Silkscreen Printer/Mixed Media
Interview on 11th July at Wagas, Tai Koo Li, Chengdu
KL: Let's start by you introducing yourself, how you came to be here and what you do?
B: What do you wanna know? I’ve been here now for almost six years. I came here from Vancouver where I was working construction, overseeing projects in the city. Just by chance I met a guy from Chengdu and he invited me out here, and I was kind of at the time just done with Vancouver. I’d spent four years there and I felt it was time to move on, though I didn’t really know where I was going to go to so I just went with the flow and thought, fuck it, why not?
KL: Tell us about your art.
B: When I came out of the contract which was middle of 2013 I decided to set up a silk screen studio. I'd always had an interest in it but I'd never really got my hands to it and I just started experimenting really. I found a studio, and got a little bit of equipment in. By sheer chance, it just happened to be at the time that a guy who was working for Takashi Murakami was here in Chengdu just bouncing around himself trying to take in a bit of the culture. He was looking at calligraphy, actually. I'm not sure how I got in touch with him. I think it was through Chengdu Living, and he came and helped us out when we opened the studio. That was awesome because I didn't really have a clue what I was doing. As a side note I should also mention Gregor Koerting of 'Idle Beats' Shanghai (check out idlebeats.com). A great guy whom I was lucky enough to spend a day with back in 2012 at his then silk-screen studio. He's since moved to an expanded location (Shanghai) where he continues to run open silk-screen workshops, alongside creating his own print works. I love the accessibility of what he does, opening up the creative process of printmaking to the general public. I was at the opening of his new studio last year, and everyone in that place was smiling. It would be great to see more people doing the same. After my own studio opening I eventually realised the reason why silk-screen talks to me is that it's a very hands-on, accessible medium, and you can make mistakes with it and those mistakes can actually end up in the work. It can be a part of the work. Some of the mistakes I have made have ended up bringing great effects to things that I've done. It's like a happy accident, you know. I love that, I think about things very visually so I'm always thinking about process. When I'm working and when I'm not working, most of the time I'm generating images in my mind by thinking of the process and trying to think of things that haven't been done with silk-screen printing. If you could see my notes for images it would be literally diagrams of process with an image in mind and that’s the way it goes.
KL: I think there is something wonderfully Chinese about that. We spoke before the interview about when you are actually trying to get a project done, often it’s just brick wall after brick wall but so many things happen easily in China as happy accidents. It’s almost like the only way they can work. Do you think there are other ways that China or Chengdu influence the work that you do?
B: Definitely the freedom of structure here. You know yourself, if you've been here long enough, that sometimes to get things done here is just infuriating because there is no logic at work, so when you're expecting a thing to go a certain way and it makes perfect sense that that's the only way that it can go, it won't go that way. But, there's a freedom to that too because you're always having to circumvent those situations, and that forces you to think outside the box. It's the same for me with the artwork. This isn't the first time as well. When I was younger I was very much into graffiti and illustration and a bit of photography. I can tell you what actually happened was when I left university and went back to my hometown for a short time, everything that I owned effectively, including my artwork, my materials, my tools, all went into storage. When I got myself sorted back home I went to go pick everything back up it turned out to have been stolen. Everything. Everything basically that I'd held onto. So for example with the graffiti when I would do a piece, I'd shoot what I'd created to transparency because part of what I was doing when I was younger was making backdrops to warehouse parties and underground squat parties that my friends and I were staging. We would go into the property every time and decorate it out. The only way to keep a record of that work was to photograph it. Basically, the record I had of all the work that I'd done was just gone and I was fucking devastated. So, for the next 15 years, I pretty much didn't create anything artistically at all, with the exception of a little music production. Nothing visually though, I just didn't know where to begin. Again, answering your question, being in China, that looseness, that openness, it gave me the space to get back into it.
KL: Do you find that now with the artwork that you do, I’m sure a lot of passion goes into it, but at the same time, have you got that Zen feeling that once this is out of me that you can cope with the feeling of losing it again? Or would it break you?
B: No, I don’t think it would. I’m usually really heavily invested in my work, mentally, physically, spiritually, whatever you want to call it, often to the point that when it’s done, I just want rid of it. I’m so expended by it. I want it to be gone so I can free my thoughts of it. Going further I’ll even end up hating the work, very often, more often than not I’m so displeased. People will say 'we love it' and it’s great but it means nothing, I’m like, just get it away from me! Some of that is left brain thinking, too, because I am quite left-brain. I like things to have a certain order if there was a picture in my space that I wasn't happy with it would be buzzing at me and I'd have to get it out. I've actually destroyed a lot of work under the same basis. Looking at a finished piece I'm still looking at the process, and seeing where I could have improved upon it. I'm not sure I'd want to change that approach though now I think of it, it pressures me to reach further creatively. And while it might be nice to be prolific in terms of output, I'd be fearful of that becoming somewhat generic, and that's the last thing I want to be.
KL: It seems that you were very fortunate to have Murakami’s assistant coming to help you when you set up your studio. Is that reflective of what it’s like in the scene here in Chengdu as far as being able to infiltrate the scene? Do you think it’s easy to make connections and get respect in this environment?
B: No, I think there’s a huge problem with that here. I see a lot of really, really talented artists suffering on account of that.
