Lu Xinjian and the night view of Constellation, 2015 image courtesy of ART LABOR Gallery                艺术家陆新建以及星座作品的夜晚效果, 2015  图片ART LABOR画廊惠允

Lu Xinjian and the night view of Constellation, 2015 image courtesy of ART LABOR Gallery                艺术家陆新建以及星座作品的夜晚效果, 2015 图片ART LABOR画廊惠允

Lu Xinjian Interview

 

Q: By what and when were you inspired to create new series, “Constellations”?

Before the creation of the “CITY DNA” series, I made a series of works called “Harmony”, the first series of works I had ever done, for which I only created about a dozen works. This was the series where I first started to outline the shape of the architecture and the stars in the sky, and created works by combining these elements together, so this is the first appearance of stars in my work.

I have always been fascinated with the starry night sky, since I grew up in the countryside, the stars in the sky were very visible and clear, and I had been watching the stars since I was a small child. In 2012, I had made a few sketches, just experimenting; I had no clear direction on the effect I wanted to achieve. In these sketches, I marked the zodiac with plus signs.

Q: Most of your previous works are around the subject of “city” and its structures, what motivates you to investigate the subject of astrology?

Another reason why I was motivated to create the “Constellation” series is that it’s not part of the traditional Chinese culture; it’s imported from Western mythology and astrology. However, it is a conversation trigger among younger generation of Chinese especially in a social situation. I find this social phenomenon particularly interesting. The zodiac signs are used to identify people’s characteristics in the West, I think this also falls into the field of statistics. It relates to human characters and fate, which is a mysterious subject for me.

Also, when I think on the idea of city, I would think of city planning, since cities are manmade. They are created by their history, politics, economics, geography and culture combined; each city has its own system. In turn when we look up to the sky, the seemingly random placed stars have no system? I’m certain that there is a system in place, an invisible one. And this invisibility is connected to the Chinese “Yin” and “Yang” theory. My friend Lynne Howarth-Gladston (with Paul Gladston, PDF) wrote an essay on my “Constellation” series (published in the “Lu Xinjian: Constellation” catalogue, printed by ART LABOR Gallery, Shanghai). In the essay, she employed the cosmology and “Yin Yang” theory to read into my work.  I think all things in the universe are a combination of Yin and Yang in order to archive balance. When celestial bodies operate in a normal manner, they are in a state of harmony. There are both forces of gravitation and repulsion among the stars.  

Third, I think most of the people are attracted by an imagined life beyond earth. The Nul (ZERO) art movement was also partly inspired by America’s space program, the artists then had a balloon launching of their own [note: recent title of the Zero Movement show held in Amsterdam in Fall 2015 was “ZERO: Let Us Explore The Stars”. ] They employed the rocket launching countdown method, and named their art movement after number zero, as it is the moment of the countdown when the rocket sets off, with the metaphor of creating art from an utterly new approach and redefining the meaning of art. Looking at the artworks from this movement, the viewer would find that they are very minimal, a pure visual language.

Q: Can you elaborate on the concept behind “Constellations”? 

I participated in a group exhibition in October this year in Holland [NuNul]. The gallery over there really wanted me to bring over a copy of catalogue. They saw a great similarity between this series of work and Nul Movement. Back in the1950s, they didn’t have the technology that is available to us now. And my work utilizes modern technology, which breaks the traditional method of painting, so they call my work the “new Zero art”. We have been continuously exploring outer space, and we as humans have a yearning for outer space as well. So I thought it would be pleasant and beautiful to create a starry night sky for the home. When I was creating these pieces, I chose to use phosphorescent paint, so the paintings present an entirely different visual effect at in the dark. I deliberately didn’t highlight the zodiac signs, rather just used little white dots throughout on the paintings to mark the stars. Thus, the painting is not an objectified work, it is rather a work of abstraction. Of course the audiences are still able to locate the signs if they wish. Similar to my “Invisible Poems” series, words are abstract symbols; when I weaved them within my own visual language, these paintings possess a dual visual meaning. When audiences read the work, it’s a poem. When they just look at the work, it’s an abstract painting.  

With the series “Constellation”, I discussed two themes. First, the meaning behind the zodiac signs, or to say the undercurrent influence in our daily lives. How did it become a topic of conversation in our lives? And its significance in the context of contemporary Chinese culture. Secondly, is the harmonious relationship within the universe, and this relationship to Chinese “Yin Yang” theory. It coincides with Chinese Taoism, the spontaneous intelligence operating within nature, which corresponds with the essence of the works.

