If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well
LI Xiaoshan (translated by ZHANG Ling 张凌 译)
In todays China, the number of painters who hold a serious attitude in their work is quite small. What we see more often are swindlers who swagger about to beguile others. Sometimes I am even tired of making complaints, because that is the reality, and nobody is the saint who has no selfish ideas and personal considerations. We could require ourselves to hold on to our principles, but we should be more tolerant to others. Mr. LEI Renzi asked me to write a few words for his new picture album. He has been a man of modesty - in fact, his works are much better than those by many so-called famous artists. Just because he is young and does not appear often in public, he is not known by many people.
I invited LEI to New Chinese Paintings Exhibition last year, which I hosted. His works are distinctive among the new generation artists. He has established his own style and has also shown great potential. Not surprisingly, his works were well received on the exhibition. He and some other artists of his age were acclaimed as the hope of future. This is a good beginning, indicating a high starting point, making further development possible.
I admit that it is no easy task for an artist always holding his or her ideal true and setting his or her ideal with a high standard in todays society. There are simply too many temptations out there, the society is getting too fast-paced, so art has become a kaleidoscope and is losing its background color. Every one has his or her own perspective or position, thus standards get blurred. On the one hand it may help artists break away from restrictions, and on the other hand it gives swindlers of all kinds opportunities to cheat. Media packaging, commercial hypes, using official positions to gain fames and so on have put artists in a dilemma. This shows that the power of reality is like a flooded river; it can wash away many peoples ideals, ambitions, and goals. By saying many people I mean not all, because there are such fools in art, like the famous fool LEI Feng, who had devoted all his life doing good deeds to help others. In their heart, art is everything, and all of the rest is secondary and should make way for art.
I have seen photos of LEIs works in the last ten years, from which I also saw his great effort in the art of painting, and his resolute steps on the rugged path of Chinese painting. He has made a deliberate effort in exploring the expression of the brush and ink in his works, in innovating the traditional picture composition, and in making new designs which are all evident in his works. I know when I begin to talk about Chinese painting, some people would think of it as a declining art facing its end. But this is not the case; the reality is the diversity of Chinese painting. Among this dispute, the position of Chinese painting is already well-defined. As a saying goes, come if it must come.
Many elements are included in LEIs paintings, all of which have combined together into a unique whole. Either the subjects, way of expression or the treatment of pictures is blocked from our daily experiences, so that we can easily enter the scenes he sets, and enjoy them with the artist Well, this would be an ideal thing to happen, but it may also hides some crises: his language is not defamiliarized enough, that is, he only resorts to the existing ways of expression, rather than merging them into a new language. For example, we may find that he possesses many traditional methods as well as some western techniques, which is probably the common approach of all Chinese painting artists have tried to innovate for the last one hundred years, with LIN Fengmian being its great example. LINs contemporaries and successors have not exceeded him in this respect.
Some special talents can be found in LEIs works: free expression, being at will, coincidence, agility, all combined to produce fruitful results if well used, but it could also face the risk of being simple and light if not handled with care.
May 14, 2001