KL: What are the blocks? What prevents that happening?
B: I think there’s a lot of adopted attitudes that have been around for a long time and a lot of that has to do with tradition, and what’s deemed to be correct Chinese culture, authentic Chinese culture, whatever you want to call it. There’s a real resistance to anything that’s truly unique or new and I don’t think that’s universal because people are definitely open to what’s new, but it feels like there’s always this expected conformity. You know, you’ll hear people say that an oil painting is worth more than an acrylic or something like that. It's like, why!? That sort of thing deeply frustrates me because I’ve personally made many visits to studios of artists in the city, and some of the work is fucking mind-blowing, it really is, but it doesn’t get out. No one sees it. These artists are being told, even if they're not being told directly, they're being told by the market or the environment that their work has no value. Then you'll see artists in this situation forced to sell their work by measuring it and selling by price per square metre. This is just absurd. I know that serves a purpose and helps put money in their pocket but it doesn't do anything for getting the work out there and getting it the credit that it deserves.
KL: How can that be remedied in your opinion? You spoke earlier about the project that you’re doing with Martin.
B: People need to start looking at the artistic merit of work first and thinking about monetary value second.
KL: But where does that come from, an artistic education?
B: No, I think there needs to be a certain amount of altruism from people in the city who maybe have a position themselves already, be it business owners, real estate owners, I don't know. I was saying to you earlier, one of the things I've been doing here is approaching owners or managers of properties where there is available space and trying to encourage them to make, at least a portion of that space available for something co-operative where they can create a focal point for artists to be able to come together, and for people to see that coming together - to create unity. There's a lot here, that's the thing, there's a lot in the city but it's very disconnected and spread out. There are these little pockets. You have apartment buildings with artist's studios that you'd never guess. They're just apartment blocks on the street and there's no indication or direction, there's no promotion of that anywhere. It's invisible. No one sees it but there are people in there working and creating.
KL: As far as the value of art, with silk-screen, how is that viewed?
B: Very cheaply [laughs]. Yeah, it depends. I mentioned to you earlier the Blue Roof [art gallery and studios], there is out there a master Japanese silk-screen and lithographic printer who was brought out to Chengdu specifically by the owners of the Blue Roof compound, and he is producing phenomenally high standard work. He has a huge space, great equipment, and a very, very clean environment. He's checking humidity and air quality in the space constantly and he has a team working for him. Some of the people working for him, their job is just solely to reproduce colour. What he's doing is producing really high-level reproductions of famous work from Sichuan artists for the Blue Roof. Some of those prints will sell for 80,000 RMB and up. But he's in the upper echelon of that. He's something like 70 years old and has been doing it for most of his life. His studio makes me very envious. I'm at the other end. It's worth noting actually that Silk-screen as a medium has produced two of the twenty most expensive artworks of all time, both works by Andy Warhol ('Eight Elvises' at $109.9 million USD, and 'Silver Car Crash' at $107.1 USD). Takashi Murakami has himself sold prints at $1 million USD and above.
KL: I hadn’t realised humidity was such a problem and, if it is, it definitely would be here in Chengdu? How does it impact on the technical aspects of getting your print to work?
B: It impacts on the viscosity of the inks, the drying time. That’s essentially it. He’s looking to achieve as much control of the printing process as possible.
KL: Are you doing the same?
B: No, I can be sitting around waiting for two, three days for ink to dry sometimes, literally. I might be able to do it with a fan or a hairdryer but it's not the same. My working process is very different though, I want there to be 'live' elements in my work, I'm not looking for perfection in reproduction, and I'm generally making single unique pieces, not editions.
KL: So, is Chengdu just not the greatest environment to do silk-screen printing?
B: I think that’s more a question of money. If I was to sink more money into my studio, I’m sure I could achieve an environment that was perfectly acceptable for working. I mean, with me, firstly, when anybody starts talking about my work, I say I haven’t done that much because I’m not very prolific because this has been a purely personal experiment for me. I’d like to be more prolific but I can only do that if I have the money to throw into it because it hasn’t really made me any return so far, it’s cost me. It’s been a purely personal project. The fact people have liked what I’ve done and I’ve had a bit of exposure is just a bonus.
KL: Is there anything else you want to say that we haven’t covered?
B: China has been one of the most awesome experiences of my life. I'm 44 now and though I've travelled to, and lived in many different countries/cities, coming here has really taken me out of the bubble of my own bias, my own cultural regimen, indoctrination, proximity even. It's really allowed me to look back at all that and see what's wrong with it actually. On a deeply human level what I see saddens me, and worries me for the future. That drives a lot of what I'm doing. If there's any remote opportunity to make a difference to even a single person's perception, even for the briefest of moments, that might be worth my efforts. Perhaps they then take that out into the world as their own, with an idea or sentiment that resonates as positive change. Pushing further if we're luckier still, this translates to disrupting social norms and the conformity these norms are tied to. Conformity is going to be the death of us all.
