saw Lou Nick’s sculptures on the internet, I became so convinced that his works won’t simply be artistic items on display as time goes by. Even now, I still think so.
October 19, 2011 in Daxing Huangcun