Renowned artist Zheng Chongbin crafts works that combine Western sensibility with the Chinese tradition of calligraphy. In a series of interviews with the Asian art world’s leading figures, Culture Trip talked to Zheng Chongbin about his practice, and about being an artist.
How are your works different from traditional ink paintings?
I don’t have that drive against the tradition, and really against the tradition does not mean to deny the tradition, but the limit. The limit to that I wanted to challenge it, both to what I already know, and also to challenge myself in terms of what I already have, and what the next possibility is.
Would you describe your works as ‘contemporary ink’?
It wasn’t really about contemporary ink, it’s really about contemporary paintings. It’s happened that I’m actually very good, or very comfortable with this media I’m so close with. I choose ink, but is ink only limited to the traditional notion, or ink is about field, colour, light, or weight? There are many possibilities to lead to different notions, which we’re all facing to think about in a painting.
Do you think that your works are influenced by Western art practices?
It certainly led me to the next stage of what I think of paintings. For instance, I abandoned the [traditional Chinese] brush and use a wider brush, gestural way and also the structural way, and in the formal issues of paintings, in terms of structure, compositions. All these factors are starting to shift and changing. I have to look at a painting much differently than I were used to.
What is the thought process behind the creation of your ink paintings?
I wanted to emphasise on the characteristics of the ink, and I wanted to feel that there is a much more direct physical presence, so by adding acrylic as part of the structural vehicles that activates ink more alive, in terms of visual effects, in terms of physicality effects. All these led me into expanding the vocabulary [of ink paintings], and also by taking out the realism and representational form, gets into more abstract paintings.
What is your advice for young artists?
Anywhere you go, anywhere you travel, you always keep in mind of thinking like a student, like art making in process. You really have to think in that way. Primarily is focus on your work. Anything else it’s the phenomenon, it’s the art market, and also a business really. Whether you are caught into it or you want to be part of it, you really have to centre yourself, knowing who you are and what you really want to [achieve].