Interview with ECNU Art Students on
the Source of Inspiration of Contemporary Artists
Date: 2010.10.18 Location: ECNU student's dormitory
Interviewer: Yuwen Shane Li Videotape: Nina Boys
A. Cheng Luyao, 21, art education
B. Yang Yi, 20, industrial design
C. Bian Congjuan, 22, public art
D. Jiang Liping, 21, indoor design
Source of inspiration
A, Nature, forests, and art works from other artists.
Other people's work? You mean, imitation?
Not really, I got inspired by other's work. I imitated other people's work when I first started learning ink painting, but later when I started my creation, I created my own work. By creating, I mean reconstitution, expressing your own idea.
We also go to other places to paint the nature. Like Lu shan mountain, where there is water and mountains. And also gardens in Suzhou.
Gardens, must be good for ink painting.
B, to watch some pictures, borrow some good points, get some inspiration, and develop my own work. Borrowing good points, and surpass it. Just like what Japan has done. Japan imitated western design and improved it, surpassed it.
So it's a process of imitation and surpass?
C, more than gathering pictures of other people's work, I also read on the subject I am working on, a lot of reading. For example, when the professor gives a subject, some of the students will look for pictures, but I do it in my way, I will extensively read on the given topic, all kinds of books, not necessarily in art. I also carry a small notebook with me to write down anything that crosses my mind in case I forget. Not big ideas, but I think it's helpful to me.
D, I major in indoor design. When the professor gives a topic, we usually go on field trip to check out the actual settings, explore the space, find the problem and solve it.
A, I usually read about Chinese history, and Hua lun (comments on traditional Chinese paintings).
What is that?
It's just about traditional Chinese ink paintings.
Is it a text book?
No, it's Chinese critics' essays and comments on art works in the ancient times. It cultivated the arty characteristic in me.
Hua lun it's about swordsman's world, etc. Chinese culture is very inclusive, like five elements (Wu Xing), Yin Yang, Feng Shui, architecture, traditional Chinese medicine, all of this kind. It's really a massive data pool, and since I am learning ink painting, it's necessary for me to read about that.
B, yes, I've been reading literature lately, classics which are usually read by students in elementary school. Like 《pride and prejudice.》
So you majored in public art?
No, industrial design.
So how will classics inspire you?
Not necessarily inspire, but it helps me to have arty temperament (Di Yun).I think an art student should read extensively, know some basics in every field.
And also, Yi Jing, about eight elements. (Ba Gua).
C, I read extensively. Like what you have mentioned, philosophy, Nietzsche, I borrowed books on philosophy, but never finished reading them. I couldn't carry on because it's so profound and abstract so I didn't have the passion to read it.
So what you read most?
I like to read about Buddhism and Taoism.(Laugh)
Do you actually do that?
Yes, I have read three or four books on that this year.
You majored in public art, right?
Yes. I was influenced by one of my teacher. On one hand it's because of the teacher, on the other hand, I like some ideas in the Buddhism about how to view the world around me. Sometimes I felt so gloomy, and that helped me a lot. Also (Buddhism and Taoism) can add some deep implication into my work.
D， I do not read that much. Lately I've been reading books on career and time management, and books related to my major because I am going into the workforce soon.
So more "practical" books?
About the reading fever
A. I thought that people's interest in western philosophy began even before the anti-Japan war.
But there was Cultural Revelotion.
Well after that, I don't really know about that period.
So you don't really know about the reading fever twenty years ago?
D, I don't know about that.
Do you know about the history period during 1970~1980? We know that Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, so there's a vacuum of history between 1976 to 1989?
So you don't know that in the early 80s what was going on in the art circle?
A universal force influencing contemporary artists in China?
A. Nowadays artists are trying to combine western art and eastern art. This process is completed in the west. Chinese art has been following the western. Chinese contemporary artists are still experimenting on that. I don't know whether this will succeed or not.
C, I think in today's university, such kind of reading fever does not exist, but we are now pulling by another force.
Like, ( think really hard)
That's something. But people are exploring the characteristics of our own time. 80s babies, 90s babies, we are searching for our identities and rediscovering our classics.
B, the society? Social affairs.
C, I think nowadays artists emphasize individualism more. I don't see any collective influence.
Art and the reality
A. Literature reflects the reality.
So you think artists draw inspiration from literature which depict the status of the society, is that so?
C, in my work, I tend to expose some social problems, to reveal them in the form of art.
A. Go with the flow.
B, find a good husband.
Well it remains a problem whether I can find one or not.
C: I would strive for my own happiness. Take it step by step. I want to practice my interest in art and be a freelancer.
D, I want to be a career woman. To work for a big design company and climb the career ladder.
Translated by Yuwen Shane Li.