Interview with Adam Lik Lui


Thought-Image Landscapes, oil on canvas

Interview with Adam Lik Lui

Time: Afternoon of July 18, 2012
Location: TCG Nordica Gallery, Kunming

Luo Fei: Curator at TCG Nordica Gallery
R. Orion Martin: Art worker, translator
Adam Lik Lui: Artist

R. Orion Martin (hereafter Orion): After you returned from the United States in 2005, what was your impression of the Chinese contemporary art scene?

Adam Lik Lui (hereafter Adam): At first I thought about moving to Beijing, and Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Hao invited me to stay with them. Later I realized that my body wasn’t suitable for living in Beijing. The sandstorms were terrible, and I think that if you’re going to make art, you need to be in place where your body is a bit more comfortable. In Beijing there’s a feeling that you’re wrestling on an enormous stage, and it’s something I’m not fond of. I like to peacefully settle down in a location.
At that time I thought that Chinese art was in a terrible state. It was all commercialism and hype, like selling stocks. When artists got together, they would talk about brands and luxury goods instead of art. The successful American artists I know are all very low key and lead simple lives. I think it’s great that the bubble burst in 2008. It allows us to reflect a bit. We can’t over-speculate art to such an absurd extent. I returned to Yunnan in order to peacefully paint, take photos, and think.

Luo Fei (hereafter Luo): Your paintings after you had just returned to China feature clear symbols such as pandas, Chinese tunics, and umbrellas. Now you have moved towards pure abstraction. What caused this change?

Adam: When I had just returned I was bewildered. I saw other people painting like that and thought [that style] had ideas behind it. After a time I discovered it wasn’t interesting. Many people were just developing their own recognizable symbols. It was too Pop, too preachy. It lacked artistic perseverance. I realized that artists need to have their own unique style, and express things from their inner world. Of course among those paintings I did there were some that were good, but I never published or exhibited them.
This new group of paintings is based on my reverence of and return to nature. Nature is the eternal vessel and mother of life. I believe nature is created by God. When I enter nature, I am struck by a vast longing and creative power, a feeling of drifting. Especially when I take a plane above the clouds, I feel an inner release and tranquility.

Luo: I think your paintings search for a stark contrast between nothingness and reality, between movement and stillness, between dry and wet, between pure and mixed colors. Is this correct?

Adam: Adam: Yes, abstract art in China is actually just [the Chinese artistic tradition of] xieyi (spontaneous expression). My recent series of “Thought-Image Landscapes” is an example. In Thought-Image Landscapes I listen to the wind and observe the scenery. Traditional Chinese painting has always carried poetic connotations, integrating images with texts and poems.
Actually I began making abstract works when I was living in Hong Kong in the 90s. Later I returned to oil painting from ink paintings.
The essence and significance of art is to create the realization of the present and the recollection of the future! It is to enjoy all of the experiences and joys that the artistic process brings, and have an ultimate justification for and rich interpretation of life.

Luo: In the past year you have been using your iPhone to take pictures. This method is more sensitive and convenient in capturing a feeling of daily life. In your experience, what is the difference when using a camera phone, traditional SLR or film camera?

Adam: Professional cameras put people on guard because they seem so much like those used by reporters. When I use an iPhone, there’s no fear. People act very naturally. As soon as you take out a professional camera, everyone scatters. Mine has been in my home, resting for the past year. The iPhone also has software that allows me to photograph and edit at simultaneously. It’s also useful for consultation when I paint landscapes.
In the Dali International Photography Exhibition coming up in August, we will have an exhibition named “Cellphone Yunnan – the Images Around Us.” This allows everyone to find their own method of recording and become their own director. I want to thank Steve Jobs for making life more beautiful and changing the way we see the world.

Years has left a mark, by iPhone

Orion: Today there are many people using iPhones. In regard to your audience, how can looking at your works be more valuable to them than looking at those that they themselves have taken?

