Zhang Huan is from China, and his work is inspired by Taoism and Buddhism. From 1993 to 2005, he created compelling performance works that have led him to being one of the most important artists in China. He has no limits as he has explored various mediums from sculpture, printmaking, illustration, performance art, painting and more! I had a rare opportunity to have a brief chat with Zhang to gain some perspective on his amazing work. Read below for the full interview…
Art history has always been a popular subject in mainland China, did that have a hand in influencing you in choosing art as a career?
Working in so many different mediums, How would you best categorize your work?
Zhang: I don’t deliberately categorize my work; moreover, I care more about the ideas as conveyed by the work.
When it comes to your public arts projects, how do you see and understand public space and the role of art in public space?
Zhang: Sometimes the work awakes the original life of the public space while sometimes the public space brings new life to the art work.
So what do you think makes a piece endure over very long periods of time, generations, or even hundreds of years?
Zhang: The creativity and sprit of the work, is the 21 grams of it as given by the artist.
Having had exhibits in the West as well as the East, what is the biggest cultural difference that you see from how receptive your art is from an audience stand point? Do you feel your art resonates better in China than in Boston, for example?
Zhang: Western culture is like a square and Chinese culture is like a circle. An art work is just like an mirror, it reveals the audience’s own perspective and ideas, I hope my work is free and open, and I accept the audience’s multiple interpretations.
Having graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts in the early 90’s, do you feel formal education has progressed in the last 20 years or do you feel that the quality of work from new graduates has diminished over time?
Zhang: Art works varies with different times, no matter weak or strong, they embody the spirit and culture of that time, so the most important thing is we can learn something and draw some conclusion from it.
Do you feel like there is a lack of attention surrounding performance art in the mainstream?
Zhang: Performance still play a minor role in the long river of art. However in general, people of our time are more and more open towards art, and it got more acceptance and attention.
Have any films inspired any of your work?
Zhang: No, my works are all from my actual experience of life.
In 2011, the rise of art students in China rose a significant amount. Many workshops opened up with the focus of presenting basic concepts in Jung’s theory of individuation, kinship libido, structure of the psyche, dreams and the expressive arts therapy and how they can be explored. Do you feel students who follow a conventional way of learning will help, or ultimately hurt, their creativity in the long run?
Zhang: I think Chinese artist should find answers in the Chinese culture and its root so as to establish our own culture system.
Lastly, can you offer any advice to an artist who is trying to achieve a better frame of mind, or looking to expand upon their work?
Zhang: I have three pieces of advice, Firstly, if a young artist has other survival skills, my advice is giving up art. Secondly if you want to make good work and even to high level, you have to mess the art world first, so only after that, people can free their mind and broadens their horizon. People realize the abundance outside the art world, and bring them to art so as to enrich art. Thirdly if you really consider art as your life, so just go other people’s way, Here I didn’t mean just copy the big master’s style and language superficially, instead, we should learn their ideology and behavior and attitude towards art who consider art as life and gambling life in art world. Only by going other people’s way like that, can you go outside of it and make some achievement.
To learn more about Zhang Huan, please visit his official site below: