A Brief Analysis of MAO Kai’s Painting-- Experiment on Dream Restructuring Back
The interest of dream subdues as time passes by. After experiencing the process from being half-awake from the dream to having mind settled, we find it hard to perceive the transience and intensity of forgetting. Eventually it will only leave more questions on people’s mind. When painting was still regarded as a parody, such difficulty of restoring the imagined world became the game of artists to look for fun. Afterwards, surrealism came into being and the public was amazed at their “picturesque” ability. The order of realism could no longer trap the freedom interest. Only appearance extension was retained to indicate a means of expression. The intimacy of real forms and mystery were combined to build two parallel rhythms of fragmented starting and macroscopic overall situation-- the resultant force of the conflicted two aspects boosts the advancement of traditional realistic painting.
Likewise, in MAO Kai’s painting works, temperament and exploration interest are demonstrated as traditions observed in realistic painting. Those realistic female images are of classical style and their bodies build space consciously for themselves to create independent texture; yet, the artist arranged a world in which things and subjects don’t have affiliation relations: the depth of focus is dragged afar; wood and grass feel feel and the hue looks cold and gloomy. The logic between the two parts tell us their way of existence. The strong surrealism color in MAO Kai’s painting rebuilds logic subjectively and randomly to express self-aesthetics and interest intention: absurd classics, deliberate randomness, unrestrained fragment and solitary feast; MAO Kai’s creation turns stream of consciousness into a narrative poem, breaks them agilely and then mix them into a ridiculous drama. The artist’s calmness is sufficient while viewers are so amazed at the works that they become speechless.
Such kind of creation is a bit experimental. In other words, the artist tries to figure out the ratio between quantitative and variables and uses controllable images to build an independently operated discourse system. Under the stroke of MAO Kai, non-fragmented genre of realistic painting doesn’t perish. He is still dedicated to explaining his pictures carefully. The concrete images which he presents to his viewers only as nouns are not accompanied by any emotion and value judgment. Meanwhile, it is put in a relatively closed status; then, the artist starts building a “stage”. Within a world of several feet, relations between items begin spreading and uncertainty unfolds between any relative individuals. Previously closed symbols become full and satiated. Such chemical reaction from none to being becomes externalization of the beautiful process of objective world and ideal communication-- It’s a dream process. Our daily impressions grow into symbols under uncontrollable circumstances. They manifest free logic in a liberal way. We, waking up from the dream, or sober viewers, repeat the story of story under a different context; we and the artist will never compromise. The process of repeated creation seems to be delivered permanently. Nonetheless, what MAO Kai did in it is just dispatching and outlining. All charming artistic instants come from his let-go and the occurrence of occasionality between experimental subjects.
In late 19th century, the dismantling and rendering by Freud endowed dream which was a kind of random spiritual activity with textuality and made it as fixed narration. Besides, he blended such text into the circle of life activities and revealed deep-seated and assuring equivalent of dream. Such sense of security formed a strong contrast with the panic caused by unknown, unstable and impeded empathization process. At the symbolic intersection of centuries, rising collective consciousness and sense of nothingness mingled. The needs proposed by optimistic and steady ideology has become loose and private from rational analysis of unconscious dream to the status of spiritual power which was with a plan dissembled and regrouped amid politics and rationality. Hence, we find it hard to relive large-scale religious fanaticism or mysticism ideologies. Spiritual activities are no longer written in general text; rather, it has evolved into fragmented, separate, photographic and symbolic externalization according to the extension of the “world” definition; externalized images are straightforward and isolated. In order to make it up for narration, with accurate measurement of life activities, the panic generated by consciousness under uncontrollable status is planned and designed. As a matter of fact, such emotional fluctuation never perished; instead, it’s materialized into images and incidents, which further forces people to look for links between conscious fluctuation and symbols-- the emergence of symbolism connects dream and reality. Dream captured in this way gradually turns explicit and calm.
The literary bearing which runs through MAO Kai’s works requires acceptance and application of symbolic techniques. Symbolism is regarded as the carrier for his aesthetic pursuit in his works, and supplements with the artist’s ideal expression. Female portraits take up a quite large proportion in his works. Those young female images in “The Moment of Waking Spring”, “Girl Looking for Flowers” and “Flying” are peacefully described on canvases. Classical meaning is permeated in his portrayal of bodies which didn’t echo too much with the environment in color. Strong sketch is applied to add sense of weight and melancholy nature of marble sculpture to these bodies. Bodies are more like part of the scenery and lose the emotional element of human being; they are placed on the foreground, appearing immense and pressing. Large volume and cold texture exist in soft bodies at the same time. The built sense of milestone sets off with remote scenery, which stresses the tragic tone. What’s worth mentioning is that compared with their bodies, these females’ faces are depicted in a more naturalistic way. Different from another batch of MAO Kai’s creations centering on little girls, eyes of young females do not have direct contact with what’s outside the painting. In the painting, there’s another space and independent descriptive style which make them either happy or angry or meditative. Females painted by MAO Kai have separated from female images of ancient period from here: underlining gender and movement. The hard facial features of heresy deities in classical sculptures conform to their solid bodies and gender is fuzzy to strengthen symbol of religion. However, face is turned into a window by MAO Kai and becomes the venting point of internal strengths contained in stable bodies. The traditional female concept is indeed more clear in expression-- They are even deemed as the embodiment of the pyramid structure of Neoplatonism, the restatement of Parthenon Temple in modern sense and especially colder cool tone within the world constructed by MAO Kai. The emergence of young female images brings MAO Kai’s creation to another narration level. In terms of time of creation, the works painted in 2012 happen to be coherent with following young female images. Artists have always intended to use female body to refer to life and sex. Yet, MAO Kai extracts profound meanings from bodies with ambiguous gender and places it in the scenery. Bodies of young females securely occupies the center of the painting. Erect and opened standing gesture shows no trace of embarrassment. Such treatment of bodies is a bit Lolita style, pure but yearning. The image happens to comply with the Virgin Mary in Christianity: the strongest desire of human brought by female, especially maternity, resorts to a stainless, pregnant and pure identity. This implication is narrated in the painting as well: the nature is being dispatched under the background with multiple images; the girl on the foreground takes the atmosphere of the scenery on the background in her own temperament. The environment is subordinate to the overly intensified identity cognition. Such cognition results from several conflicts-- a sense of domineering and belonging shows up on the canvas. The batch of works by MAO Kai is seemingly not strengthened by empathy effect. Rather, rational layers are divided: the fish tank in “Return” echoes with shallow beach; the confined butterfly goes with depressed blue sky and water in “Sadness of Love”. It’s similar to the means of making parallel universe concrete and it’s connected through females. The Christ held by the Virgin Mary in her arms is the vast world’s miniature of the “parallel universe” behind. Maternity endows females with such ability: they don’t carry any politics and power and watch all things on earth as well as linking the ambiguous integration of immense objects with their love; the tolerant soul is the incarnation of Gaea, the earth mother, using the holy mother as the container to include the overflowing image depth in the works. The inheritance suggested by images of Mary and Anna in classical traditions is only half narrated in MAO Kai’s works. The natural emotional compensation process of viewers is left with infinite sense of extension and aftertaste.