Q: Each painting is composed according to original starting maps or diagram, how do you arrive at the composition of these paintings?

In this group of work, I visualize the relationship among stars using lines, to illustrate the force of gravitation and repulsion. And this depiction subjects to no preset rules; it’s very free by comparison to my previous “CITY DNA” series.  The layout of a city functions as a template in my works, it’s relatively set. However, when I painted the space among stars, there is no reference like roads. One dot is one star; the lines among stars were my own creation. The overall composition of the lines is very even, in order to express the balanced relationship. The purpose of the lines is to visualize the invisible relationship, so to represent my understanding of the starry sky.   

Q: Your previous “CITY DNA” series are inspired by Google Earth, with the “Constellation” series, what kind of technological tool did you use?

With this series of works, I use a computer software, similar to Google Earth, you put in your exact location on earth, and the software will show you to the area of sky that’s corresponding to your location. The area of sky is gigantic, so the sky you look at from Shanghai remains the same from other points in Shanghai. However, it’s completely different if you are looking from Europe or North America or South America.

Q: Is there any connection between your CITY series and the “Constellation”? If so, what is it?

In the past few years, I have had created three series related to the theme of city, “CITY DNA” “CITY Stream” and “Reflection” (this series hasn’t been exhibited yet). When I first started creating the city series, I used the bird-eye view to look at cities (CITY DNA), then I feel like I can investigated cities from a plan-elevation view (CITY Stream and Reflection). I have always been pondering on how I could present the concept of city with a multi-dimensional and diversified approach. The city concept itself is quite a broad theme.

The starry night sky and city are corresponding, these two are complimenting, and at the same time, mutually influencing as well. After my CITY series, it’s a natural instinct to move my viewpoint upward; it also coincides with the history of human evolution and development (first we built centers and roads, then we made towers, then we looked to the stars, etc). The “Constellation” series takes the viewpoint away from Earth and looks towards the sky. The “CITY DNA” series are looking from the sky back toward the Earth. With every series of my work, the themes and contents have always been changing, but my visual language basically stays the same.

 

11/6/2015  Shanghai
 

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陆新建访谈

 

Q: 你是在什么时候开始有了创作“星座”系列的想法的?灵感来源又是什么?

我“城市基因”之前的做过的一个系列叫做“和谐”,这是我最早的一个系列,但是只做了很少的十几件作品。我当时过度到“城市基因”这个系列是通过勾勒建筑的边沿线以及天空中的星星,把这些元素都连起来进行创作,这是星空在我作品中最早的出现。

其实我是一直对星空非常感兴趣的,因为小时候在农村长大,星空是非常清晰而明确的,我从小到大就一直在看星星。2012年我就做过一个星空的小稿,当时只是尝试一下,但那时候我还不是很清楚我想要做出什么要的效果。在小稿里,我还把星座给用加号给特别标记出来了。

 Lu Xinjian, Harmony 06   陆新建,和谐06

Lu Xinjian, Harmony 06   陆新建,和谐06

Q: 你大部分作品都是围绕“城市”这个主题进行创作的,是什么引发了你去探索“星座”这个主题的呢?

我当时为什么要做这样一个主题,还有一个原因是“星座”其实不是我们中国本身自有的文化,而是西方神话和星象学流传过来的舶来品。但是这个主题在当下的中国,尤其是在与陌生人社交的时候,往往能够拉开话题的谈资就是星座。我觉得这个很有意思的社会现象。星座在西方文化中也被用于划分人的性格,我觉得只是属于统计学的范畴,它涉及到人的性格和命运,是一个很神秘的主题。

这是一方面,另一方面就是我在思考城市的时候,会想到城市的规划,因为城市是人造的,是对历史、政经、地理以及它特有的人文所共同造就的,每个城市都有其系统。而当我们看向天空的时候,看似无序的星空就是没有系统的吗?我认为肯定是有的,只不过它的系统是隐性的。这个隐性的东西与中国的“阴阳”就结合到了一起。我的朋友Lynne Hwardth-Gladstone写了一篇关于我“星座”系列作品的文章(与Paul Gladstone合著, PDF),其中将宇宙学与阴阳学的理论相结合来解读我的作品。宇宙万物都是阴与阳的复合体,以达到一种平衡。当天体在正常运转的时候,它们一定是处于一种和谐状态之中的。和星体与星体之间,也是在互相吸引和控制着对方。

