Zhou Fan working in his studio, 2015  image courtesy of Zhou Fan                                                        创作中的周范,图片艺术家惠允

Zhou Fan Interview

Q: Could you tell us about the theme and concept behind the new series of works?

One series or one concept always has its beginning and an end. If the new works need an explanation, I would say the new works are an imagery of pure landscapes.  In these images, there are symbolic icons - roads and nature. These are symbols that are the closest to the relationship between humans and nature. They merge with each other, yet at the same time, are opposed to one another. For instance, if you randomly pick a country from satellite images off of Google Earth, you would find the crisscrossing highways are like the blood vessels of the planet. However, you can also see where these “blood vessels” disappear - on islands for example. Nature and ourselves have always been in the constant process of merging together and mutual cancellation, and the end result is the nihilistic void that is expressed in these new works for this exhibition, “mute”.

Q: Could you explain a bit further about the sense of “nihility” or “void” that you mentioned?

This is an extremely broad topic. The sense of nihility is a stage of progression that every one would experience. It is all-inclusive and ubiquitous.

Q: What’s origin of the title “Mute”? And what’s the relation between the new series of work and sound, or to say, “silence”?

The title “Mute” has a certain relationship with this series of works. It was considered impossible to control sounds long ago, yet it is now something that we do on a constant basis.  Mute a song while it is playing, or play the entire track on mute (I believe no one would do that). Time is the most crucial carrier of music, but we haven’t found a way to pause time. Yet sound can continue in an unnoticeable manner without being paused.  For nature itself, as it is experiencing the process of human development, it also evolving continuously on its own. I believe that a main characteristic of human evolution is based on nature itself, which is the march to eventual annihilation. Nature is perfecting its evolution process by suppressing and consuming in order to achieve a balance. Of course, the premise is that the human race is continually breaking the delicate natural balance, trying to adapt and control nature.

This word “mute” then doesn’t have much direct relationship with my artwork; rather it clearly indicates the exhibition itself. There is also some similarity between the meanings of the word “mute” and the artworks; the works are landscape imageries with no sense of time or direction, they depict a state of being that is related to the connotation of “mute”.

Q: Compared to your previous works, there is quite a style change in terms of color and visual language, what are the reasons behind this change?

In all the new works, all the colors I used to paint the natural part are not colors and tones which you would normally find in nature, these colors are derived from cityscapes, such as neon, street lights and car lights, these are the source colors created by man-made artificial lighting. The city is on the other side of nature, these two sides keep a certain balance, yet they devour and consume each other. I really very much like artificial lighting. If to say that nature has the function of expanding the capacity of human psyche, then the city is able to heighten the intensity of human emotions. These two aspects are essential to the concept of my new works, where you will be able to find some clues.

Q: Is nature the source of your creativity?

The source is a complex synthesis; nature is only a part of it.

Q: Some of your previous works are largely evolved around the themes of dreams and fantasy, are these elements still present in your new works?

The root of the existence of dream and fantasy is memory. Memory can be seen as the fusion of these two concepts. Any theme or subjectivity of artistic creation all has its own life span, as with the process of metabolism and organ functions. So repetition sometimes can prolong the whole process, but at the same time, it’s an overconsumption on the artist. At this time, there might be some changes that happen to the work itself, which is the core concept of my work’s progresses and which alters with time, so old elements would morph into new ones.

I feel like the topics of your previous interests of dream, fantasy and illusion to you present fascination with nihilism, it seems that the majority of your work is focused on a theme that is polar opposite of reality. Can we see your work as a reflection of your own spiritual pursuit?

Dream and illusion is more of an interests of mine, I made a conscious choice to use them in my work. I’m more sensitive to things that exist between reality and unreality. Nihility is an issue that has perplexed and pestered us from start to finish; now it has influenced to my work itself.

Q: Looking back at your work over the past decade, we can identify four different series of works. By keeping your unique visual imprint throughout the series, the span between each series is also quite significant, what’s your state of mind in the transitional periods?

 The different series are separate branches in a bigger system, and each artist would have an overall theory and system regarding one’s body of work,  which of course can only be realized with continuous renewal. It happens simultaneously while creating works. The concept of “state of mind” is a bit unreliable to me, since its cause is emotion, which is also another uncontrollable element. I don’t like to be effected by the “state of mind”. What I can do is to control the pace and schedule of my work to my best abilities.

