Pure Heart in Magnificent Mountains and Waters - Lei Liang and His Painting
Lei Liang is the most eccentric among my painter friends. Diligent, cautious, frugal and dissociable, he would suddenly gets excited when talking and then falls in dumbness before long. A few years ago, he spent a lot of time and energy to visit most museums in Europe and to study mater pieces of the world. After returning China, he continued to paint as though nothing had happened or been undergone during his study in Europe, quietly falling again in his lonely and desolate art creation. Although graduated from Beijing University in mastery of English and French languages and although he has traveled a lot in China and abroad, he is all the same a pure individual painter at the root. On his rice paper oil painting one can neither find other painters' overbundant influence nor other impact traces of various kinds of thought trends and formalism. Like a cold and hot spring flowing out from his deep interior heart, his painting can be traced all along to the hoariest human times. Each time I went to his studio to see his new works I was always astounded and jounced as if I had entered into another entirely illusory world, where the vision lost superficial thirst for pleasing and enjoying matters. As an intangible time tunnel, Lei Liang's rice paper oil painting hauls me out of the present realistic world to my pre-birth time, to the pre-birth cultivation, and to the desolate and ignorant universe that we have never actually experienced but realized in moments. I can only acquire similar experience in a classic text, that is "Shan Hai Jing" (Book of Mountains and Waters) [Translator's Note: "Shan Hai Jing" is an ancient Chinese book).
It is difficult for me to imagine that in this information-explosive epoch a man can still have a lonely as well as desolate interior prospect, and work with perseverance to describe such an ultimate simplicity one time after another. This motivation in my eyes is neither commercial nor so-called cultural, but probably a merely expressive impulse. Indeed, this is extremely valuable for a modern man with such a pure impulse and recluse quality.
In my comprehension, I realize that Lei Liang has paid out a lot for this unresistable impulsion. Since all these years of China's "Reform and Open" policy, he has been living a simple life, and painted silently all alone day after day. Only from the point of view of oil painting technique, his painting is extraordinarily idiographic. Oil painting on Chinese traditional rice paper, this seemingly ludicrous method is, in his hand, being used in an extremely concordant and expressive manner. Seeing his painting, we will be sincerely convinced. His art works will not be misconceived as the bitter, bright, and quiet painting utters only one unique voice, and the harmony, composed of ten thousand superposed and overlapped crags and torrents, speaks only one idiom. Lei Liang's feeling exceeds mundane affairs, and even religion. If in our brain we still remain this memory, I believe, this trail can only be left over in a grief, indignant and stalwart umbilical cord that draws us back to the genesis. I like his painting, as well as the refreshing and savory smell emanating from his painting. In his painting, all happened after that genesis is no more than a noise yawp. His painting possesses an apocalypse power. I hear the voice from an ancient Chinese poet: "Oh, looking at the remote heaven and earth, I, alone here, am in blank and sorrowful tears." (This is from a poem by Chen Zi'ang in Chinese Tang Dynasty) Reading Lei Liang's painting, you will lose a good many things that you don't feel but that is excrescent, for example, thought. You will feel you are very tiny, very insignificant, and at the same time very big, and in consubstantiality of the heaven. You will feel you are very ancient, so ancient like an original charring plant. You will finally feel you are too late to be born, since the human have already passed so long distance. All these feelings converge upon a simple affection, that is our immense and undescribable melancholy on this life-isolated island of increasing wealth. This melancholy can sober up our hot head to realize again the meaning of modesty, treasure, recollection, "Big Beauty" and "One".
Working now at the foreign languages office of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Lei Liang is an ordinary man. Who will, in the "thousand persons appearing with only one face" crowd, think of a person walking by hastily to that scrubby hovel for the sake of creation of an unknown, elegant and magnificent painting? "Way exists before universe, and was created before the heaven and earth." Although we perhaps don't have occasion to meet this quiet and dismal soul, we will certainly have opportunity to see this uprising new star painting in the sky a magnificent "Shan Hai Jing".
Author Introduction: Liu Yan, a contemporary art critic, artist.
Publication: Culture Monthly (a monthly of China Ministry of Culture), July 1996
English Translation: Lei Liang
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