Adam: My works worth the gaze of the audience because of their cultivation, unusual entry point, and unique viewpoint. I search for subjects that can convey content and significance in conventional and unconventional ways. This is true of all things that are worth looking at, and a fundamental goal in my work with the iPhone.

Luo: A few years ago when LOMO photography was popular, it was common to cover the walls with photos during exhibitions in order to construct the overall exhibition atmosphere. This is quite different than the methods used for traditional photography. Have you thought about how best to display cell phone photos?

Adam: For the exhibition we’re preparing now, we have decided on a unified system. There will be a frame of 45cm by 45cm and the artist will decide the dimensions of the photo inside. It could be the size of a postage stamp or some other dimensions. This will be relatively conventional exhibition style.

Luo: Whatever media they use, all artists face two questions. The first is how to develop their own language that is not merely based in their tools. The second is how to effectively communicate with their audience, that is, how to display their works. As I understand, the best platform for smart phone camera photography should be the internet, such as Weibo, facebook, and other Social Networking Services (SNS). In a conventional exhibition space, the audience primarily admires the works and has no actual interaction with the works and the artist. But if a photo is posted on the web, it will quickly receive comments, support, likes, and attacks. Internet friends may even use Photoshop to recreate and reinterpret your works. The interactivity is very strong. If the photos you take have news value, they will quickly become a public event. Photographers aren’t just artists, but citizen reporters. In other words, in a digital environment, cellphone photography is not just for aesthetics but for information and social contact.

Adam: That’s right. The internet is more interactive. In the next 20 years, will paper media cease to exist?

Luo: Perhaps after some time the profits of book publishing will be 80% from digital sales and 20% from paper-based works for collection.
Last year in Louisiana, Copenhagen I saw an exhibition by David Hockney that was done completely on iPads and iPhones. I found that his iPad based works were almost of the same quality as his oil paints. Do you think cellphone photography can stand shoulder to shoulder with traditional photography?

Adam: In terms of development, it should be possible. From film to digital and now to cellphone photography, we should keep an open attitude. In the future there will be more iPhone artists around us. I think that the media they use is the only difference. It’s important to take many photos and gradually develop, and to pay close attention to the composition, lighting and message. If it has a clear message that comes across naturally, that’s enough. Actually I see many people using iPhones on the internet who shoot very well. There’s no need to compare equipment, so instead we compare ideas, vision, and accomplishments. You can write with a pencil or a Parker fountain pen. Ultimately we don’t care about what you write with, but whether your essay is good or not.

吕力访谈:镜像与迷失

吕力访谈:镜像与迷失

文/罗菲
吕力(Adam Lui):摄影家,美籍华人
时间:2011年4月1日早上10点
地点:昆明TCG诺地卡画廊

罗菲(以下简称罗):你在1987年底去了香港5年,1992年底去了美国13年,但在国内的时候就开始做装置艺术,那时在国内是非常前卫的,能谈谈当时的状况吗?

吕力(以下简称吕):最早学画的时候是从印象派开始,82年到中央工艺美院后接受包豪斯体系、表现主义、超现实主义、维也纳分离派,因此比较超前体验这些新颖的西方艺术样式。我最早的装置展览是90年在深圳博物馆和王川做的,我的装置展叫“视界•生灵”,王川做的装置展叫“墨点”,香港汉雅轩出资,我当时对空间特别感兴趣,做了许多装置艺术的尝试。

去美国是因为兄弟在那边很孤独,我去陪他。美国对我而言是一个新大陆,比较好奇。93年我拿着自己的作品去找画廊,遇到美籍意大利画家白尼尼,他说与其找画廊,不如自己做工作室,因为工作室才能够真正展现你的艺术面貌和精神状态,工作室是艺术家的精神教堂,后来我和兄弟创立了吕氏兄弟艺术工作室,和当地艺术界交流很多,也学到很多。

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(左)元谋,云南,中国,2008。(右)纽约,美国,2007

罗:到美国后开始转向了摄影,从哪里来的影响?还是一种自觉?