第三个就是我个人觉得大部分人也是很向往地球以外的生活的。零艺术运动的起源就是美国登上月球,当时的艺术家们觉得这远远超过了人类所认知的范畴,突破我们日常的思维。当时零艺术的艺术家们做了一个气球的发射,火箭发射都是以倒数到“0”作为发射的指令,艺术家们也借用这个“0”作为他们艺术运动的名称,意指重新定义艺术,从零开始创造。所以你会发现他们作品的画面是极简的,变成了纯粹的视觉语言。

Q: 能不能再谈一谈星座系列作品背后的一些观念?

我今年10月的时候在荷兰参加了一个群展,画廊特别希望我能带一本“星座”系列作品的画册过去。他们觉得我的这个系列的作品和零艺术运动的作品很相似。因为当时50年代没有我们现在拥有的可以看星空的软件,而我的作品却是借助了现代科技,突破了传统的创作方式,所以他们把我的作品称为“新零艺术”。现在人类一直不断在探索外太空,每个人都有对外太空充满了向往,所以我想,如果能在家里创造一个星空也是很美好的。当时在创作的时候,选择了夜光颜料,作品在夜晚则呈现了完全不同的视觉效果。我还刻意把作品中星座的图像去除掉了,统一使用了圆点,如此我创作的就不在是一个物体化的作品了,而是一件抽象作品。当然如果观众去找,还是可以找到里面隐藏的星座。就像我的“隐诗”系列作品一样,因为文字本身就是一个抽象符号,当我把它们在抽象重组,将其与我的视觉语言重新编织,作品就拥有了双重的视觉语言关系。观者可以去读,在不去读的时候,就是一件抽象作品。

所以在“星座”这个系列作品中,我从两个方面探讨了这个主题。第一是星座神秘的意义,或者说它对我们生活的一种潜移默化的影响。它如何成为了我们生活中的一个话题,以及在中国文化语境下的意义。第二是宇宙的和谐关系,以及它与中国传统阴阳之说的关系。这与中国道家思想像符,自然界自然而然的运作,作品的内在是与之相契合的。

Q:“星座”系列里的每一件作品都是参照星图来创作的,你是怎样创作出如此构图效果的呢?

在这组作品中,我将这种星体间的相互关系用线条描绘出来,将这种引力以我的视觉方式呈现出来。而这种描绘是很自由的描绘,是没有任何界定的。而在我之前创作“城市基因”的时候,城市的布局就是一个模版,是相对来说固定的;而在画星空的时候,是没有任何像道路这样的参照的,每一个点是一个星体,星体间的线条与关系是我创造出来的,整个画面的线条布局也是非常均衡的,也是为了表 达这种平衡的关系。线条的作用也在于把不可见的关系用视觉语言来显现,这是我对星空的一种诠释。

Q:你创作“城市基因”系列被谷歌地图所启发,在“星座”系列里,你是否也应用了一些科技手段呢?

在做“星空”系列这个作品的时候,我应用了一个软件,就像谷歌地图一样,你输入所在的经度纬度,这个软件就可以把你带到你所在的星空的位置。因为星空是非常大的,所以在北京看,或者是在上海看的星空是没有多大区别的。但是在这儿的星空和在欧洲的星空,或者是北美和南美的星空是完全不一样的。

Q: 你认为你的城市系列与星座系列之间又关联吗?有的话,关联在哪些方面?

我这几年做了“城市基因”“城市经纬”和“倒影”系列 (这个系列还未展出过),在做城市系列的时候,我刚开始是用俯视图来看城市的,之后我觉得可以从侧面来看城市,我一直在考虑这么把城市这个概念做得立体化以及多元化,用多种角度去看城市。城市其实本身就是一个非常广的主题,本身具有极强的概念性。

星空与城市本身是对应的,一个是天上,一个是地下,二者互为补充,两者有互为影响。在创作城市系列作品之后,我会很自然第去把目光转移到天上,这和人类的演变发展史也是相符的。星座系列是站在地球的角度看天上,而城市系列,尤其是城市基因系列是站在空中的角度看回地面。我每个系列作品的主题和内容一直在变化,但是我的视觉语言基本上是一致的。

 

2015/11/6  上海

 

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