陸潔民，曾任台灣拍賣公司的拍賣官以及顧問，臺灣畫廊協會秘書長，中國上海及北京國際畫廊博覽會藝術委員會委員，2004年受聘為中央美院客座教授。現任臺灣畫廊協會資深顧問及拍賣官，台北國際藝術博覽會ART TAIPEI顧問，台北YOUNG ART 藝術博覽會顧問， 上海藝術博覽會顧問，上海泓盛拍賣公司顧問，台灣IC之音『藝術ABC』節目主持人。
The Grand Blue
A Discussion of Jo Hsieh’s Work and Life Aesthetics: An Interview with Jimmy Lu
Chini Art Gallery (hereafter Chini): Blue is the main theme of artist Jo Hsieh’s work. Could you first tell us a little about the relationship between the colour blue and Jo’s work?
Jimmy Lu (Lu Jiemin) (hereafter Lu): When it comes to the relationship between Jo’s work and the colour blue, I think the aesthetic theories of Zong Bai-hua explain it pretty well:‘Passing through life in a tragic mood, transcending it with a humorous mood.’If art is a way to vent our feelings, then the emotions of the artist will be reflected in their works. Thus, Jo chose blue – not a happy red, or a hopeful green. For her, art is a means of release. Through it she can transform her moods into artwork so that they can be shared, and so that she herself is happy.‘Passing through life in a tragic mood’is an essential process for artistic creation, and thus Jo’s own condition has been a factor in her becoming an extraordinary artist. As for when she is able to‘transcend life through humor’, this too is not an escape from life, it is rather the second of life’s two states. When you see her at the opening ceremony take off her shoes, and then talk and laugh with everyone, this is an expression of humour.
Chini: If we once again delve into the world of colour, of which blue is a part: Jo is an artist who works almost entirely in blue. What do you think of such an artistic style? How do you regard the‘ blue’of Jo Hsieh?
Lu: Jo’s blue is an incredibly beautiful blue, but it is also a highly melancholy blue. Blue itself is an emotional colour, which contains great depths of feeling. Jo’s blues are thus not merely melancholy, it would be overly simplistic to say that. To borrow her own explanation, there are many, many different blues. It is as though blue is a whole colour spectrum in itself. Jo is meticulous in her attention to detail when it comes to blue. Thus, when you look at her blues from deepest navy blue through to iridescent sky blues they form a circle of light. She also works in many different materials. She gives her deepest blues a three-dimensional foundation so that they are never just flat. Around their periphery they thus give off streaks, like the tongues of flame given off by the sun when releasing energy. Next to these flames she applies a little light blue, giving the whole a sense of dynamism. There is a kind of energy to her work, manifested in those streaks of flame. However, the overall colours exemplify the state of tragedy. Jo’s philosophical thought is expressed in her paintings. I believe that the simplest, minimalistic methods are the most brilliant, although the process of creation must have involved much reflection on her part. Seeing Jo’s blues, we recall the blues of Klein. Klein’s blues are also extremely famous, and most likely Klein’s blues also reflected his contemporary state of mind.
Chini: Jo has previously said that she was deeply moved by Klein’s blues.
Lu: That would be because in Klein’s blues, Jo perceives the potential that blue has, that it can stabilize wild and contradictory moods, that it can be half-melancholy and yet half-humorous… From blue it is possible to explore changing moods and states. We believe that a good artist is capable of expressing their feelings in their works, and that artworks resemble their creator. In the creative process, feelings and mood unconsciously seep into the work, so that viewers perceive them in the finished artwork.This is why, after viewing Van Gogh’s work, we feel melancholy and sad. It is not because we are thinking of the sadness of his life, but because of the sorrow that lies in his works themselves. Wealthy people buy Van Gogh paintings so that through his paintings they can experience for themselves the suffering they do not normally experience, and this is their most precious quality. Thus, when appreciating a painting by Jo, it can be seen as a simple minimalist symbol but can also allow the state of being tangled up between tragedy and humor to be deeply felt.
Chini: Jo’s pieces weave together contradictory moods and feelings, yet, on viewing them, they appear balanced.
Lu: Yes, exactly. Eternity is a contradiction. Tai Chi (the Absolute, the Supreme Ultimate) is a kind of contradiction but also a kind of equilibrium.
Chini: You mentioned just now a‘minimalist symbol’. Is it possible for viewers to use perspectives derived from the minimalist movement to interpret Jo’s work?
