刘骁纯-美术评论家、策展人 2007-11-21 厦门
Shouldering the Historic Mission
Liu Xiaochun （Fine Arts Reviewer、Scheme Exhibition People）
Fu Xinmin is nearly sixty years old, but he is still as energetic and imaginative as a young man, keeping on the creation of large scale art works. In his various art explorations, what impresses me most is those tree-root and metal intersecting or co-existing carving art works. These art works have taken on a special significance in the transition of root art from a traditional art to modern art and shoulder the special mission.
To explain this, we should start from a comparison of Chinese root appreciation and stone appreciation tradition.
In Chinese traditional culture, stone appreciation and root appreciation are quite different in their inward directions. As for stone appreciation, it is presided by scholars and literati, while folks play a dominant role in root appreciation. Stone appreciation is to appreciate the stone itself. In the story that the celebrated scholar Mi Fu of Song Dynasty worshipped a marvelous natural stone, what he marveled at was the shape, the color, the texture, the veins and the experience of this stone. He was infatuated by the overall beauty of the stone. Its soul, its style, its manner, its character, its charm attracted Mi Fu so much that he prostrated himself before the stone to express his sincere admiration for it. However, root appreciation is different, only appreciating the root itself is not enough, you should also tell what the root looks like. Making the root look like something is a fundamental credo in root art. If the creator is good at carving techniques and can easily make the root look like something such as eagle, dog, dragon or horse, he will be highly praised. Therefore, root art is also called root carving.
First of all, the difference between stone appreciation and root appreciation is their distinct aesthetic ideals.
Stone appreciation is a pursuit and admiration of natural beauty. It presents a philosophical opinion that we should just keep anything as it originally is. The natural uncut jade is good enough and there is no need to carve it artificially. Therefore, it is one level higher than the traditional root appreciation conception. According to the aesthetic ideal of stone appreciation, the highlight of root art is the natural beauty of the root, and it is not necessary to copy anything else. The hard work of many root art creators is not praiseworthy, because many marvelous natural roots were ruined by these skillful root artists; those masterpieces of nature were destroyed by the artificial carving work. The story that Mi Fu worshipped a natural stone actually implies a criticism of the brutal behavior towards nature.
Secondly, the difference between stone appreciation and root appreciation is a reflection of the different artistic conceptions.
The so-called artistic conception is one’s fundamental view towards art. Different views will take different art forms. Realistic, freehand, abstract, and ready-available are the four basic art forms engendered based on different artistic conceptions. Realistic and freehand are classical forms, while abstract and ready-available belong to modern forms.
There are the ancient genes of abstract concept (non-imitating) and ready-available concept (non-processed) hidden in the traditional stone appreciation concept. It is more avant-garde than the traditional root appreciation concept. Given the fact that the modern art is booming, the concept of stone appreciation will definitely influence the concept of root appreciation and eventually result in the collapse of the traditional root appreciation concept. That’s to say, the influence of the Chinese stone appreciation tradition and the impact of Western modern art are pushing forward together the modernization of root art.
During the past more than ten years, some artists have started to work on the modernizing transition of root art. They don’t imitate or carve. They abandon the credo of modifying the root to look like something and return root artworks to the original conditions of the root. For them the most important thing for a root art creator is not his skillful hands but his acute eyes to discover the original beauty of roots. The one who actually has shouldered this historic mission is Fu Xinmin, a Nanchang artist now living in Xiamen. He completely bombed the bounding wall of traditional norms which already had openings. He not only return root to its original conditions but also make it the fundamental element in his contemporary sculpture and ornamental art. Returning root to its original conditions is only a first step, then his second step is to re-process and re-use the root in a completely new way. He is not a follower of Mi Fu to just worship the natural beauty of root as Mi Fu did a thousand years ago; he wants the root to produce sound of our age. The first step is an early awareness of modern times, the emphasis of which is the purity of art, the natural significance of root itself, while the second step is a full awareness of contemporary age. It is against purism, and stresses the artistic expression of significance and the artistic attention paid to contemporary social and living problems of human beings.
Root is the very life of Fu Xinmin’s art, but he is against root carving, and has posed a challenge against the traditional root carving artistic concept and aesthetic system. If returning the root to its original condition is a deconstruction and destruction of the traditional root art credo, then his root art works creation is a construction and set-up of new standards in root art. Actually all the deconstruction happened in the art history is new construction; the deconstruction without new construction is merely an empty slogan or nonsense, which is too weak to destruct anything. Similarly, a so-called new construction without real deconstruction significance is only a boasting, and it is in essence still a repetition of the old system. The deconstruction of old standards opens the road for the set-up of new systems, and the construction of new standards materially disintegrates the old systems, which is the so-called “deconstruction is construction, destruction is creation”.
The most distinct characteristic of Fu Xinmin’s art is a symphony of wood and metal. The simple original wood and metal (ready-available) are inter-placed in a unique way with an implication of the very close collision of natural things and artificial things. When people are confronted with such giant art work and its strong structural force in collision, what shock their visions and souls is neither the wood root nor the medal, but their relationship, the new significance from the collision, the affecting power of which was even extremely magnified due to the brutal nature and realness of the both. The significance is very complicated, rich in meaning and with many possible interpretations, but they all point to the intense relationship between people and the nature, people and the environment. The keynote of these artworks is to express the artist’s worry about people’s over flooding material desire and the severe worsening relationship between people and the nature. Fu Xinmin classified his art works into eight series, namely “sentiment”, “walking through”, “fabricating”, “dialogue”, “flowing”, “metamorphosis”, “fission” and “stiffened landscape”. Just reading these names, we can feel that the artist has completely immersed himself in this symphony of wood and metal to bemoan the worsening environment and pity the fate of mankind.
In “Flowing No.1-3”, wood root is inlaid into a rectangular stainless steel plate. The irregularity of wood root provides a striking contrast to the very regularity of oblong steel plate which is a comparison of natural things and artificially made products. The shining surface of the steel plate is specially polished to form intense rising ripples which have distinct appearances in different lights and add a science fictional touch and romantic feelings to the rational work. The odd and beautiful wood root was carefully chosen, which was set in the upper part of the steel plate, and the top of root obtrudes the upper frame of the steel plate. The overall composition is in picturesque disorder. The artwork is enveloped in a rational, harmonious and cheerful atmosphere, which expresses the artist’s ideal of a harmonious co-existence of people and the nature.
In “Dialogue No.6, a giant dried-up wood was riveted together with rusted steel sheet and rusted bolts, which formed a high wall with four meters wide ,three point two meters high, and one meter thick. The veins on the dried-up wood is deep and full of power, and the four corners of the high wall are carrying a radiating strength. This is a great symphony of sorrow and strength, and which can be regarded as him to the expression of the suffering feelings of the crisis between people and the nature.
I am not saying that Fu Xinmin’s art is perfect now. He called himself “new sprout” also clearly shows that he takes his current art creation as a beginning in a long course. The important thing is he has taken a right strategy and in practice, he has produced plenty of art works, among which there already have some successful works like “Sentiment No.4”, “Walking through No.13”, “Dialogue No.6-10”, “Flowing No.1-3”, “Fission No.2”, “Stiffened Landscape No.1,2”.
Explanation of all these shows that he is now standing at the turning point of art history and has shouldered the historic mission to advance the development of root art.