Creating vivid imagination of freedom
Exhibiting magnanimous life philosophy
Insight of Liang Ping-cheng's Exhibition of Connection Series—Flipping the Space of “It”
“Many believe wisdom grows with age, but it is not true. Only white hair and wrinkles increase with age. Wisdom comes from the combination of intuition and values, from making decisions and learning from them, from the ability to face failure and rejection.” --Vikas Swarup: [The Accidental Apprentice]
04/2015 No.123 CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART NEWS
Author: Zheng Nai-Ming 鄭乃銘
Editor-in-Chief of CANS Contemporary Art News Magazine, Former Chair of Art Group, Taiwan Liberty Times
If success simply means to copy oneself, he would rather refuse it.
In fact, in terms of life essence, there left little room for Liang Pingzheng to reject. However, he still said no to the ease and comfort rendered by life as a return of only few efforts made because he was reluctant to perform standardized “production.” What he wants is to make “creation.” He had been waiting for an exhibition, which took him 6 years. The exhibition was certainly a success. But it was such success, just like most of those successful artists, inevitably made Liang fall into a predicament of “paying back” “orders” placed by clients of the gallery that invited him. He then had to choose between whether to maintain the established style welcomed by the market or to follow the strong urge in his heart and divert to creation? To find a way out, Liang eventually decided to refuse a life with ease and comfort and diverted from the tracks of rails laid for him by others. To derail is just to satisfy his imagination, pursue freedom and put his ideals in practice.
Carved from a piece of thick camphor wood longer than 200 centimeters, “2015 Flying-1,” a new wood sculpture, was unveiled in 2015. The method Liang adopted in creating this artwork has been known as a reduction approach, with which the whole piece of wood was trimmed to as thin as a piece of silk fabric, and once let go, it seems to stretch out a pair of invisible wings and slowly fly away. I do believe that this piece of artwork has best described Liang’s state of mind at the moment and conveyed some messages from his heart. In fact, Liang has made an attempt at this subject 16 years ago. The previous creation, as Liang put it, was not a satisfactory one in terms of skills employed and emotions expressed. The imagination in his mind was yet successfully depicted at that time and the artwork did not seem to be going aloft. Sixteen years later, he gave himself a second opportunity. This time, what he wanted to achieve would be more than just to make a heavy piece of wood fly! Strictly speaking, sixteen years ago, Liang might have tried to portray the theme of flying simply based on his skills. With the passing of 16 years, issues to be addressed would go beyond flying. The thing more important would be to convey through this artwork his current state of mind, which is a state of felicity, not drastic but mild and with high morale and endeavor of self-competition. Compared with the past, Liang has become more “respecting the nature”this time. Here, the “nature” does not refer to his inherent personality but characteristics of the material he is working on. This explains why the final sculpture is a 180-cm-long wooden piece, like a soaring snake, or a long ink-wash painting, or dynamic long rolling waves. Unlike the previous attempt, Liang’s focus this time would not be on manipulation of skills but embedding his skills into the creation.
When one was young and impetuous, to eagerly show off skills seemed to be natural. Once advanced to midlife; however, one shall conceal enthusiasm in the heart while presenting a pleasant appearance to embellish one’s accomplishment becomes unnecessary. That is to say, rather than attracting attention with skills to display proudly one's capabilities or to depict a subject with intent efforts, it would be better to concentrate on making the best of the nature of the material in use plus appropriately sculpturing so that the artwork may look less heavy with the lightness that will change the essence of the artistic piece. Wood surface showing texture and annual rings to reflect traces of the time can be seen in bends, twists, ups and downs in the artwork, which, I believe, represents the “heaviness” of this sculpture. As a man having past experiences, Liang knows it very well the heaviness left by the life. Nevertheless, if one tends to stay in greed, wrath, or resentment toward the past, such heaviness would become burdens rather than positive vibes to set you in motion. After all, if the heart does not let go such heaviness, how can it become light? How can it go aloft?