Lu: Minimalist artistic expression is extremely difficult. The difficulty lies in that the artist’s mental and psychological state underpins their artworks. Mental state can be transformed into a capacity for expression and the displaying of emotion, and this is a highly individual feeling. In truth, it’s not everyone who likes minimalist art. It takes a person with an extremely developed aesthetic to really appreciate its beauty. A person of refinement will like a minimalistic environment. So the people who like Jo’s works are most likely themselves think philosophically, and have mental state energy.
Chini: On first viewing Jo’s works the average individual may feel the works are very distant. They may well consider them abstract and with profound implications, but ultimately hard to understand. What do you think?
Lu: At first, I didn’t really understand them either. However, I have been viewing paintings for two decades, and I know how to keep an open mind and learn to appreciate the works of such unusual artists. It’s a little like when I first came across the works of Yayoi Kusama. Seeing all those black dots, at first I also thought there was nothing to them. Yet after she persevered in creating such works for so many years, I discovered that she is constantly reiterating her own collectivist, repetitive doctrine. Those round dots are her own process of treatment. If she does not paint those round dots, she becomes agitated and it is only painting that can soothe her mood. Artistic creation is itself a process of healing, a habitual action that settles the mind, so it is a state of enjoying melancholy and suffering.
Chini: Some viewers feel that Jo’s works have healing properties. Do you think this is because the viewers sense the healing relationship between these works and the artist?
Lu: This is on the level of the viewer. The effects of empathy should also be considered – that is to say the life and experiences of the viewer will influence their understanding of the work. If the work reflects their needs, then from Jo’s work they will perceive this and may gain some measure of healing. This is in itself quite remarkabl.
Chini: So are you saying artworks are open texts, only completed by the viewer’s own understanding?
Lu: That is exactly what I mean. Thus‘beauty’is not an essential quality of the works themselves, rather it is assigned by the viewer. You say something is beautiful, I say it isn’t, so is it beautiful or not? It isn’t the objects themselves that are beautiful, but whether you in your mind have the plane of beauty.
Chini: So, when viewers admire Jo’s work they do not require an answer to be supplied, but rather they need a space for their own understanding?
Lu: No artist could give a narrow answer. Instead, artists transport us to a more profound realm, rather like Jo’s None-Space. Jo leads us into deeper philosophical reflection. She will answer your questions, but afterwards you sink into a state where you discover you must do more to fully understand. Individuals, through the process of painstaking investigation, develop a deeper interactive relationship with the artworks. In fact, when I view and reflect on Jo’s works, I must also engage in introspection as I try to think of ways to further investigate Jo’s work so that I understand it and can help viewers come to their own understanding of her paintings. As for the viewers, well, if you are cultivated you will understand what you see; if you gain aesthetic knowledge you will understand what you see. If you have not experienced loneliness, how can you understand Jo’s paintings? This issue is all about the individual viewer.
Chini: Would you be willing to share with us how you felt the first time you saw Jo’s work?
Lu: At first I wasn’t really sure who the painter of the painting I saw was, and so I saw Klein’s blue and felt that this artist was trying to express a kind of energy, that she must be using her painting to express a mood. I felt that she must have used so much energy to paint that blue light circle. We hadn’t seen anyone doing something like this before, so it was as though she created a whole new feeling. We are attracted by new feelings. We always stress that artists must have‘a fresh, unique style’, or‘techniques that are hard to substitute’, or be‘of good character and cultivated’. As we have skimmed through more than enough art history and are familiar with the art market, we are called experts. As we have seen enough, we can judge if you truly are creative or not. Because if your work is merely a copy of someone else’s, then there is no need to talk of philosophy or the psychology of the artist.
Chini: What do you think is the distinction between Jo’s blues and Klein’s blues?
Lu: I say that stealing cleverly is called absorbing, stealing without being clever is plagiarism. If she were to use just the one blue, without the surrounding halo, that would be plagiarism. But Jo, after her blue inspiration, also constructs dot, line, aspect three dimensional spaces and these show her uniqueness. After the point of inspiration, she has taken things forward and developed them. She has used her own thoughts and philosophy to create different artworks which have no relationship to those of Klein, but that are intimately related to Jo herself, that are related to her philosophy and to her psychological state, and thus those works are completely and utterly Jo’s.
Chini: You say that in Jo’s works you perceive a new form of expression. As a respected observer and advisor in Asian art circles, and having seen so many artists and their work, what do you feel is unique about Jo Hsieh’s work?
Lu: Her works are basically minimalist art, artworks with the ability to convey mood and feelings. Her paintings are minimalist art abstract paintings. But I dare not define her in one word, as we still need more time to tell where she really fits.