Only as random factors guided by figures are gradually pushed aside and interpreted, we can witness the vivid spiritual connotation of MAO Kai’s creations. Spirits are deemed as fixed images through artistic creations. The translating process between images and paintings is ingenious; traditions of realistic painting bring multiple meanings to images in varied senses: ambiguity of text itself, artist being reader and expressionist as well, and rituality of the painting process itself. Functions of traditional realistic paintings, especially within religious or mythological system, are closer to practical reading materials. Entering modernist school period, realistic paintings seem groundless in terms of its rooted narration. Presentative and geometric abstract model is accompanied by text dissociation and disappearance of entity and rules, and goes against the compatible interpretation process in the progress bordering on philosophy. Such progressive tension comprises a permanently motored organism and completes parting in self-criticism. The three-dimensional and geometrical building model of art history has since then been established. Realistic painting has been seemingly fixed at the basic level. In fact, traditional linear realism is dismantled into stress points of the structure. Their own combinations form free connections to communicate with classics and modern, narration and anti-narration, thus developing into a kind of expression with bonding function. The paradox between calmness and ridicule of modern and contemporary realistic paintings makes the “reading” process effective. Such effectiveness requirement contributes to the adaptation of realistic paintings: its own empathy property determines equal consumption in creation and interpretation. Regardless of results, it’s not in vain when viewers analyze works with an independent cultural system.
Hence, those representative co-references we could obtain are the outcome of the artist’s strengthening of “readability” of pictures and viewers’ sense of intervention. Pure realistic portrayal sets questions that are hard to answer. Yet, the aesthetic ideology manifested in MAO Kai’s paintings withdraws his surrealistic atmosphere to the stream of times-- different from other realistic painters, MAO Kai intends to linger the author’s perspective within the picture in his creations. It’s a kind of external judgment and observation without any emotional indication; MAO Kai retreats himself from the picture and depicts flowers and grass on the foreground in a more refined and genuine way while daylight, clouds and water waves on the background are divided into color blocks and brush strokes. He leaves a great space to viewers, builds immense loneliness and emptiness and then transits to pure white which devours space. In both picture form and content, we can see the selection and hesitation of the artist born in 1970s. When being faced with sudden vastness, he reaches self-fulfillment through repeated introspection. While keeping doing subtraction, he maintains a peaceful status which should have been fragile. The strengthening of such fragility reaches its peak in series of “Higher Animal”: animal faces and human bodies are installed. Such random game goes beyond female images placed in white space who is peeping on the pure background consisting of cloud and gray color. Schrodinger’s experiment was conducted in a painting framework. MAO Kai’s creation experiment reached a conclusion-- dream, as the new operation rules, starts being established. We just arrange, watched aside and use independent language to build a different world; there how to rebuild dream is an unchangeable topic. However, under current context, scientific positivism removes the mystery of dream. All spiritual strength might just be literariness which is accidentally generated after the artist’s initiative creations are “composed” into a string of random events. On the surface, MAO Kai’s work has been terminated when his work is rendered on the canvas. However, art will be continued and improved in the beginning and ending of the entire re-creation. Those constructed and seemingly free interactions actually are closer to representation of past days in different carriers. Retelling barriers in dreams makes the re-creation process “enriched”: absurdity caused by declining narration and expansion of symbols; ambiguity resulting from the error between signifier and signified; highly emphasis on images as independent individuals. These annotative supplements have aroused the artist’s interest in publicizing private and fragmented illusions. Surmise is realigned with rational logic, thus showcasing a brand new and independent spiritual world which transcends time and connotations. MAO Kai, like what Verlaine to Rimbaud and Mallarme, injects sensitive individuals into contemporary realistic painting trend. Those unique and soft touches bear trembles related with region, blood and social culture. The most quantitative appearance envelopes heavy homeland atmosphere and self-consciousness, and faintly sends out a kind of deep and intrinsic brilliance which is unique in contemporary Chinese realistic paintings.
Central Academy of Fine Arts
August 30, 2016