John Zhang Long
Multi-media on paper
50 x 80 cm
John Zhang Long
Multi-media on paper
50 x 80 cm
John Zhang Long is a Los Angeles-based artist. He has been a leading avant-garde art practitioner since the 1980s. His abstract series KuangMo has been well received internationally and now is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Your KM series consists of abstract lines; are these lines at some level symbolises the vivacity of borders? What do you make of borders, such as class, race, gender, religion and so forth?
Borders do exist objectively in real societies, the recent conflict in the US is one of the evidence. The hatred between white and black peoples has never been eased out. Since Obama was elected as the president, the situation had changed, meanwhile, white people feel being depressed. The borders between races and religions are hard to go through, perhaps this is a conundrum left by god to humans. The borders between classes are even more evident, even though earning money and education can improve the issue, the confinement of race and religion is inevitable. Race and class form most social borders, and people live in their own world when transgressing, it will cause conflicts.
Art brings Hope to us, nevertheless.
Elon Musk recently gave a thumbs-up to an image which I like. The image shows: The “EARTH” without “ART” is just “EH”. Without art, the earth becomes meaningless. The nature of art is to create, and liberty is the foundation. Artists should transgress all kinds of confinement between borders, being free from specific forms and contents. Crossing the borders of knowledge and experience, between history and the future, the present shines. KM series is trans-cultural, which is not only based on my personal experience living in both eastern and western coasts but also my absorption between two cultures. Subjectively I do not distinguish borders, it is part of my good trait, very natural. If you like both cheese and stinky tofu, for you they are compatible. A lot of people who are against the other culture lack the patience and time to understand the other culture. You cannot learn only through books, you need to feel. A lot of scholars they only wander around like Flâneurs, who alienate themselves from reality, only treating views as spectacles.
Due to the pandemic, the world is changing, can you talk about how is it related to your thinking?
Pandemics are not permanent, the current one is the same. All will end.
The changing of the world is according to the progress of human society, and one becomes stronger, it is natural to gain a larger space for survival, which influences from trade to ideology.
During the pandemic, people are more relying on the internet, and through the internet, museums and low images can all present to you. Artist will post their latest work instantly on the social media. The way of promoting art has changed, including art-making itself. I have recently reduced my work, adding more paper-based paintings. Compared with the last year big paintings, I am more obsessed with drawing on paper, which is an extension of my 1988 artworks. My art has always focused on three themes: Wasteland, KM and POP-R. POP-R was formulated last year, it means a pop revolution. Each time has its own popular sign, especially the symbols and images in daily life.
For you what is the possibility in abstract art in contemporary time, and what is the particular area you want to tackle?
Abstract art liberated artists from traditional representationalist approach, and it is a natural cause. It is not difficult to see the outlook of the locations of abstract artists and collectors. Abstract art is active in developed countries and regions, especially in the US, UK, France and Germany. Abstract art dominates the art world in those places. If one is familiar with Western art history, the historical progress is very clear. Social media such as, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest are the major players promoting abstract art, however, it is a shame that still many people cannot see. Contemporary art is inseparable from the globalised social network.
As Chinese American, do you think your identity is more relevant to the ecology of contemporary art?
Artists of the older generation tried to localise abstract art in China, however, the result is not ideal. When Takashi Murakami studied in New York, he realised that Japan did not have contemporary art, the manga is good enough. Therefore he changed himself, not promoting Western contemporary art in Japan. He has become a successful manga artist. The dissynced information between the West and the East made it difficult to discuss art in the same realm.
My abstract works are mostly in KM series. I prefer using multi-media to paint, especially the ones I have not used before. To break away tradition, changing the media is a primary approach. I am satisfied with my recent abstract works, hoping they will be maturer. I am trained with academic protocols and gradually become an abstract artist, thereafter unconsciously the brushwork contains traditional footmark. If I cannot kick the bottleneck, then I will be following the black mountain school or New York School. I have got full scores for representationalist work at the university and was an outstanding art student. But I think I cannot be an artist, if only following the academic teaching.
How does the pandemic affect you and what is your vision for future art and exhibition?
I was not affected by it that much, even though at first I was a bit nervous. It is new to experience such a thing in the US. But now it is fine, facing real works of art, it makes people want to live.
The future is probably relying on online exhibitions, while the crucial thing is to find a good solution about digital representation. Now people are more interested in photoshop, and I saw many ugly photos seem to be very popular. Bad art dealers enlarged photos and print on canvas and sell them as oil paintings, they are the so-called zombie oil paintings. In offline exhibitions, viewers can see the original work, and it will satisfy our desire to respect the original and prevent bad photoshopping. It is hard to photoshop abstract art, as artists use the improvised brush to create, even artists can hardly repeat themselves. This particular aspect is also convenient for collectors, and most highly valued contemporary artworks are abstract.
Elon Musk 最近点赞一图我很喜欢，图上写着 The “EARTH” without “ART” is just “EH”. 意思是：如果地球没有艺术就什么都不是！艺术的本质是创造，自由是创造的基础。艺术家应该跨越各种边界的约束，不被特定的形式和内容所局限。跨越所有的知识和经验边界，在历史与未来之际只闪耀于现在。狂墨的创作是跨越文化区域的，这除了我生活在东西两岸的特殊境遇之外，还有对这两种文化的同时吸取。我没有主观区别这些边界，这可能是我的优点，水到渠成。如果你对奶酪和臭豆腐都很喜欢时，它们对你来说是没有相互排斥的感觉。很多人把不同文化对立起来是因为对另一种文化缺少足够的时间去理解，看再多书也没有用。很多学者是旅游加访问走马观花地去接触另外一种文化。
疫情期间人们更加依赖网络，伴随网络的发展世界各博物馆和民间土画都能够展现在你面前。艺术家的最新作品会在第一时间展示在社交媒体，作品的转播方式已经发生变化，包括艺术创作本身。我最近的作品缩小尺寸，增加了纸本。相对去年的大幅作品而言，我更加迷恋纸本创作，这是对1988年创作的延续。我始终围绕三个系列进行创作：荒原，狂墨和POP-R。其中POP-R是去年开始创作，POP是流行的意思，R 是英文 Revolution （革命）的开头字母。每个时代都有其流行符号，特别是日常生活中最能够影响我们的那些符号和图像。其它荒原和狂墨是大家熟悉的两个系列。
抽象艺术是艺术家从传统写实中解放出来奔向自由的必然结果。不难看出从抽象艺术家和收藏家的分布情况，抽象艺术活跃于发达国家和地区，特别是美，英，法，德这几个国家抽象艺术站有主导地位。熟悉欧美艺术历史的人都可以清晰地看到这些演变。instagram, Facebook, Pinterest 等主流社交媒体都是抽象艺术传播者，可惜很多人目前还看不到。当代艺术已经离不开全球化社交网络。