吕:是一种直觉的体验吧!80年代的时候我认为摄影只是采风的手段,后来发现它其实可以是独立的。后来对数码摄影十分着迷,97年以后逐渐抛弃了胶片,开始玩数码,当时数码相机只有六百万像素,主要记录在美国生活中的琐碎事物,像日记一样。因此画册里《镜像系列》大部分是早期在美国的纪实摄影。之后也尝试过回到绘画,但发现摄影更适合我。

罗:留意到你在美国的摄影中有许多对建筑、同性恋群体、朋克群体的关注,是基于怎样的考虑?

吕:无论一个人是同性恋还是朋克,我都关注,因为人都有各自的价值和思想。中国的传统价值观和社会里没有出现过这些,我觉得很有意思,记录下来也是一种基于人类学的考虑。

我觉得西方建筑是很值得借鉴的,我在香港时就特别意识到建筑的重要性。加上我兄弟是学建筑的,无形中也受其影响。在昆明TCG诺地卡画廊展览“消失的地平线”(2006年5月)的作品中很多就是对城市规划的看法,觉得中国文化被拆了,特别痛心,这是城市个性丧失的表现。

罗:美国对你最大的影响是什么?

吕:思想的包容性、开放性,和不断尝试。美国教育是鼓励不断提问,而不是只接受,却不反思,是启发式的,这是创作中很重要的灵感来源。就是通过作品提出问题和观念,提出对社会的质问。

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(左)芝加哥,伊利诺伊,美国2010。(右)大理,云南,中国,2009

罗:《镜像系列》是你从无数纪实摄影的素材中选取出来所做的后期蒙太奇创作,试图在两个图像间寻找第三层含义,比如美国与香港的车厢,美国和中国街头的女孩,美国的一棵枯树和中国的一棵树,美国高楼间的云雾和中国山腰里的一朵云,看到他们之间不同的处境。是基于怎样的思考?

吕:我觉得文化是需要对比与比较的,找到价值观的存在和差异。无论是通过我们的中庸之道,还是其他什么方式,找到更好的适合人类共处的方式。无论中方文化还是西方文化,都有缺陷,都有美好的,对比之后可以找到一种价值取向。在距离里产生对比,这是视觉的力量。

罗:也就是说你把摄影当作采集生活素材的方式,然后让它们在一起自己对话。

吕:对,摄影是生活的思考方式,就像吃饭一样日常。每个人都看这个世界,但看完之后,艺术家通过点滴积累,会把记忆和历史定格,产生反思。摄影像电影一样,把现实记录下来。艺术家创作历史,历史也创造艺术家。

迷失系列-芭芘 中国 2009

罗:在《迷失系列》中,你像画家那样反复敲打一种个人符号和图式来完成你的观念,这和经典摄影中强调单幅照片的决定性瞬间等理念有所不同。并且你主要采用摆拍手法和大量的后期数码技术处理。

吕:《镜像系列》相对比较客观,而《迷失系列》相对比较主观。我回到中国后感到很迷失,过去的家园很多都找不到了,很荒诞。在60年代的建筑里也找不到当年的记忆,因此我把80后90后少女放在在其中,表现出一种迷失,断根文化,虽然我们有五千年文化,但我们在废墟里显得十分迷茫。我们来自哪里,我们要去哪里,这是永恒的命题。

通过后期制作,达到我想要的效果,就是时空的荒诞感,文化断根的荒诞感。人类历史应该是完整的,像榕树一样延绵生长,版纳的榕树独树成林的现象给我很大启发。

我使用女孩主要是象征时尚,物质生活,但我们是否需要保留精神的东西?因为精神是我们保留文化非常重要的方面。

迷失系列-行为 中国 2009

罗:《迷失系列》都以废墟为背景,这种废墟美学让我想起中国当代艺术90年代以来的大量作品,如张大力的涂鸦,展望清洗废墟的计划等等。一方面废墟美学让我们有浓郁的怀旧情结,另一方面,我们又如何从废墟中展开建设呢?

