On Liang Ping-Cheng’s Sculptures
Intersticesexist betweenjoints,whilst theblade has little thickness.
Plentyofroomtomaneuverthethinblade between the interstices.
Artist magazine 532 September 2019
In contrast with the theory of classical aesthetics, contemporary aesthetics gives more room for objectivity. The perspective of observers is as important as the form of objects. It is about the self-reflection from an entity of different sensibilities. Essentially, it is a synthesis of life. For example, feelings for a color are not from the color itself. Rather, it is the materialization of inner life experience with emotional involvement. The Austrian art historian Alois Riegel (1858-1905) believes that artistic creations are an activity anchored on “the will of art” in the backdrop of specific history and up against the world. Art works are created by humans of this will. The foundation of European aesthetics theories and research methodologies have a completely different view: art history in general as the evolution of techniques. The other school argues that art history itself is the evolution of the will. These different perspectives lead to the approach to appreciate contemporary art.
Without a doubt, techniques cannot be overlooked in the initiation and process of artistic creation. This is the fundamental requirement and literacy required of an artist. However, the uniqueness of the ultimate work is dependent on the artist’s individuality. The sculpture master Liang Ping-Cheng is constantly internalizing this process, through years of learning and practice and the nature and intuition he has found in life. This has a lot to do with the ups and downs inhis life. His works are a connection with life. He has developed the philosophy of improvisation in painting after years of creative works. He paints with memories, gut feelings and routines. He sometimes spends hours in front of the canvas, so that his visual memories can naturally flow on the canvas. This improvisation in painting is carried into the fundamental concept in his sculptures, going with the flows. Similarly, he approaches a piece of wood without predetermined thoughts. His feels of the material are like dialogues. The wood is a set of organisms, and he only makes the first cut after he has gained an in-depth understanding of the objects. The completed works are the result of the most natural conversation between the artist and the materials. This to-and-fro is the life philosophy and attitude an artist shows in his works. “Gravity Release” represents the transformation of the heaviness of wood into the beauty of flows and lightness. The process and the outcome are also a release of potential pressure the artists and the audience have on things and phenomena. Reversed Aesthetics (倒置美學)is a disposition of functionality of objects in human life. The stripping-off of day-to-day practicality reveals the aesthetics of items. This abstraction is a constant existence in our culture but often ignored. Liang’s sculptures are also developed in these contexts, the representation of personalities of materials in an objective manner so that his works are simply the forms of intellectual perspectives in space.
The modern sculptures in Europe over time and the will of artists in recreation have been gradually steering away from the realistic representation since the Renaissance. Cubism has changed the nature of art. The reconstructions and re-compositions by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963) inspire how sculptures understand the space and apply the cubist theory of space into their works. They realize, from practice, that the simple pursuit of appearances is not sufficient. It is necessary to express the inner motions and selves of the artist in a freer form. At this juncture, sculptures are no longer limited to objects (i.e. materials). Rather, sculpturing is a literary or poetic process of abstraction of measurements, spatial sense and form aesthetics. For example, Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) maintain the original shape of sculptures, retain the original nature of materials, and reveal inner emotions by simplifying the vocabulary. The simplicity of shapes and forms uncovers the innermost nature of materials and ingredients, and bonds with creators and the audience in a natural and emotional way. This is also Liang’s creative philosophy. He often says he needs to fall in love with the piece of wood before he makes the first cut.He instills his emotions through his eyes into the inner of materials. By touching the fine or rough textures, the artist and the materials establish a strong connection. The wood itself is organic, with its growth and decline conditions written in the compositions. To start with, it should not be understood as a fixated form. However, people insist on the differentiation of the value of items with tangible shapes from the value of life in the abstract form. How to transform rigid materials into spiritual eternity