Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts

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Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts
Living in - Chengdu
2014-12-26 ~ 2015-02-15
 Text by Hu Yung-Fen
Lovely rain comes as early-spring delight. That quenches everything’s thirst in time.
The fine rain drifts with gentle breeze into the night, and silently drenches everything in sight.
In the wilderness flicker only riverboats’ torches, when the rain clouds cover the moonlight.
Freshened up by the spring rain overnight, the flowering shrubs will definitely look delicate and charming in Chengdu’s dawn light.
Written by Du Fu in his twilight years when he was banished to Chengdu, the above poem Enjoy the Rain in a Spring Night not only implicitly reflected the Zeitgeist but also brimmed with elegance and passion. With natural scenery as the point of departure, this poem then portrayed the social and cultural landscapes embedded in the scenery, and concluded with the humanistic vision conjured in the poet’s mind. We would feel isolated and disconsolate if we were a traveler on board a riverboat alone in a rainy, dark and humid night. Notwithstanding, Du Fu was able to thoroughly enjoy the scene and depict a tranquil, beautiful humanistic landscape. In this regard, Du’s passion in transcending his plight is truly touching and admirable. 
Du’s humanistic vision was lodged in his social consciousness. If we interpret the vision within the context of his era and extend it through his life experiences and poetry, we will find his wisdom and magnanimity from such a beautiful poem written in the time when he was suffering from hardships, poverty, and depression. To express it in a fashionable way, he showed us how to understand and lead an ideal “simple life.” Without these hardships, Du’s simple life would just be a banal one. The picture of his life composed of his experiences, deeds and poetry are reminiscent of Che Guevara’s saying: “one must harden without ever losing tenderness.” 
This exhibition consists of the works by twenty-two artists from Chengdu. The diversity in the appearances and forms of their works reflects the great nurturing ability of the city. Some depict landscapes, while others allude to historical issues, and still others focus on the sensorial experience of life. There may be a world of difference between these exhibited works and those in Du’s era in terms of artistic expression. Notwithstanding, they voice similar concerns from their innermost cores. 
Emerged from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute during the 1970s and 1980s, “scar art” and “local art” have caused a paradigm shift from idealism to the concern over the real, secular world. Interestingly, scar art and local art were less flourishing in Chongqing, the city of their origin, than in Chengdu, where most pioneers of the two art movements streamed into. 
What these exhibited artworks have in common is the concept of “simple life.” In contrast to globalization and centralization, the ease, triviality and simplicity of daily life in terms of consciousness, values and subjects reflect the cultivation and multiplicity of local creative energy. “Simplicity” is a concept easily being hijacked by contemporary commercial activities or popular culture. If simplicity is decontextualized, banality would replace the vitality that simplicity originally radiates. Accordingly, we must understand simplicity from its original context, just as the way we interpret Du’s poem about the beautiful scenery to his delight in his twilight years. Thus, we can realize that simple life entails having a moment of leisure under heavy workload or finding happiness in hard times. It reflects the wisdom of life and represents the most fundamental posture against our plight. As a relative concept, simple life serves as the reference and index for these artists to create works in contrast to the mainstream of artistic creation in China that emphasizes quantity and spatial occupation. In comparison with the hectic life in Beijing and those emerging coastal cities, the simple life delicately and carefully depicted by the inhabitants and creators in the inland cities is exactly where their dignity and sense of existence reside. The interplay between simplicity and complexity definitely creates an inner tension; however, it does not necessarily implicate confrontation. 
By and large, the spirit of “simplicity” can be regarded as a complement or a reminder, a flexible connection among individuals, a kind of interdependence and separate endeavors. It informs us of the inestimable value of “simplicity.” We may further explore what the feature or spirit of Chengdu would be or could be, if there is such a thing. This exhibition probably contains such an attempt to raise this question.