Artist, musician, supporter and patron of all things artistic in Chengdu
Interview on July 9th at The Bookworm, Chengdu
KL: Let’s start by you telling me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
M: I came to China, to Chengdu, for the first time in 2005 and it was basically for a project with a friend of mine who was a musician. We had a band in Germany together for 8 years already and he started to study Chinese, so he needed to come here. He looked for the city with the most music culture besides Beijing and somebody suggested Chengdu. Unfortunately, our band in Germany had to break up then but I said, okay, I'm going to visit you. I was studying art at that time and my professor already had links to China. He was a Maoist in the 60s.
KL: Is he still a Maoist?
M: No, no, no. He distanced himself afterwards. This was the 60s and…
KL: It was the thing to do in Europe if you were young and open-minded.
M: So he built his own state within as an art project inspired by Mao and also the Fluxus movement at the time. Anyway, afterwards he also painted some paintings about the reunification of Germany so he has the east-west conflict in his body of work. He supported me coming to China and experimenting on what affect this society has on me. I came here for half a year and did the music project with my friend and it was immediately successful, I mean in 2005 it was still very easy to get gigs around here. We were on TV after two months, performing at China’s first talent show, i think. It was called Meng Xiang Zhong Guo. In the finals they were saying, you were very nice but, sorry, you're not Chinese, so you can’t win. Anyway, that was a funny episode of my first stay, but there was also the first exhibition that I painted here which was a breakthrough, it was sold in Germany. Basically, people bought everything.
M: I had this concept of collecting trash i.e. from renovation work of old houses, and I just painted on it. I wanted recycle those materials and in this way preserve this time of massive change and renewal. I used lots of different materials because the art materials here at this time were low quality but super cheap. Some were dysfunctional, so i just experimented with it a little bit, to find out what kind of effect i can create with it.
KL: So, in that case, the environment of China was having a direct impact on the art you were making and how you were making the art?
M: Sure, also the way I was living. I was renting a normal apartment which was completely blank. I had one desk, a bed and80-square-metres to fill up with art. Before I was an art student with not much money, so i was mainly renting a small spaces. Another interesting aspect was not being able to communicate. I had to communicate a lot through painting or through… I don’t know… body language . Anyways, i was hooked and knew i’d come back for longer.
KL: So you’ve been here ever since?
M: 2005-2008 while i was still studying in Germany i was living back and forth in between both countries. Since 2008 i’m basically based in Chengdu. My band allowed me to travel all over China, which was nice. In 2009, I invited another artist, with who i previously did an experimental electronic music project at the art academy. We organized jam sessions in the academy and did long experimental sessions in our studio, using anything that could generate sound. He was also a friend of my friend with who I did music with here, so we did this kind of boy group satire show for Chinese clubs, which was a lot of fun.
We had costumes and dance moves. I was one of the two singers and one friend played guitar like in Ska or Disco, very upbeat. We did several tours in China for about 4 years andshared a house out in San Sheng Xiang. We were living basically in the countryside writing music while i also had enough room to keep my art production going.
KL: Did you have your own little music commune going on down there?
M: In San Sheng Xiang, yeah, Zao Shang Hao House was opening there at the time. Ju Zi was there, and then for a there was a place called Cowshed which was owned bythe guy who did Xiong Mao, one of the first underground electronic music venues. Proximity Butterfly were our dear neighbours as well.
Also, the Dojo House happened there. (www.chengdudojo.com) I don't know if you've heard about the Dojo. That was one of the later projects that I was involved in. So that Boy Group Project Gramaphonetics happened till 2013, then one guy left Chengdu. In 2013 we did a little Germany tour. In China we still do a two piece group called Fnky Smthng. Bodo, the guy who is still in China, later found a job being a live and studio musician for a Chinese pop star, he’s pretty busy, but we still meet, practice, write new material and play a few shows. It’s pretty easy with modern technology to share projects. Anyways i could focus on my art and other projects then as well. After moving away from San Sheng Xiang I got a studio here in the city again. In 2014 I got another studio in a satellite city. It was a real estate company, which did a project of changing an old village in an tourist area and they wanted to give the first floor of the village houses to artists while in the second floor the village people where living. It's in Bai Ma Guan, a scenic spot, close to De Yang. It’s nice. At this time I was really happy because the air pollution was pretty bad, so I was like okay, great, I can go there. It’s actually a nice studio because cos of the high ceilings. It’s 400-square-metres and has a big gate entrance so I can move stuff in and out easily. The studio I have in the city is a rooftop and it’s always a pain in the ass to carry things to the seventh floor without an elevator. Under such circumstances you are a little bit limited in what you can produce, you can't do a four-metre long canvas i.e.
KL: China seems like a unique environment in how much they do support artists and how they try to create art spaces in a way to create tourism. Has that been advantageous for you?
M: Maybe, I think the labelling of something art it's more or less just a label. Sure, if you want to develop an area and you don't want only cheap entertainment or nightlife , you invite artists. I think it also comes from the communist culture that the artist has it's place in society and is represented in public. Creating studio spaces and giving them to artists, it's nice, sure, it's also a strategy to cultivate the middle-class. One of the really advantageous things for me thou is that life here is affordable. It's more advantageous for me than some government officials giving me space. The house and the scene in San Sheng Xiangcould happen because there were just empty farm houses which have nice yards and it's in the proximity of the city, it's 20 minutes by motorbike to the centre. It reminds me a little bit of Berlin , which also attracted lots of artists and musicians by having very affordable rent or just vacancies. People just go in and do it and they can do it because the basics are affordable, in Chengdu and that’s why people have the peace to be creative and think outside of the box. Another thing though are art sales, prices to sell artworks of new and upcoming artists here are still too low, because people only want to pay for something that’s already established. We just had this Monet exhibition, it was in some shopping mall. It was really successful because they were promoting Monet. There was not one original hanging there, it was just nice presentation with high-resolution projectors. Later it came out though that they didn’t really purchased the rights to use the images.