Among creations unveiled in 2015, this artwork of Liang is considered a self-effacing piece without surprising visual voluminousness but a piece worthy of appreciation with taste and discernment. The reason why I believe this art piece has best described Liang’s state of mind is not without cause. The dexterity with which this sculpture has been created lies in that carving skills are not showy while skillful meticulosity is ubiquitous for viewers to appreciate. To make the wood from tremendous thickness to extreme thinness, Liang first relieves heaviness from visual voluminousness. After transformation of the wood with thickness and heaviness into a thin and light piece, Liang conceals exaggerated carving skills and ingeniously manipulates fibers and textures of the wood to complement the self-effaced skills and manifest exterior intricate countenance. Annual rings left on the wooden surface, in particular, are now suggesting an analogy to the life vicissitudes Liang experienced in the past. Such silent and almost undetectable traces actually speak for themselves, which is indeed an art creation skill Liang has honed through his standing the test of time. This is his personal insight and understanding rather than just a skill. Based on simplicitybut carefulness, the artwork has closely integrated with Liang’s state of mind in his current life. Gazing at the artwork, viewers may have a chance to look at the much left unsaid that Liang used to experience from the then privileged world to the melancholy and pensive mournfulness afterwards, and how could it possible that the easiness make him not want to fly?
Breaking away from conventions, once started, there are challenges ahead
Being in the prime of life, the artist used to play a high-profile role in the business world. Without any standing in his mind, his major of fine arts in school at that time was nothing but a flash of light in a midnight dream. Going to Sanyi, Liang started from the basics of carving and slowly but surely he walked out of the haziness in his heart. Facing up to all failures in the past, Liang has built up the courage to say no to the easy access to the success in life. Let me explain it further. Based on his superb skills, Liang could have chosen to create those types of wood sculptures more acceptable to the masses. However, being in Sanyi has allowed him of more opportunities to get close to nature while interactions of living creatures thereof have guided him to treat life and the multitudes with an attitude of modesty. The life of all living things begins with “coupling,” but even with life, to them, termination and transmigration are still unavoidable. Such seemingly simple and ordinary phenomena in nature has prompted Liang to find himself a role and made him eager to apply and transfer his understanding to artistic representation. Inspiredby the process from vivipary to grown-up of living beings, Liang, as an observant artist of the environment, delicately depicts different manifestations of life forms with climatic influence. This is why Liang’s wood sculptures have captured snapshots of hidden cocoons and buds in living creatures and plants while characteristics of life forms and twists and turns in life courses have been delicately portrayed by Liang with unique woodcarving skills, not to mention the passage of time revealed by annual rings of trees. When such observations come to be artistic representations one by one, Liang’s choice to take a route breaking away from what prevails in Sanyi but communicating personal features has become obvious. Liang’s ability to refuse has already appeared at this time.
For example, in the “Book & Illegible Book” Series Liang created, attempts have been made to depict more than the outer appearances of objects and the contrast between the past and status quo can be seen in the same piece of artwork. The book to be portrayed is an output from trees because the paper to make book leaves comes from trees. But most of us just concentrate on the book itself without thinking of where the material of a book comes from.
Contrasted with visual heaviness of the wood, lightness and thinness of the paper has been successfully introduced. Such sharp contrast has been manipulated by Liang with facility. In the artwork of “Illegible Book-60 Stone Mountain” in 2014, “the nature of wood” created by a stack of “paper” can be easily noticed, which not only exhibits a translucent glossy texture, but attracts viewers to get one step closer to scrutinize the fibers shining brightly on the surface of “paper.” The most amazing would be what Liang has portrayed in one piece of art include forms and appearances of paper, book and wood altogether. Presented in this artwork is the tension of rough and uneven surface of the paper moistened by humid air. As such tension turns into undulating curves, clear water and a camellia standing on a flower frog have been added in the depressed part, the “valley.” Having developed to this point, the book becomes an illegible book and the utensil becomes anti-utensil, transforming original stereotyped forms of actual things to scenery in nature. It is because of such liberation we will be able to witness the breakaway of physical appearance from traditional functionality followed by the metamorphosis into a new aspect. As Liang once put it, “To me, the piece of wood that I’m working on is a life worthy of respect. This is because each and every piece of wood in my hand to be carved comes from a tree; comes from a life. The life, at different stages, would have different meanings and aspirations and shall be appreciated carefully.”
<Connection Series>Creating vivid imagination of freedom and exhibiting magnanimous life philosophy
Among these new creations, I have also discovered that Liang’s artworks, when compared with previous ones, seem to be more relaxed and more intractable with a pleasant atmosphere exhibited. When establishing new cooperations and setting up new artistic directions, he has been obviously more confident to achieve accomplishments higher than those in the past. The reason why I think his recent works seem to be more relaxed is because he has put in some add-on-as-you-wish elements like those in children's games, which render viewers rich and interesting visual experience. In artworks such like “Golden Hooped Staff,” “Thriving Fish” and “Dumpling Heart,” the columns created by Liang look like giant naval vessels or remote controllers of radio-controlled aircrafts while those things inset on the columns, as described by Liang, have been inspired by plant seeds, bird wings, and animal paws.
