Painting is a flood and a wild beast


At the very beginning, humans comprehended the world through painting. Painting allowed us into a mystical relationship with the world, a relationship we normally refer to as "concentration." In fact, no matter what we choose to call painting, it is always a natural force. When we are in possession of this force, we need only a brush and a piece of paper or another surface. Under the brush everything will take shape and gain emotion and vitality. This is our primal understanding of abstraction.  Painting tells us that the material world is finite, and that the world unseen by us is eternal. Painting is the most direct way to access this unseen world.


For me, painting is a flood and a wild beast.


It is a monumental risk existing in the interstice between consciousness and unconsciousness. To lose this consciousness is death. And this consciousness, so supple and attenuated, develops and transforms in such an exceedingly subtle manner that it is inherently close to extinction. To paint is to set oneself adrift in the infinite unknown, its dangers unpredictable, uncontrollable, beyond description. All we can do is to try to approach it, again and again, with our consciousness. The only medium for this consciousness is the painter's body. This is why painting is an adventure of the senses, not only of the mind and the spirit. Only on the cliff-edge of consciousness do we discover the possibilities for creation. When our feelings are transmuted into expressive form and content, when our bodies become bodies of another existence, when our inner light becomes a beautiful trace--this is the extreme at which painting comes into being.


When I paint dense scenes I cannot see the details at all. My eyes lose sight of the painting. Only when I am blind to the movement of the brush can I feel things beyond the painting. Or: only when my eyes have disappeared does my body truly exist. And the viewer also exists in my experience. The truth of the line is absolutely invisible on its own; viewers can perceive it only through a microscope. Yet what they cannot see with their eyes they can sense with their bodies. The true unknown eludes rationality or even the physical senses, penetrating the soul directly.


Such is painting's nature. It is always a surprise to me. For this reason I owe my entire existence to it, and it gives me tremendous pleasure. It leads me to normally inaccessible riches and desolation, to states of being uncommon in the human world. I have spent several months in the sun and in scorching heat on a mountain; I have also laid my body on a frozen lake several kilometers wide. Extreme risk engenders all sorts of unusual beauty. Risk is profoundly meaningful because it denies repetition and indolence and is incompatible with mechanical production. It unmasks all imperfection as unforgivable dreariness and weakness.


It brings me the sudden scent of an osmanthus in the middle of the night.


When the painting appears in front of me, I will say to it, quietly:


"I could not imagine your arrival, neither its time nor its place.


"I could not imagine your fierceness, your speed, your quietude, your mystery, your nuance, your agility, your existence. I could not even imagine your form. Your appearance could not be anticipated, just as we can never predict a flood. A flood eradicates all intelligent life, but it also creates the greatest opening for myriad things to flourish. A flood is nature's mutation.


"Wild beasts represent the beauty of primal beings, without the burden of civilization, without the inhibition of consciousness. Earth dances through them. This dance is the pulsation of a disappearance because wild beasts are ultimately assimilated into the world. From nature's perspective, their violence and bloodthirst are expressions of power. From beginning to end, you are a beast in the eyes of wilderness and wilderness in the minds of the beasts.


"My painting! Before your arrival, you did not know where or when you were. All you could do was gaze at me and channel the entire universe into the tip of my brush. Under my brush you waited, and there you emerged, swayed, swirled, transformed, soared, and became immortal.


"How far I traveled in life before our encounter! The solitude and insecurity of this experience, and the patience and attention it demands, only those who have gone through it can know. Because of your singularity, I realized that I could only sense your presence in complete concentration. Only when my world was void, only when I was in the deepest and most unforgiving state, could I feel your peace. You emptied yourself completely to give my contemplating mind the only possible space for resonance.


"So you needed me to be quiet, pure, lucid. I could not be moved by anything else. In this way you became the only fluid form in my world. All time and space was still. You--like a flood, like a wild beast--consumed me whole.


"Your relationship to me is my relationship to myself. Your risk dissipates as you become me--because I myself am that risk."


This is my message to painting: only when we are fused with each other completely, only when we share our breaths and fates, can it be at peace. Only then is it vital, pliant, and capable of demonstrating to me the fullness of its beauty. What painting needs is not a self-centered painter. What it needs is someone who knows how to live with it. To coexist with a flood and a wild beast is to transcend life. It is to embark on a journey to uncover an infinitude of beauty and potential--a journey distant, uncertain, without destination, without structure, but one that ultimately gives us utmost happiness.


The risk in painting is the death wish that necessarily accompanies the human spirit's ascent to the greatest heights. We love painting because it is not only a game of courage, but also an all-consuming dash through an eternal wilderness.

(Translated from Chinese by Ink Studio)