KL: Do you think the art scene here is still in its emerging stages? Do you think there is a sophisticated art scene here or do you think because people are still gravitating towards established names and monetary value that..?
M: No, I think that’s just the commercial aspect – how people use art. The art scene itself, I wouldn’t say it’s emerging, it’s already there for a while. It’s just happening in different kinds of streams that happen parallel to each other. You have the high-art scene, in places like the Blue Roof area with really nice studies and where some established artists are working. Then there is the independent crafts and art scene, freelancing creatives trying to make a living and work from contract to contract or job to job. They keep being busy, so they don’t necessarily have this high motivation of becoming the next genius prodigy of art. It’s a very natural way they produce their work. I wouldn’t say it’s emerging. It’s there. Like a lot of things in China there is no unified channel, where this is all documented. Recently opened a few areas promoting the creative industry, places such as Mintown. This is something that comes from the basics, from grassroots culture and they have a really interesting concept of having talks and having gallery spaces, a gallery where they also do music shows. Yesterday they had a German piano player there meditating on chaos theory and translating it to piano playing. These kind of things happen in one space and it is nice because there these parallel streams can actually meet and it’s well promoted and documented. They also do apretty successful street festival where all the local small businesses are represented; craft breweries, little snack shops, local designers, local and some international bands. The stage is done by the people from Zao Shang Hao (Morning House), our old neighbours from San Sheng Xiang. Last year it wasa beautiful stage made of bamboo, a famous resource of Sichuan. There is a nice team from all parts of the scene working together and they all believe in the potential of Chengdu culture.
KL: Can we talk about your individual work? Do you find you have been heavily interested in China or you can work more conceptually?
M: Heavily influenced for sure but it’s not really represented in my work, I think. A bigger impact for me was experiencing firsthand my own cultural background which which becomes clearer in a strange environment. Distinguishing what is me? What is the rest of the world? How are the differences? What are similarities? I have some simple memories from back home that I can translate with different techniques, for example, ink. I use it, but I use it in a way I would also use oil colours. To me, ink and oil are kind of similar because you can dilute them to a very thin almost transparent layer. Another thing are some chinese traditional brush techniques, but those i use with oil. But these are just techniques. I was interested in Eastern art history and art philosophy already before I came to China and wrote my master thesis about the differences of the western and eastern motivations and aesthetic principles. The meditative aspect of creating art was always important to me. Sometimes you do one single stroke and it’s right and sometimes you sit there for two hours and it’s like Aagh! This nose!!! It's not right. An example for the ideal artwork for which the genius painter wanders the world for all his life and when he sits down and thinks about his way he paints one perfect painting in five minutes, because his way made him Zen and the beauty of what he saw flows out of his movements. That's a kind of narrative in which eastern art philosophy thinks art can happen and what's an artist. An artist is not necessarily a scholar who knows everything happening in the art scene and trying to be up-to-date – which is pretty much art-scene in the western world. It was a choice for me to not go to Berlin after I graduated and be in this ready made hub of creativity. I wanted to go to China and be a bit isolated from that. It’s a process of distilling something, the essence, and I think it's something that's long-lasting and I can also benefit myself as a person.
KL: Can you see yourself leaving China? Do you think there is a point where you're going to feel satisfied or done?
M: I see myself living a little bit more internationally. I think I will definitely always have a suitcase in Chengdu. Sure, I'm interested to go to other places but the thing here is that the projects that I'm getting involved with, they're getting bigger and I can see that there is opportunity for not just me, as a single artist, but also for the creative community. I think China at this point is very interesting – the way it's developing and the role it's going to play in the future. Culture is super important to help develop this role and there is so much exchange already about economics and travelling but the cultural aspect is not equally strong. It's happening, but still a bit superficial, for my taste. I’m also having hopes in the young generation studying abroad. They will eventually come back and they’ll be looking for an open society with a vibrant art scene. I mean art is really represented in every aspect of our lives. It's not just happening in galleries and museums. When a city is culturally active, it represents i.e. in the decoration of little cafes, in how people dress in the streets. It's basically the level of self-expression. It's everywhere. I see people having this hunger here in China to build up more spheres to promote this expression. This potential is important to me and this curiosity is another benefit, regarding advantages of working and living here. That's a kind of funding and worth more than money. There obviously is a demand and I am a producer. I’m happy and positive because i see the demand growing, it creates a natural vacuum in myself that I want to put something in.
