At the end of 2008, the idea of my project "Galaxy" came out from a grotesque childhood experience - the mysterious power of money upon children. As a child, I could not understand why a coin could exchange all sorts of different things and I was very curious about the "secrets" hidden behind it. I once had the courage to tear a banknote into pieces and to pound a coin of 10 cents flat with a hammer using all my strength - it all ended up with endless disappointment and regret... In 2008, the financial crisis became a worldwide issue and money was one of the most sensitive subjects in my surroundings. Many galleries had to close down and lots of artists had to change their occupations for a living. As a spectator of the art market, subjects of global economy was too vague for me and I was much more interested in the question of "cost" in art production. Indeed, utilitarian aspects in the art world do not surprise anyone anymore for a long time. Some artists' work seems to be only destined for business. Tremendous human and material resources are put in place only to create a cost-effective return. From this angle, art is stimulating and blank at the same time. Therefore, the most effective way would be directly "getting money with money".
When I began my project "Pound Money" 1 , I pounded coins of different values and countries flat with a hammer. As the original carved image disappears, both traces of floor friction and hammer hits are marked on the metal surface. During this process, the function and value-added of coins made by national moulding machines gradually faded away and the nature of metal itself became more and more obvious. After pounding and polishing the coins, I carefully painted miniature pictures with a magnifier and a Chinese brush on those thin metal chips (huge contrast compared to the violence during the pounding) and thus created another value-added to the "artwork". In this cycle of "from everything to nothing and from nothing to everything", different levels of value-added created unbalanced deviations: this shift is at the same time sensitive and concrete. After four years of work on this project, more than three hundred coins with miniature paintings were finally displayed in the Kunstmuseum Luzern in Switzerland in the form of an ancient "constellation chart". Unlike today, the starry sky was worshipped religiously in ancient China. This change is interesting and therefore the name of the project "the Galaxy" 2 might also have multiple interpretations.
Indeed, what excited me during this work was not the logic behind the discourse, but precisely both actions of "pounding" and "painting". In terms of painting, I took up an extremely big challenge to paint as much details as possible with the brush tip on a tiny surface of only two or three centimeters. Today everyone craves for greatness and success; qualities of artistic genres such as traditional Chinese miniature sculptures and Western Miniature art are mostly neglected. The use of tools like hammer, sand paper, knife, axe, chisel and drill surprisingly created this meticulous work through a seemingly violent and destructive process. Ancient Chinese artists pursued Taoist spirituality in their artistic creations and my humble understanding of Taoism would be Nature itself. Unlike paintings, installations depend more on objects and therefore express more directly materiality. In terms of the choice of materials used for my installations, I am always interested in "a certain materiality neglected in everyday life. "
Because of my unceasing nostalgia for subjects of everyday life, I have never been really attracted to big productions which need tons of human and material resources. Of course, the question of "big" or "small" does not have much to do with Art itself. Either "throwing straws against the wind" or "using a canon to kill a mosquito" should deserve respect. The most important thing for an artwork is to convey the spiritual "density" related to its concepts, expressions and flavors. On one hand, traditional Chinese art emphasizes the ideas of "much in little" by representing a picture of thousand miles on a small piece of paper; on the other hand, it also tries to avoid too much "heaviness" due to the meticulous brushwork: it is all about "density" and flavor. Installation art has been developing for nearly a hundred years now, where did the witty and sensitive vibrations from Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Breuys" work go? I am always touched by photographs showing Morandi painting after nature with all those bottles. I sometimes wonder whether ancient Chinese literati such as Su Dongpo and Dong Qichang would hand-make some little gadgets when they were not painting or writing. Maybe they made gadgets to amuse themselves and never considered them as "pieces of art"; therefore those objects have not been able to be handed down nor to be part of art history. However, their absence today does not mean an absence of value. In other words, the lost "artwork-to-be" compose even more vivid picture.
Mixed media on metal
Mixed media on metal