Interview with Mr. Fu Wenjun, a Careful Examiner of History and the Present (Pro
I tend to take photography as a way of doing painting, yet it differs essentially from pictorial photography. ------Fu Wenjun
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Mr. Fu, could you please share with us when you started your photography and then took it as a form of art?
Mr. Fu: Yes. I picked up the Camera at the end of the 1970s. At that time, my work in the 2nd Bureau of Light Industry was mainly about publicizing our office. So for the sake of work, I took many documentary photos. Then in 1983, I studied oil painting major in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, as I was deeply in love with art and longing for some professional learning in the field of art.
After graduation from the Institute, I worked from graphic design to creative advertisement planning. In this period, I was busy with taking photos for making material of my work, so busy that I have little time to make a complete painting, even though I still held special preference for painting. Therefore, I made up my mind to take photography, a momentary artistic language to do art, in that I could involve my photos in my painting when I have time.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: You have once worked in the cinema and made postal for films, so how do you think of that period of work, especially its effect on your art career?
Mr. Fu: Strictly speaking, it was not a full-time job; my strong love for painting pushed me to go to the cinema voluntarily to help my teachers. You know, making film postal was a perfect way to practice my painting skills, as the cinema could provide me with many useful, yet free materials, like painting oil, pencils and painting cloth, which I felt hard to afford at that time. That period was of special meaning to me and I shall always cherish it in my memory. My present success in art also has a lot to do with it.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Mr. Fu, you are generally acknowledged as the leader of Conceptual Photography in the Southwestern area. So how do you understand the focus of the conceptual photography and its difference with other forms of photography?
Mr. Fu: Conceptual photography is an independent and unique way of making painting. Its major difference from other forms of photography lies in its expression of the subjective mood of the artist, and the artist takes photography as the medium to raise meaningful topic or theme and then brings forth even deeper thinking on it. Thoughts based on the conceptual photography are broad, and no fixed framework is built, so that various ideas are sought.
Different from traditional news photography and documentary photography, our conceptual photography is not to make an original and objective record of the world, but works more as a medium for the artist to express subjective mood. It is of academic characteristics, rich in thoughts, special in point of view and structure, and it attaches particular importance to the originality and expressing techniques of photography.
At present, superficial interpretation of traditional cultural elements through scanning and skimming art works are sought by some people, while what I’m pursuing is jumping out of the yoke of these dull visual photos.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Your Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs(Shier Shengxiao) and Story of Expo Parks (Wanguo Yuanji) have created great sensation in the world, so what is the intrinsic meaning beneath your works.
Mr. Fu: Story of Expo Parks exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennial in May is the twin work of Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs, exhibited in 2009. They both set the theme in the Expos of Eight Countries, namely the UK,France,Germany,Japan,Italy,Austria, theUSAandRussia. These eight countries invadedChinain a union in 1900. So my work is a serious examination and introspection of Chinese history of that period.
However, when I set the ruinedOldSummerPalacein the modern Expos of these countries, I don’t mean to ask them to say sorry or pose historic troubles, just as the journalists at the 55th Venice Biennial gossipingly ask me if I am to argue for the cruelty of the history. My focus is, through artistic language, on the peaceful communication with the West, to strengthen friendship, to show how open and tolerable we are. Of course, we shall never forget the cruel history and the pain our older generations have suffered. Yet we should cherish the fine world environment to look forward to the increasingly melted and multiple development of our culture. Take my present work Lose anOpportunityClose at Hand for example. We create Thousand-Hand- Guanyin, while the West has made Venus. They are respectively unique, yet equally important and in the meantime mutually beneficial from each other.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Apart from those works on history, how about other works? Please introduce some other works that focus on the local culture of your hometown,Chongqingmunicipality.