Heinz Martin Breuer
Check him out at heinzmartinbreuer.net
1979born in Bonn, Germany
2000 Kunstakademie Duesseldorf
2006 Master student of Joerg Immendorff
2008 Graduated with Master’s degree and Akademiebrief
Lives and works in Chengdu, China and Cologne, Germany
2012 “Sowieso 2”, Galerie Vera Gliem, Cologne
“By the name of Chinese Contemporary”, Culture Café, Hong Kong
2011 “Yes they are / no you can`t”, Red Star gallery, Chengdu, China
2009 “You’ll never walk alone”, Galerie Vera Gliem, Cologne
2006 “…das es sich lohnt” (mit Lee Thomas Taylor), Galerie Vera Gliem, Cologne
2005 “China’s Trash is Beautiful”, Loft, Chendu , China
Group exhibitions and Art Fairs:
2015 “International” WM Gallery, Chengdu
2014 “It’s Chinatown”, Galerie Vriend van Bavink, Amsterdam
“Art in the red light” Artfair, Amsterdam
2013 “Découvertes”, Deyang, China
2012 “Découvertes”, Idutang, Shenzhen, China
2011 “Brise”, Galerie Vera Gliem, Cologne
“Offen, schliessen, dreissig...” ,Buero Adalbert, Duesseldorf
Art Cologne 2011
2009 “First Biennale for young artists”, Chongqing
2008 “Demolition milk”, TS1 Gallery, 798 Beijing
“Unmodern normalisms”, Goethe-Institut, Rotterdam
“Clara’s choice”, Kunstmühle Salzburg
“RE-Start”, 733 art fabric, Chengdu, China
2007 “Von Affen und Pferden”, Museum Ludwig, Koblenz
“Iterina Nova”, Kunsthoefe, Berlin
Printmaker & Gallerist
In (frequently interrupted) conversation on 8th July at Number #3空间, Chengdu
DT: This is the rabbit that Lars drew on our wall for this exhibition. It will be gone by next week.
KL: Does someone take out an eraser and [mimes erasing bunny]?
DT: I don’t know. Maybe we should record that - the making and the unmaking.
KL: I think you should just take the whole wall out with a sledgehammer.
DT: I told him maybe we are going to drill in it and put the wall somewhere.
[Donal runs off to talk to possible buyers about prices and we begin to chat with Lars.]
KL: What brings your exhibition to Chengdu?
LR: I’ve got some friends who live in Chengdu, Danish friends. I’ve been coming to China since 2008 as an artist making some group shows and I’ve also been doing some teaching and stuff like that.
KL: Teaching art?
LR: Yeah. And then, last Autumn, I met this beautiful Chinese girl, she is from Xiamen.
[Another interruption, does Lars remember the price of this piece? Donal returns.]
KL: Let’s move on from the bunny. We’ve done the bunny.
DT: Lars thinks that art should be accessible to everyone. This is why he simplifies his language and makes it a bit cartoonish. This has to do with his printing practice. Printing is all about making an idea very clear. It's not like painting where you are looking, searching inside the painting and slowly finding. In printing, you need to know before you create.
KL: I guess it’s a reductive technique.
DT: Exactly. We have three rooms, two in black and white and one in colour. [smacks his leg] And mosquitoes.
KL: How much are they?
DT: What do you mean? Are you being a Chinese art buyer? Ah! Mosquitoes! I thought you were talking about the paintings! A lot of people come and say, how much is this?
KL: As we have seen. In that vein, tell me which one is best by price.
DT: By price? The coloured one that you were looking at.
KL: That’s the most expensive one? I like it. I feel like it’s got a Lars von Trier film feel to it.
DT: I don’t really like watching movies.
KL: [laughs] You’re a really great interview, you know? Has anyone ever told you that?
DT: [laughs] This series was made in 1988. It was made in Madrid. When a printmaker or an artist wants to make prints, he has to work with artistic workshops because he doesn’t have the machines, it’s a lot of equipment. A lot of the themes in here are related to Spanish culture, for example, this Saint Bartholomaios who is the guy who was skinned by Muslims in 800 AD because he believed in Jesus. I don’t remember all of the names but it is related to Madrid and Spain and Spanish culture.
KL: But not entirely in a religious way?
[Lars returns to pick up the thread].
LR: Before I started coming to China, Spain was the country that I visited most. I quite liked the culture there when I was younger but when China opened the doors for me it became much more interesting.
KL: Does that mean you have changed now to cover more Chinese themes in your work?
LR: Well I have. You can see the poetry on the invitation where I try to explain myself.
KL: I couldn’t read it.
LR: [laughs] Okay. So I just tell my name and tell that I’m an artist.
KL: And everyone will believe you.
LR: But all the Chinese love it.
KL: Because there is a lot of work here from different periods in your artistic life, do you consider it a retrospective?
LR: It is a retrospective.
KL: Going through it yourself, as an artist, do you see it as development or do you just see change?
LR: I see both. It makes me kind of happy.
KL: There’s definitely an erotic nature to a lot of your work but in a very natural, almost domestic way.
LR: Well, I am from the Nordic free culture.
KL: So everything comes easily?
LR: It’s quite easy.
KL: This piece is obviously very striking, slightly disturbing. Do you want to tell me a little about it?
LR: Well, I was in love at that time, myself with a girl that became the mother to my children. We were both young and trying to find out what was going on and I think that’s what the picture expresses.
KL: The woman in the picture looks extremely independent and self-assured compared to the man, is that some kind of reflection of the state at the time?