吕:对,重新建设很重要,不只是怀旧。我们看二战中的德国就是个例子,如何从废墟里站起来,如何重新表现出德意志强大的精神力量。当时德国被摧毁得一塌糊涂,现在却重新站起来了。我们可能会很怀旧,但我们也盼望有一种新的开始,虽然背景都是废墟,我们将来的生活是否会更有意思。我们能否为文化注入新的血液,记住历史的连续性、完整性。

罗:新的血液是什么?

吕:人文文化的真正回归和关爱的到来!需要参照西方城市规划,老城和新城如何分开,而非拆了建新的。这城里有爷爷辈的文化、有父辈的文化、有儿子孙子的文化。城市应该充满个性,昆明就是昆明,每个地方都有自己的元素和土壤,城市间需要差异。

罗:“迷失”是你近几年重要的创作主题,是否跟你的多年的旅美经历有关?你觉得在美国和在中国哪里更让你感到迷失?

吕:我觉得在中国更迷失。我很惊讶美国历史只有200年,但所有的城市、历史很完整,对文化很重视,你可以看到英殖民的文化、西班牙的文化、印第安人的文化,都完整保留下来。城市规划里看到老城和新城是分开的,这是一个完整的脉搏。无论去英国还是法国,他们对文化的保留都很科学和民主。他们懂得尊重文化传承。

罗:迷失不仅是城市规划问题,更是人的存在问题,你认为人为何会迷失?

吕:因为丧失了对宗教的信仰。无论是敦煌文化还是西方基督教,没有宗教人就会无意识的遗忘,就有拜金主义的疯狂欲望。什么是商人?专门伤害人的就是“商人”。我们也需要尊重自然,人与自然和谐同样需要宗教的思想,这是生命的终极问题。

罗:你说摄影是“带有狂妄的发现癖;好奇的偷窃癖。它像一挺为所欲为疯狂扫射目标的机关枪……”,这段话让我想起诗人于坚在《暗盒笔记》里写道,摄影者要为自己的镜头忏悔,因为他惊扰了现实中的安静和陌生人的心灵。这涉及到摄影的伦理问题,一方面是纪实摄影,比如前段时间打捞见义勇为大学生遗体的《挟尸要价》获最高新闻摄影奖所引发的争议,另一方面是数码技术,比如“周老虎案”中利用数码技术对华南虎造假的事件。你怎么看摄影的伦理问题?它有没有边界?在哪里?

吕:确实有伦理问题。是艺术家哗众取宠,还是说真话。这是艺术家责任问题,是做人的基本道德。艺术家的道德标准非常重要。我在云艺代课的时候,很多年轻学生也在关注这个问题,就是摄影师的修养。只有这样,才能创造出感人的作品。当然,每个人按自己的理解去看图片所获得的信息也不一样,解读的角度不一样,因此需要审视作品背后真正要说的话是什么,通过艺术评论、访谈或者其他方式来证明和澄清一些或正面或反面的动机。

罗:摄影领域中有哪些大师对你有过影响?

吕:早期我比较喜欢美国亚当斯(Ansel Adams)的风光摄影,当时我去敦煌,看到人与天地间唯美的东西十分崇高,自然的美让人无法拒绝。在城市里我又喜欢法国的布列松(Henri Cartiter-Bresson),记录每天生活的点滴,却拍出了经典的东西,正如他著名的 “决定性瞬间”理念。中国的有吕楠拍的精神病院三部曲,天主教和西藏都很不错。云南的吴家林我也很喜欢,记录云南本土的人文。在《迷失系列》中我受到上海马良的影响,作品里带有超现实主义的表现倾向。还有德国汉慕特•牛顿(Helmut Newton)的女性时尚摄影,拍摄《布拉格之春》的捷克人寇德卡(Josef Koudelka)的纪实摄影,日本荒木经惟(Arakinobuyoshi)的私摄影,他们都给我很多启示,他们具有强烈个性化的执着和追求,让我很感动,因此向他们致敬。

luofei-adam

采访现场:罗菲,吕力