Q: Visually, your work has become more abstract compared to previous works, what’s the reason behind the disappearance of the black outlines in your new works?

For the new theme, I have chosen various new approaches to realize these. For my work in general, I would utilize a completely different method when dealing with various mediums and materials.

Q: And these new methods have given you more a sense of freedom and openness?

Each artwork has its own scope; to be able to work within this bigger space is a very nice experience for me.

Q: Do you believe in “inspiration”?

Inspiration does exist, but it has diverse meanings for everyone. To me, it's just a word, a word that doesn’t have a lot to do with me.

Q: Can we say that your current work methodology is more rational?

I do like the works now created under more rational thinking. Too much emotion would make the entire work read like a sentence with too many adjectives.  I now more intend to depict or narrate a scene or an event as an observer, this depiction or narration doesn’t involve too much sentiments and emotions, and it is very pure. The perception of the work is completed by others (the viewers).

Q: Could you tell us the habit of your creative work?

I try to control the time at every stage of my work; it’s like a band producing an album.

Q: Do you look at other artists’ works?

I see works selectively.  In every creative field, there are artists whom I appreciate, from sound to architecture, and my interests to other artists’ works also keeps renewing itself. 

9/15/2015  Shanghai


More on the artist


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Q: 能否谈一下新系列作品背后的主题与观念?

一个系列或者一个新主题的绘画往往是有起始点和终点的,新作品如果需要一个说明的话,应该是单纯的风景图像 。这些图像中有一些象征性的符号——公路和一些自然景物,这些是人类与自然界关系最为紧密的象征物。它们在融合的同时又在相互对抗。譬如说,如果你从Google Earth 随机选择一个国家的卫星地图,你会发现交错的高速路就像这颗星球的血管一样,但也会看到血管消失的地方,例如说岛屿。我们与自然界一直都在进行相互消融的过程,最终的结果也就是与新作品相关的“虚无”。

Q: 能否解释一下你所说的“虚无”?


Q: 展览的标题《Mute》的来源?新系列作品和声音或者说是“无声”又有什么样的关联?

A: 展览题目《Mute》和作品有一些关系,仔细说一下吧,随意控制声音这件事情在很久以前是被普遍认为不可能的,但是现在我们每天都在做这件事情。一首歌在播放的过程中被静音,或者一直以静音的方式播放(我相信没有人这样做),音乐最重要的载体又是时间,时间暂时还没有被找到暂停的方式,所以声音是可以以近似于凭空消失的方式进行而不是被停止。这样看来,作为自然本身,它们在经历人类发展过程的同时,也在不断以变化来进行自身的进化。我相信人类的进化特点是基于自然本身的,那就是毁灭。自然在用不断的压制和毁灭来完善进化的过程同时也是为了达到一种平衡。当然前提是因为我们在不断的使自然界失衡,也就是去适应和控制自然。但是人类的做功也并非无效,因为我们在这个过程中也只是用了相对短暂的时间就成就了很多。


Q: 新系列作品和之前作品相比,从视觉语言和色彩上都有了很大不同,是哪些因素促使了你作品风格的变化?


Q: 你作品创作的源头是自然吗?


Q: 之前的作品创作大多围绕梦境与幻想来进行的,这些元素是否也在新作品的观念中也有所体现?


Q: 我觉得你之前所感兴趣的梦境、幻象,和到现在你所感兴趣的虚无感,你的创作大致围绕着与现实世界正相反的主题来进行。你的作品可以说是你对精神性的一种探索的反映吗?


Q: 回看这些年你的创作,大致可以看到4个系列的作品,在保有自己的视觉语言印记的同时,每个系列之间的跨度也很大,你在转折期间的创作状态是如何


Q: 现在的画面视觉上有一些抽象化的趋势。 在新作品的创作中为什么摒弃了原来勾线的画法? 


Q: 这种方法是否有有一种更自由,更放开的感觉呢?


Q: 你是否相信“灵感”?


Q: 你现在的工作思维方式可以说是更加理性化?


Q: 可否描述一下你的现在创作习惯?


Q: 会去看其他一些艺术家的作品?


2015/9/15  上海