LR: It could be. I was a little bit insecure how to do things in the beginning and, in some respects, I still am because love is always new, isn’t it?
KL: It is or it’s very quickly old.
LR: I prefer to see it new.
KL: Ah! You’re a romantic!
LR: If you say so. I don’t know about these definitions. [laughs]
KL: So, what about the knives?
LR: That’s because at that time I was very involved in the punk scene in Copenhagen and one of our most famous punk bands has the song line where the knives are cutting deep in the night and I just liked that as poetry.
KL: It moved you and it made you think of your relationship?
LR: Sort of but, in those days, I just liked the sentence. Knives are cutting deep in the night. It’s poetry. So, I made my pictorial representation of that line which I put on top of the story.
KL: These pieces here with the ladies, are they from the same period?
LR: They are much later but I’m really not stuck being interested.
KL: In ladies?
KL: Most people don’t change their mind once they go there.
LR: That’s true.
KL: These have a strange advertising quality to them.
LR: You could say so, about the milk, for instance. It makes you healthy.
KL: There’s even something about her pose that makes me think of those 1960s ladies magazines.
LR: [laughs] You saw it in them as well?
KL: It seemed vaguely familiar.
LR: Well, I can’t lie then.
KL: Does a lot of autobiography run through your work or is it sometimes purely concept or something that interests you visually?
LR: I think a lot of my work reflects my life. My life and my art are very tightly bound together and I insist on keeping it this way. My life first and then art on top of that. So I have my personality but I don’t feel like I have any style that I have to protect. I have a life to live first.
KL: So, you feel that the style of your different works comes organically from the life that you lead and it changes?
LR: Exactly because I learn things and I learn things and in time when I learn more Chinese then slowly my pictures will develop again.
KL: You’ve got a mixture here, and please correct me if I’m wrong, it looks like you’ve done some kind of printing and then gone over it with coloured pencil?
LR: It’s a print all the way through.
KL: Really? Alright, explain this technique to me.
LR: It’s the same technique I use in these ones as well and this one. You make a film for each colour that you use so they are all black and white what you’re looking at. When you look at them and see, oh this is a yellow one, you have to imagine the yellow colour. And then this other one is a blue so you imagine what it will look when you put them together.
KL: How do you get the textural effect that almost looks like brush strokes?
LR: Not really secrets these things can happen when you’re into the process there are a lot of things that just come naturally but then, how to explain it is something different. It lies in the nature of the graphic process.
KL: I find it quite amazing. I really love printingbut I’ve not seen anything that has emulated painting and pencil so convincingly as this. I’m intrigued.
LR: Thank you. I’ll take it as some encouragement.
KL: So this is a commercial work?
LR: It is because it is a poster for one of my own exhibitions.
KL: Have you ever done any commercial work?
LR: I can't recall just now but I have been working for companies but it has been more like they had an area where I could do something artistically it was not really commercial.
KL: It was more of an opportunity…
LR: To create something…
KL: Without restriction.
KL: Are these lino cuts?
LR: That is a linoleum cut.
KL: Are all of the pictures in this room lino cuts?
LR: This one is but the others are cut in turnips.
KL: What? Big ones. Oh, I see you get the actual shape. Oh, wow. Would you have an idea and tailor it to the turnip or would you find a turnip which suited the idea?
LR: I was living on a farm in the countryside back in Denmark and I grew my own vegetables and stuff like that and also turnips because they’re quite healthy. Then I came up with this idea that I could also use it for printing.
KL: Are they fairly starchy? I remember doing potato printing when I was a little kid and it was so hard to get good transference.
LR: Yeah, it was difficult.
KL: It is a very satisfactory result.
LR: Thank you, First I had to put the seeds in the soil and then I had to grow them and I had to harvest them.
KL: This is one hundred per cent your toil?
LR: Except that I did not do the printing myself. I had someone to print for me.
KL: That’s shameful. I wouldn’t admit that if I were you [laughs].
LR: Well, I've always had people to print for me because I'm a painter and I have a studio where I paint. I don't have the equipment to do professional printing so I go to a print shop. And the woman who printed these, she was my assistant for a short period but before that, she was a skilled cover printer. She is skilled in printing. When I do sculptures in ceramics I also go to a workshop where they are professional in doing that. It's very common, at least in Denmark.
KL: I’m sorry I have this image of you pushing a wheelbarrow full of turnips [laughs].
LR: [laughs] I’m also a professional artist as well.
KL: So this is a retrospective of purely your print works?
KL: Are you a permanent resident here in Chengdu?
LR: Not yet.
KL: But you plan to be?
LR: I’m working on the possibility.
KL: Because… love?
LR: Yeah well, I think she wants to live in Xiamen but we’ll have to find out what happens in the future.
KL: What was the plan for putting on this retrospective?
LR: The plan was in fact that I should have had the show in another place but I had an appointment with them and it turned out that they were not of much help. It turned out they were commercial in other fields than art so, at the end of the day, I found out that it was too difficult to do by myself. Then the same day I decided that not even knowing how because I had left all my stuff out there, I met Donal and we had a good talk and I could tell he had an artistic feeling about what was going on. Not all this business, business, business so I was quite happy and he had an empty period so we decided that I could use that empty period.