becomes the conscious transference of artists.Liang’s work in 2018 “Shell” is created with pine wood, with an elegant and gentle color tone. A sense of weightlessness is conveyed with the retention of pine wood texture and by releasing completely its weight. “Gravity Release” in 2019 is a hollow piece of camphor, with the irregular cracks remaining as its identity. The emptiness inside allows it to generate crisp sounds like a percussion instrument. These two works both set the woods free from their original weights and create a sense of flowing rhythms. The essence has not changed because of the shapes. Rather, the depositions of different materials are highlighted. This reminds me of the texts from the Inner Chapters III of Zhuangzi, “Lord WénHuì’schef, named PáoDīng, was cutting up a cow for him. Wherever he placed his hand, pushing his shoulders forward, with his foot firmly on the ground, and pressing with his knee, there would be a ripping sound as the skin pulled off and as the knife sliced, all in a smooth rhythm.The motion and the sounds were like the ancient Mulberry Forest dances, or like the ancient Blended Notes music.” Each movement in cutting the cow, whether moving the knife upward or in a swirl was going along the muscles, like the beats of music. Lord WénHuì’s was so amazed and the chef replied, saying that he was looking for Tao. “At the present time, I rely upon my insight, not my eyes. I ignore my senses and am guided by my intuition. I follow the natural lines, the great slots, passing through large spaces. I observe the innate status.” The chef established a spiritual connection with the cow, by following its natural grains and textures, all in the original status.
The Book & Illegible Book seriesembodies deeper contents and multiple implications. Ancient Chinese wrote in bamboo and wooden slips, silk cloths, turtle shells, animal bones, wooden plates and barks. Silk textiles and barks were later evolved into paper. Easy to access, books are everywhere and commonplace, and the use of paper is familiar. In fact, many book lovers enjoy the small of paper and ink. This series also releases the weight of the wood. Different from the conventional approach of a contrived emphasis on the measurement of materials, Liang does the opposite by expressing the flow of lightness on the wooden sculpture. The turning pages seem to come with flutter, as fast as the passing of time, yet as slow as notes of music. “1601 Non-Books非書” and “1801 Non-Books非書” are the open books on the desk, with pages flying, light and dynamic, in the rhythm of winds. “1812 Non-Book” is a book just being read, frozen at the point in time, into a soothing poem. Far too many artists treat sculpture as the restoration of the real objects by pursuing techniques of extreme realism. However, Liang is on an outlook for the personality and unique of wood, in order to achieve resonance and dialogues in the creative process. “1901 Non-Book非書” again changes how sculpture is presented. An open book is placed upside down as a stylish sculpture of pure aesthetics.This turns the nature of the object around and changes the day-to-day perspectives in life.
The work with the simplest beauty is the Utensil & Anti-Utensil series. Of course, the motivations and ideas behind come from the artist’s review of valuein life, as well as his subtle sarcasm of materialism. Our society emphasizes materials and pursues pragmatism. Aesthetics and deeper inners are often buried under the surface. Liang uses daily objects to create wooden sculptures resembling utensils, with all the functionality gone. Only the beauty of the shape remains. It is at this juncture that the audience realizes that there are too many beautiful things in life are left behind. “Tofu” looks like a plate, but its silky and smooth surface seems fragile and brittle. The Square Table looks like its name, but the four legs are so beautiful that they do not assume weight. The artist is constantly challenging our prejudices and fixations about the real world by directing us back to the ultimate and initial beauty.
Liang’s works are a reminder of life memories. However, this is not achieved via representations or life-like realism. He extracts the beauty of visual experience we have all shared. They are present but constantly ignored in life. The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1929－) says, “If the construction of a concept is based on sufferings created by humans, this concept can and should be called off. The call for liberation is not eagerness to eliminate sufferings or an emergent response. Rather, this is a deep-rooted value, ingrained in our life. It questions any unnecessary relations that confine us. The wish for freedom is sincere.” By observing the outer world in the daily life, it is possible to recreate and represent certain meanings. On a similar benchmark, Liang constructs a new communication method with his art, so that we have new imagination for life and the world.
Ping-Cheng LIANG 梁 平 正