For these items picked out at random from nature, Liang fastens them from the outside into the columns as if with locks. They look like many handles projecting irregularly and remind me of the tuning pegs above the neck of a cello, which can be turned to adjust the tightness and get ready for action when it is all set. Liang’s new creations in the Connection Series interpret more about the life flows he has observed from nature. He explained, “All lives in nature begin and grow from ‘connection.’ With wind, rain, bees and birds as matchmakers, seeds fall onto the soil in different regions and establish connection and encounter with other life forms to start something new. In artworks of this series, add-ons to the columns are a bit like new media of various types, coming and flying from various places to be attracted to a tremendous soma. Once attached, they aspire to grow into different life forms.” “And in terms of treatment of forms for the somas, the concept of connection and encounter shall also be carefully followed. Take a closer look and you will find that there exist slits in the somas, making them seem to be looking at each other and be able to separate from or come nearer to the other. The reason to adopt such an approach is because I believe an extent of space rather than excessive intimacy shall be left for every life. It is such an extent of space that will allow of possibilities to “look outside” and “survey inside” while translucency of space will allow of imaginations with more freedom both visually and psychologically.” If we look at it from a different perspective, the approaches adopted by Liang in creating the Connection Series may have well reflected what’s in his mind. In other words, his experiences over the years have allowed him to feel more about inside and outside entanglements and struggles and to deal with external involvement and intervention. The processes may have been perplexing at that time, but once passed and changed, it will become certain capacity to strengthen the soma, just like various tuning pegs each has its attributes, purports or functions. They can be inserted, adjusted and removed. More often than not, the involvement and detachment plus visual and psychological extent of space may render opportunities for people to examine themselves, just like an endoscope to draw and visualize the interior images.
Treat creations the same way treating yourself Having something to say yet say nothing and difficult to leave it at that
Thinking how to make changes and breakthroughs to the constraints imposed by the environment. However, had he eventually chosen to stay in comfort but not to say no, he would not have been able to straighten out his potential. His attempt made at color black in “Black Eagle--Golden Handrail” and “Head--Stainless Steel Body--Bronze (Casting)” is a good example. What makes these two artworks outstanding is not the shape but Liang’s attitude toward the creations. Most parts of these two pieces are in black, but not just painted in black as what most people might have thought. To achieve the black texture in his mind, as the luster of lacquerware, Liang has purchased a lot of lacquerware to study and adopted an approach to dye the wood repeatedly during the process to let pigments enter deep into the material. Just as a spiritual and physical connection, the black radiates from the inside with vividness and deepness. Such a treatment allows viewers to perceive richness and slimness of the color under different lighting or from different angles rather than a monotonous black. Few wood sculpture artists may devote so much to talk from their heart through creation like Liang.
The unveiling of 2015 new artworks, one may discover Liang’s advancement of proficiency but not flippancy in skills. No longer deliberately showing off complicated skills that can be disillusioned with a glance, Liang has presented the trials and hardships undergone in past years and become more confident in artistic manifestations. However, I have detected a faint, indescribable and unwilling-to-say insecurity in the artist. For example, he has always remembered the “wings” in his mind. Another example would be some details in his new artworks of the Connection Series, the well-arranged, separate and corresponding pairs plus those add-ons attracted to the somas. All these reveal the possible sorrow and disappointment in his mind resulted from a sudden loss after excessively intimate relations. Nevertheless, in private, he earnestly hopes to be escorted and crowded around and fear the occasional visit of immense loneliness. I think this is more or less because of his past life experience, which let him to keep a “distance” constructed unconsciously and somewhat inadvertently. Such a distance may be interpreted as the safety distance interpersonally, or between “gain” and “loss” within his own discretion. At long last, with a distance in mind, one may expect how bad a trip and fall would be. Just like the unforgettable “wings” in his mind.
As Liang once put it, “Sometimes, I really want to have a pair of wings and maybe I would be able to soar to the heights.” To escape from the status quo or the reality may reveal the psychological pressure he has suffered. However, I always feel that wings may also represent the unremovable loneliness deep in his heart. On the other hand, maybe it is such tangible or intangible, existent or conjectural wings that have rendered to Liang’s artworks thrust and momentum at every stage to progress. This is just like only fluttering is not enough for a pair of soaring wings while the wind under the wings would be what it takes to fly high and far. It may be assumed that Liang would be more and more able to know where to stand either in moments of comfort and convenience or at times of challenge and controversy.
Ping-Cheng LIANG 梁 平 正