KL: Excellent. I don’t know how long you’ve been here but do you have a sense of the art scene in Chengdu?
LR: I have no idea about the art scene in Chengdu [laughs].
KL: [laughs] Any last remarks?
LR: Thanks for coming.
KL: It was my pleasure.
Paint as you like , and die happy.
— Lars Ravn
Born in 1959. Autodidact.
Active on the Danish art scene since 1980.
The chairman of Corner Artist Association.
2015 年 “崩塌的另一边”于丹麦哥本哈根In The Gallery 画廊
2014 年 拉尔斯·兰-回顾展于丹麦Kolding 艺廊。
2010 年 “自由的兔子”个展于中国厦门旧雨今来轩画廊。
2009 年 拉尔斯·兰-回顾展于丹麦锡尔克堡美术馆。
2006 年 “神树和其他的神明”于丹麦哥本哈根Bredgade 艺廊。
2006 年 ”孤掌难鸣”个展于丹麦Odsherreds 美术馆。
2005 年 ”孤掌难鸣”个展于丹麦哥本哈根Baggårds/Garageudstilling。
2004 年 ”体会身体的风景”于丹麦哥本哈根Carsten Frøkjær 画廊
2003 年 个展于丹麦霍尔森斯Franz Pedersen 画廊
2000 年，“拉尔斯·兰 – 油画,速写雕塑”展于瑞典Tomarp Kungsgård。
2016 年，“以水相连 包容共生”翔安澳头北欧当代艺术展于中国厦门。
2016 年，康纳美术家协会年度展于丹麦哥本哈根Sophienholm 城堡。
2015 年，康纳美术家协会年度展于丹麦哥本哈根Sophienholm 城堡。
2013 年，“曲折的艺术”展览于德国Stuttgard 和Kunstraum Neuruppin。
2012 年，展于Reykjavik 岛ASI 美术馆。
2012 年，“仁者乐山 智者乐水”—康纳与中国艺术家在丹麦锡尔克堡。
2011 年，“康纳和Rylen”展于丹麦Odsherreds 美术馆，Marstal 美术馆。
2012 年，“仁者乐山 智者乐水”—康纳艺术家在中国厦门美术馆。
2006 年，“Eks. Skolen mm.”于丹麦斯卡恩Tavi 画廊。
获得卡伊·尼尔森奖学金（Kai Nielsen 系加拿大著名哲学家）资助，Ebba Celinders
奖学金，Heerup 奖学金，锡尔克堡HOF 文化奖以及来自丹麦艺术基金会的津贴。
2013 年，创作壁画于丹麦哥本哈根图堡港（Tuborg Havn）海滨咖啡馆Le Café。
2010 年，设计玻璃装饰于丹麦Ikast 露台健身中心。
自1990 年起，成为The Artists' Society 组织的会员。
自2010-2013 年，丹麦Trapholts 美术馆董事会成员。
自2000 年起，成为康纳美术家协会会员；于2007 年开始参与管理康纳事务。
Selected Solo Shows:
2015 On the other side of collapse, In The Gallery, Copenhagen, DK
2014 Lars Ravn – Retrospective, Kolding Kunstforening, DK
2010 The Free Rabbit, Lanlan Gallery, Xiamen, China
2009 Lucked, Lars Ravn–Retrospective. Silkeborg，Kunstmuseum, DK
2006 A Tree in Heaven and Other Idols, Bredgade kunsthandel, Copenhagen, DK
2006 No one creates alone. Odsherreds Kunstmuseum, DK
2005 No one creates alone. Baggårds/Garageudstilling, Copenhagen, DK
2004 Senses Body Landscapes. Galleri Carsten Frøkjær, Copenhagen, DK
2003 Galleri Franz Pedersen, Horsens, DK
2000 Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Tomarp Kungsgård, Sweden
Selected Group Shows:
2016 Coexistence Connection—North European Contemporary Art Exhibition,
Aotou Village, Xiangan District, Xiamen, China
2016 Corner 2015, Sophienholm, Copenhagen, DK
2015 Corner in China 2015, Dalian Art Museum, Dalian, China
2015 Corner 2015, Sophienholm, Copenhagen, DK
2014 Artist Meeting – Vendsyssel, DK
2013 Zig-Zag, Stuttgard und Kunstraum Neuruppin, Germany
2012 ASI Art Museum, Reykjavik Island
2012 ”Seeing Landscape” Corner and Chinese artists at Art Center Silkeborg, DK
2011 Corner and Rylen, Odsherreds Kunstmuseum, Marstal Museum, DK
2011 ”Seeing Landscape” Corner artists at Xiamen Kunstmuseum, Fuijan, China
2011 Corner and other Danes, Fujian, China
2007 Feast of the book: No one creates alone. Baggårds/Garageudstilling,
2006 Eks. Skolen mm. Galleri Tavi, Skagen, DK
Awards and funding:
Received grants from Kai Nielsen Memorial Scholarship, Ebba Celinders
Scholarship, Heerup scholarship, Silkeborg legatet HOF's cultural prize and
several grants from the Danish Arts Foundation.
Represented on Danish and foreign art museums, including the National Gallery
of Denmark, Aros Museum Jorn, Vejle Art Museum, Trapholt, Moderna Museet,
Stockholm, Sweden and Jimei University Art Collection.
