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


意像风景系列之一,布面油画

吕力访谈

时间:2012年7月18日下午
地点:昆明TCG诺地卡画廊

罗菲:TCG诺地卡画廊策展人
马睿奇(R. Orion Martin,美国):艺术工作者、翻译
吕力:旅美艺术家 (Adam Lik Lui)

马睿奇(以下简称马):你05年从美国回来之后对中国当代艺术有什么样的印象?

吕力(以下简称吕):开始想留在北京,张晓刚和曾浩邀请我留下来,后来身体对北京环境不适应,沙尘暴厉害,我觉得在一个地方搞创作要身心舒服些。在北京那种大舞台上拼搏的感觉我不喜欢,我希望在一个地方安静沉淀下来。
那时我觉得中国当代艺术处于一种恐怖的状况里,完全是商业炒作,像股票一样。艺术家在一起也不谈艺术,谈牌子,谈奢侈品。可我认识好些美国成功艺术家都很低调,他们的生活很简单。08年这个气泡爆了,这是好事,让我们可以理智下来。不能把艺术炒得跟上帝一样平起平坐。我回到云南就是为了安安静静画画、拍照、思考。

罗菲(以下简称罗):你刚回国时的绘画有明确的符号,如熊猫、中山装、雨伞等,现在转向更单纯的抽象,是什么让你发生这种转变?

吕:刚回国时很迷茫,看到别人在画就觉得有想法,一段时间之后发现没有意思,很多人都在画这些太图式化的东西,太波普与说教,缺乏艺术上持之以恒的力量。意识到艺术家应该有自己独特的风格,发自内心世界的东西。当然这批作品中也有部分是好的,不过从未发表和展出过。
新的这批画作是基于多年来对自然的敬畏与回归,自然才是生命永恒的载体和母体,我相信自然是神创造的。当我进入自然,就有一种无穷无尽的渴望与创作能量,一种飘逸的感觉。尤其是当我坐飞机到云层之上,我就有一种内心的释放和平静。

罗:我感觉你的画面在虚与实、动与静、干与湿、纯色与复色之间寻找对比的强度,对吗?

吕:是的,抽象绘画在中国其实就是写意,我最近的“意象风景”系列。在意象风景里“听风观景”,中国画总是带着一种诗的含义,书画一体,诗画一体。
其实我九十年代在香港就开始抽象绘画,后来从水墨纸本回到布面油画。
艺术的本质与意义,就是创造当下的感悟与未来的回忆!享受艺术创作过程所带来的一切体验和快乐,让自己对于生命有一个终极的交待和丰满的解释!

罗:最近一年以来你用iPhone拍照,这种方式在把握日常感觉上更敏锐更方便,在你的经验里,手机摄影和传统单反、胶片摄影,拍摄时不一样的地方在哪?

吕:专业相机太像记者架势,受人提防。我用iPhone,人家不觉得害怕,很自然。专业相机一抬出来就鸡飞狗跳,已在家休息一年了。iPhone还有软件,一边拍一边就创作了,也给我画风景的时候一些参考。我们8月在大理国际摄影展有个展览,叫“手机云南-我们身边的影像”。这让每个人都可以找到自己的记录方式,成为自己的导演。我要感谢乔布斯,他让生活美好,改变对世界的观看方式。


岁月有痕,iPhone摄影

马:其实很多人也用iPhone拍很多照片,对观众而言,如何让他们觉得看你的照片比他们自己手机里的照片更值得看?

吕:如何让自己的作品更值得观众看,是一种修为、特殊的切入点、和视点的独特。在常规与非常规中,寻找对象可以诠释的内容和意义。这就是值得看的所在之处。也是我用iPhone拍摄创作的一个初衷。

罗:前几年LOMO摄影流行的时候,往往用照片墙来展示,通过巨大数量来营造整体展示气氛,这与经典摄影的展示很不一样。那么手机摄影的展示问题你考虑过吗?

吕:我们即将开幕的展览,用最统一的方法,45cm×45cm的白框,里面的照片自己决定,可以是邮票大小,也可以是其他尺寸。这次展示比较常规。

罗:任何媒介的出现,艺术家都面临两个问题,一是如何转换为自己的语言,不只是工具;其次是如何有效地与观众交流,即展示问题。我理解,智能手机拍摄的最好展示平台应该在互联网上,比如微博、facebook等社会性网络服务(SNS)。常规画廊空间展览上,观众对作品主要是欣赏,没有与作品与作者产生实际交流。而一张照片拍了传上网,很快有评论、赞、喜欢、拍砖等等,甚至网友拿来PS再创作再诠释,互动性非常强。如果你拍的内容具有新闻价值,那很快就变成一桩公共事件,拍摄者就不只是艺术家,更是公民记者。换句话说,在数字环境中,手机摄影不只是为了审美,而是为了信息与社交。

吕:是,互联网具有更强的互动性。那么二十年以后的纸媒是否会消失?

罗:也许以后书籍出版的时候电子版占80%,20%是限量纸媒,收藏版的。
去年我在路易斯安娜博物馆看了大卫•霍克尼iPad、iPhone绘画展,发现他的iPad绘画毫不比他的布面油画逊色。你认为手机摄影能做到和传统摄影比肩吗?

吕:从发展角度看,应该是可以的。从胶片到数码,再到手机摄影,我们应该保持开放的姿态。以后我们的身份就是iPhone artist,我觉得只是媒介不一样而已。当然,手机拍照优秀与否,在于你的修养。要多拍,慢慢积累,也讲究构图、光线和画面信息,有明确的图像信息,自然就好了。其实我看网上很多人都用iPhone拍,都拍得很好。我们不是要去比器材,要比想法、眼力和修养。一支铅笔和一支派克钢笔写字都可以,最后我们不是看什么东西写的,而是看文章好不好。

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