I have never made paintings based on a certain proposition, even though this method is considered contemporary. I am sure that the painter must be sensitive and free. He does not need grand narratives or a magnificent life. On the contrary, everyday life is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Gustave Flaubert, one of my favorite Fre... more >> La quotidienne is not the title of a project, it is merely an introduction and a description of my art.
I have never made paintings based on a certain proposition, even though this method is considered contemporary. I am sure that the painter must be sensitive and free. He does not need grand narratives or a magnificent life. On the contrary, everyday life is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Gustave Flaubert, one of my favorite French writers once said: “Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire comme un bourgeois, afin d’être violent et original dans vos œuvres “. It is so true and it is the echo of my heart.
Although many of my works are based on life, I refuse to record a specific event or anecdote with the paintbrush on the canvas by way of journalistic report. To give an example, "the importance of being vegetarian" was inspired by an encounter witnessed by my wife, Wenqing, and myself when we were taking a walk at the junction of rue Rambuteau and rue des Archives. A group of extreme environmentalists and vegetarians passed noisily in front of us. People were filled with righteous indignation, beating gongs and drums, venting their anger and engaging in fierce debates with opponents on the road. An interesting picture appeared in my mind immediately. Then I created this work. Although what I chose was an absurd scene, it was indeed a result of this incident reflected in my mind. I just painted it out honestly.
From the first day that I encountered the art of pre-renaissance, I was deeply fascinated and could not stop loving it. Being an artist of the 21st century is sad, but at the same time fortunate. At least one can comfortably read the process of art history from 15000BC up till now. However, to me, pre-renaissance painting is an adolescent - pure and full of vitality. It is true that it is constrained from the perspective of contemporary aesthetic taste. However, Gide once said: "art lives from constraint and dies from freedom”. I agree, even though this is misunderstood. In my long-term practice, I truly understand that this kind of technical and ideological simplicity and restraint is the realm that a painter must reach.
My painting method is very slow. Partly because of my nature as a southerner. In the city, Guangzhou, where I was born, people are mostly laid-back and undisciplined. Do everything slowly. Before starting something, people like to "take a sip of tea, eat a bao first." (”飲啖茶，食個包先“. This nature is naturally reflected in my work process. Whenever I start a new work, it is the beginning of a long farming for me. The preliminary preparations have already consumed a lot of time and energy. From the initial idea, the establishment of the sketch, to the preparation of the canvas, the grinding of the pigments...Finally everything is ready without notice. Before I start painting on it, I will spend a long time in a daze in front of a blank or drafted canvas. It's not so much a daze, as it is a process of clearing up distracting thoughts. If the process of painting is likened to making love, this is foreplay. I never force myself to speed up the completion of a work, nor do I know when it will end. About one day when I feel that I have reached the limit of my ability, the painting will end and the next journey will begin again. Someone once said: “Slowness is the key to happiness". In the era of pursuing speed and efficiency, slowness has become a kind of nostalgia.
Finally, let’s talk about my technical preference a little bit. Egg tempera is the medium I use, however my technique is different from the traditional egg tempera technique which requires fine strokes. Instead, I deliberately integrate fresco‘s technique which is more painterly. As it is a water based medium, it does not excel in depicting light and shade like oil painting. However, it helps me avoid excessive limitations of light and shadow and explore the true nature of things. In order to achieve the desired effect, I must constantly increase or decrease the number of layers, just like the process of making sculptures. In this process of constant increase and decrease, the figures become more and more volumic. While battling and wrestling with the powder and pigments, it leaves behind many traces to form a kind of nice roughness, avoiding excessive polishing in the picture and thus reflecting the essence of life.