2013 Wall decor in Le Café, Waterfront, Tuborg Havn, Copenhagen, DK
2010 Glass Decorating, Patio - Ikast Gymnasium, DK
2009 Mural at the university in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China
Member of The Artists' Society since 1990, Member of the Academy 2001-2013,
Member of the Academy from 2006 to 2010, member of the Art Museum
Trapholts Board from 2010 to 2013, member of the Artists Association Corner
since 2000, the management of the same since 2007
1983-2007 Varaty og different art schols in Denmark.
2010. University of Jimei, Fujian, China.
2008- 2015 University og Inner Mongolia, Hohhot, China, Painting class at Art
The rabbit is often seen in Lars Ravn’s works. Again and again he returns to the
small vigilant animal with its merry sexuality. It is an appropriate animal for
signifying Lars Ravn's world. In his pictures there is an urge to keep the senses
open to the world. Man approaches the world through his mouth, nose, eyes, ears
and hands. No matter where we come from and to what culture we belong, we
have that in common. Sharing the sensory world is an opportunity and,
according to Lars Ravn, also an obligation. The fact that the work "No one creates
only" is painted jointly with Chinese art students during his recent teaching stay
at Hohhot Art Academy proves that actions underpin his words.
By _ Bolette Marie Madsen, Art historian M.A.
Email interview with Donal on 8th August
1. Who are you? (Where do you come from, what's your background, what do you do in Chengdu?)
My name is Donal Turner. I come from France and I studied my bachelor's degree in the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Here, I am an art curator in my free time.
2. What's your gallery in Chengdu? How did it start? (and who do you do it with - what is their background?)
The story is funny and seems to revolve around a hotpot place! 青年火锅 was started by three friends. One of them, 张杨彪, is an art graduate. He took care of the place for 3 years, then sold his share to the other two founders and opened an art gallery located where 青年火锅 originally started. One evening in winter, I came to eat hotpot with friends, and during the meal asked who drew those two ugly bottles of beer on the wall. The waiter pointed to 杨彪, laughing and adding that an art space had just opened around the corner and that it was called #3空间.
3. Why start a gallery in Chengdu? (What was your motivation - was there a specific event or occurrence which motivated you? If so, share that)
Lost artists want to have a place to show their art. This was his starting point. The idea became clearer in May when I asked him whether I could use his space to make, as it turned out, a very successful photography exhibition. The people who came were very fond of the idea of having such a cozy, uncommon art space in town. They vividly encouraged us to continue. So we started looking for artists who were willing to show in our modest space. To our own surprise, we found quite a few.
4. Who are the artists whom you work with? How do you find them?
I must say we are very open to who we let have exhibitions at #3. We make no difference yet between 'high' and 'low' art and strongly relate to Andy Warhol’s “famous for 2 minutes” quote. Anyone who is confident enough can have their works displayed here. Some come to us, some are friends, for our last exhibition -Yearn- we invited two young sculptors who just graduated from a local Art University.
5. How do exhibits in the gallery change? How do you decide which artists are exhibited next, or what direction the pieces go in (if there is any)?
We make ourselves available. We organize people according to when they feel they are ready. So for instance, Guangdong artist Pamviles will have a painting exhibition on the 26th and Huyinpin a video exhibition on September 9th. Pieces that aren’t sold go back to their owners with care. Those that are ephemeral are destroyed.
6. What are your thoughts on the art scene in Chengdu? Are there many galleries similar to yours? If not, why do you think that is? Have you networked with other artists or curators much?
The art scene in Chengdu reflects the art scene in China. Art collectors are essentially investors who lack vision. They are pushing artists in the "mainstream" rather than encouraging its redefinition. And so most galleries I’ve seen around were huge compared to ours: places which looked cold and expensive. This gap and the fact we aren’t famous (yet) makes relating to bigger curators and artists difficult.
7. Any other artists or galleries in Chengdu that you can recommend, aside from those you're already working with?
I like to go to artist’s studios rather than going to galleries. There are two big artists villages that I know of around Chengdu, one is called 蓝顶画家村 and the other is 三圣村. Most artists there are very welcoming and open to talk.
8. I love the intimate atmosphere of your gallery. It feels very different from something like MOMA. Do you have any thoughts on curating a collection in such a small space, as opposed to larger venues?
In Paris, most art shops and galleries are only as big as ours. Call it nostalgia, but we are looking for the coziness of the shops and galleries along the Seine River, but also their taste and personality.
9. What do you think the future of Chengdu's art scene looks like? Is the situation improving? How are things changing?
Art in China seems to have become an old factory reconverted in a gallery. In Chengdu it is called 东郊记忆, in Shanghai m50 and in Beijing 798. It seems that a huge part of art has become the parody of itself, something kitsch that meets the expectations of its audience; not unlike the little revolutionary cups which can be bought in souvenir shops. However, I see some hope when I listen to people like friend and teacher 欧鸣 who teaches his student not to copy, but to feel.
10. Any other thoughts on your gallery or art in Chengdu or China?
We want more and more people to make an attempt at appreciating art, we give them the opportunity to come and discuss with the artists directly during exhibition opening parties. Those parties are usually on Fridays at 8pm... so come and enjoy art with us!