Friday, June 17, 2016

Chinese Artist Lan Zhenghui Choose Front Row Seat To Observe U.S. Turbulence and Culture Collisions

Lan Zhengui
When I was in college a friend of mine used to prod me by saying, "The artist is the vanguard of the revolution." This implied a very different role from the one I was feeling at the time. My art was more obsession-driven than politically motivated. Much of it was bringing into outward form the interior landscapes that had shaped me as a youth of the times. I found more inspiration from Dali and Picasso than Diego Rivera or Goya though even Picasso tackled political themes when it was necessary to make a statement. (e.g.: Guernica.)

In April I interviewed contemporary Chinese artist Lan Zhenghui who on the heels of a major exhibition in Hong Kong came to the U.S. to share his work and give student lectures. Observing the climate of our times he has chosen to remain here this year to examine the collision of ideas taking place here as a means of internalizing material for a new body of artwork while living here in the States.

"I want a front row seat to personally witness this pivotal time when society is hungry for more authenticity," said Lan Zhenghui, one of China's leading contemporary artists.

This is definitely a time when political posturing has reached another peak, though I'm curious how different it is from other high-water marks. One thing that has changed: the game is more sophisticated these days. A Facebook friend pointed out the 285-page playbook that has become the engine for Hillary's campaign. I'm not sure what Trump's playbook looks like but what we're seeing has some unusual features and it will be interesting how the artist will "interpret" what he sees here.

“As all around me the U.S. grapples with the push-and-pull of new ideas challenging old traditions, this American experience will advance my artwork into new directions. My interactions and engagements with artists, art students, culture seekers and the public in the U.S. will impact my new work. I know for sure that the spirit of America as a frontier for new ideas will ultimately endure,” adds Zhenghui.

I myself will be interested in learning how much the "spirit of America" that he has been anticipating will turn out differently from the spirit of America he encounters. Perhaps at the end of the year I will get an opportunity to ask more questions. What surprised you most about your time here? What are you seeing here that is unique from anything you have found elsewhere? What does the "American spirit" look like? And then there would be questions about the artists here and what impressed you most...

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Lan Zhenghui is one of the most influential contemporary Chinese calligraphy artists today. Born in Sichuan, China, he graduated from Sichuan Academy of Art in 1987, and was a member of the “85 New Art Movement.” He has been working in the realm of contemporary ink painting and calligraphy for nearly 20 years. He began thinking about and discovering the “bodily” or “physical” potential of contemporary calligraphy in 2000. With this he established a new concept that he regards to as “Mian Shu Xie”. In 2006, the artist received funding from the Canadian government and had a solo exhibited at the National Art Museum of China titled “Lan Zhenghui Tiliang Shuimo.”

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In the local scene, tonight there is an opening at the AICHO Galleries (Trepanier Hall) here in Duluth featuring work by Laura Youngbird and Leah Yellowbird. For more information visit their Event page on Facebook.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it!

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