Mr. Fu: Sure. I made Neighbors (JIE FANG LINJU) in 2010. It’s a critical thinking of modern cities. We all know urbanization is the trend, yet it is impeccable. Our modern cities are almost the same in nature, with skyscrapers, crowed streets, shopping malls gathered around modern squares, without a few distinctive characteristics. When you wake up inChongqing, you may feel it inShanghai, or when you go to work inShanghai, it seems you are inBeijing.
In my work Neighbors, I set our dull cities in the sharp contrast of the unique living houses ofChongqingpeople. Those old houses are displaying to us their distinctive and attractive elements. It took me about 3 years to take thousands of photos of them, 37 of which are patched together for my final work
Neighbors. Pitifully, those old houses are pulled down for the sake of urbanization.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Mr. Fu, your work Neighbors(JIE FANG LINJU) is very successful, and was sold for RMB 12,000 at auction. How do you think of the relation between art and its commercial value?
Mr. Fu: Artist is one part of the intellects. As the carrier and the maker of our culture, their works of art are different. On one hand, these works, like commodities, can be passed and sold from one to another. Such liquidity then brings forth commercial value. Generally speaking, works of art are more liquid and acceptable. On the other hand, when people are rich in material, their need turns to spiritual comfort, which can be rightly fulfilled by works of art. Moreover, the commercial value of works of art is always rising and it can have extended value in other fields.
Actually, art is more or less influenced by commercial activity, yet true artists are not subject to commercial value. They are not the tool for businessman to make money. They bear the responsibility to pass on our culture and they are seeking for the artistic peak and lifelong self-development.
Artists are the key toHuangjueping Graffiti Street; it cannot develop without the efforts of these artists, and of the encouragement and support of the whole society. ------Fu Wenjun
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Since you have attended the 55th Venice Biennial, and what’s the utmost benefit?
Mr. Fu: Apart from the positive acceptance of my work at the Biennial, I benefit utmost from my communication with the artists from the West. We share the novel and different perspective of showing our art. I’m shocked by the fast development of artistic flow and the changing of artistic ideas. In the meanwhile, I find myself lag behind them, yet I am confident to follow them. We can draw on each other’s strength to make painting more novel and innovative.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Apart from conceptual photography, you also make painting. So what is your focus of work at present?
Mr. Fu: At present conceptual photography is of priority. If time permits, I shall do painting, and the time I do painting is usually when I have finished one period of photography and another period is not yet started. If one particular theme of photography is set, I shall stop my painting at hand at once and involve myself in the making of conceptual photography.
Magazine LEADER DOMAIN TASTE: Mr. Fu, how can theHuangjueping Graffiti Streetdevelop and become as famous as Beijing 798 Dashanzi Art district, shortly named DAD?
Mr. Fu: Firstly, we should note that theHuangjueping Graffiti Streetcan never become Beijing 798 Dashanzi Art district. The former is a district of original art creation, while the latter became commercialized, with its initial artistic nature changed. They are quite different now.
Less development of theHuangjueping Graffiti Streetis partly due to lack of governmental support, in which the government hasn’t let the artists there to develop freely with their artistic ideas. As an old Chinese saying goes, no pain, no gain, only when the local government improve soft environment for fine artistic atmosphere can artists flock there for the development of local art.
Moreover, Non-governmental capital is encouraged to make investment in this area. At present, the development of theHuangjueping Graffiti Streetfollows a single line, without any proper cultural industry structure. The cultural base for artistic works is not yet formed and positive interaction of art and commercial activity also accounts for the low-level development of this cultural street.
Through his lifelong reckoning of history and the contemporary, Mr. Fu shares his keen insight and profound artistic attainments with us. In the meanwhile, as an enthusiastic and responsible artist, he is deeply concerned about the present state of artistic environment inChongqing. Artistic talents outflow from this city, so the key to the development of art and culture is to ask these talents to stay there. The government and the public should communicate with artists and learn about their wishes. The development of theHuangjueping Graffiti Streeturgently needs our quick solutions to the above problems.