R. Orion Martin and Zhang Yongzheng
February 28th, 2012
Zhang Yongzheng’s Kunming Studio on West Jiaochang Road.
What is the relationship between these works on paper and your other works?
They are two states of painting. The paper works are completely improvised. They rely very little on reason or thinking. The canvas-based works belong to my typical work. I need to make rough sketches and plan colors of the entire composition.
So, to you the paper-based works are more experimental?
That’s right. When I have exhausted one method and don’t want to continue with it, experimentation allows me to use new methods and continue working.
Looking at your works, I often have a feeling of chaos, but from this chaos there also comes a kind of order. But looking at your paper works, I don’t have the same feeling of order.
Originally I had no intention to control the works on paper. They were random (suixing), resembling graffiti and yet separate from it. For the canvas-based works, I intentionally plan the order. It has its own rhythms, rests, and actions. In the paper-based works I don’t consider these.
Do you think that prerequisite knowledge is necessary to enjoy your works? For example, many of your works are closely tied to the Book of Change, and yet many Westerns are unfamiliar with this work.
I don’t think this is big problem because my works are abstract. Just by looking at the title it’s possible to understand the issue at hand. And besides, most of the time the audience should be focused on the message transmitted by the work itself. When I include references to the Book of Change and Daoist thought, most Chinese people also don’t understand. So my works aren’t partial to any community or audience. I want to use the image to express both information and feeling.
Without prerequisite knowledge, it’s still possible to be aware of this information.
Right. You don’t need to read the Book of Change before seeing my works. The book itself is quite abstruse. And yet some people come to have a deeper understanding of Chinese traditional culture through my works, I find this very interesting.
What criteria do you use to evaluate art, or what criteria do you want others to use when evaluating your art?
No two people have the same impression. When I see other artists’ work, I’m interested to see if they have a distinct and personal language. I prefer genuine art, not that which is artificial or copied.
What is the role of artists in society?
I think the role of artists is the same as that of other professions, but the things they do are different. We’re all actors, if you play your role well, that’s enough.
Is the role of the artist to create completely new things or to focus on developing their own ideas and method?
Every artist has their own unique characteristics. Personally I pursue both of these points. I want to have my own ideas and technique, and I also want to create new forms. Of course there are some artists who don’t create a new form of language and yet their art possesses strong personal qualities. Every artist is different. They all have their own perspectives.
What do you think of the Chinese contemporary art world?
After being coupled with economics, Chinese art appears to be booming. In the background, however, there are many problems. The influence this has had on the next generation, particularly students, is huge. The goal of many painters is different from us who loved painting since childhood and always persisted. The result is that when the economic crisis happened, many who had been very active painters when the market was good simply gave up on art. I believe we are in a transition period now. We still don’t have a proper system, and there are still problems in people’s attitudes towards art.
What developments do you hope to see in the future of the art world?
From now on, I imagine the art ecosystem will get better and better. True artists just need to persist a bit.