Chini: Many contemporary artworks, in either creative techniques or in concept, stress the encounter between East and West, for example:‘Eastern in ideology, Western in application’or the opposite. What is your opinion of this? Do you think this kind of perspective can be used to interpret Jo’s works? How should they be interpreted?
Lu: Klein’s blues are part of a Western tradition of art. Jo herself holds a PhD in philosophy, and so she certainly has encountered the thought of Lao-tze and Chuang-tze. The earliest Chinese abstract art is grass script, a cursive style of calligraphy, and so here there is a collision between the philosophy of east and west. Jo has combined Klein’s blues with the flowing strokes of Chinese calligraphy – these are the flame-like lines in her work. She has absorbed the energy of grass script, made it her totem, and each stroke of her brush has the fluent, flowing style of grass script. She has ringed each stroke with a halo, creating an effect whereby energy is created at the level of the structure of the most microscopic elements of her work. In her Pigment series, the circles she creates are like the circles of Tai Chi, the Absolute, the Ultimate. The representation of Tai Chi is the ancient Chinese idea that heaven is a circle, and earth is a square. So the circles in her work are the circle of heaven, and the frame of the painting is the square of the earth. This principle extends to the realm of how to conduct oneself and behave with integrity – outwardly regulated and principled, inwardly tolerant and forgiving. So we can discuss Jo’s work in terms of Chinese art, or in terms of Eastern philosophy. She expresses Chinese concepts of Tai Chi in her blues and paints the Tai Chi of her heart. Amid her deep blues and sky blues, and the S shapes and points found in her Tai Chi, we find the flowing strokes of the Pigment series. You can see the way in which some strokes curve and bend, and so you could also use the Eight Trigrams of Tai Chi to interpret Jo’s works. She uses other forms to represent the psychological condition of Tai Chi, what she refers to as‘None-Space’. She likes Klein’s blues, she likes Tai Chi, but from them she has created new forms which belong solely to Jo’s own blues and Jo’s own Tai Chi – her None-Space.
Chini: Overall, then, Jo’s works are not distant from life at all, but are connected to everything?
Lu: The‘tragedy’and‘humor’I mentioned today are Tai Chi.‘Passing through life in a tragic mood’is black,‘Passing through life in a tragic mood, transcending it with a humorous mood’is white, but black and white exist together. The extreme point of white is black, black in extremity is white. Your sadness or tiredness is black, when you grope blindly in your suffering, searching for wisdom, and afterwards are happy once again, this is white. The wheel comes full circle and it creates energy and potential as it does so, in an infinite ever-revolving cycle. If humour and comedy can be used to transcend the world then this is saying‘I accept’, and life will become more stable. Thus in Jo’s works, we can read much life experience. In understanding her works, we can grasp at the unlimited energy of life. In actual fact, a truly profound artwork can never be explained too clearly, as any explanation is related to the viewers’own aesthetic appreciation of the work, their viewing experience, and breadth of their knowledge. So today I hope to inspire viewers, for true difference is reflected in them and their differing appreciation. Art is at once simple and complex, at once repetitive and myriad in its variety. It seems simple on first glance, but after deeper investigation, your senses will discover the boundless potential within them. This is Tai Chi, and this is the relationship Jo’s works hold with life.
Chini: Finally, if you could use one sentence to describe the relationship between Jo Hsieh’s work and life aesthetic, what would you say?
Lu: It would be precisely the words of Zong Bai-hua that I started with:‘Passing through life in a tragic mood, transcending it with a humorous mood.’This is the‘none-space’of life. They that reach the realm of none-space earliest will be the happiest. Jo calls this state none-space, for art lovers like myself it is a‘spiritual home’. We art lovers wallow in the atmosphere of art. From it, amid all the suffering of life, we find pleasure and, ultimately, we gain a measure of wisdom. Finally we reach a space inside our own minds, the‘spiritual home’. Having reached this space, we become both‘connoisseurs’ and‘collectors’, and understand the principles of life. This is a most beautiful condition, the ideal world expressed in the Tai Chi. Although it is very hard to attain, happiness lies on the road towards it. It is very hard for us to reach this plane as we are, after all, mere individuals. However, all it needs is that we are at heading in the right direction and we can be happy.
Jimmy Lu, former auctioneer and advisor for various large auction houses across China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, secretary of the Taiwan Art Galleries Association, China Shanghai and Beijing International Gallery Exposition Art Committee Member, visiting professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts since 2004. He is currently the senior consultant and auctioneer for the Taiwan Art Galleries Association, the consultant for Art Taipei, Young Art Taipei, Shanghai Art Fair, and Shanghai Hosane Auction Co., Ltd. .He is also the host for Art ABC, IC Broadcasting Company.