Cultural Interpretation and Psychic Choice

The ink and wash paintings of He Canbo in recent years are concise in their pattern, and sometimes even reduced to charts or formulas. In this aspect, he is just like a thinker with image as main tools. He constantly upgrade his various experiences in daily life to a metaphysical level for thinking, summarization and interpretation and continually visualize the interpretations. Thus the motive for the highly concise feature of his paintings lies in his wish to extract, generalize and find out the essence from the daily experiences and try to display them in the images as concise as possible.

The constituting elements in his works are mainly simplified head portraits, regular geometric patterns and ink and wash traces without fix form. With simplified head portraits, he tries to summarize the generality of human beings. The regular geometric patterns are usually used to show various representative architectures or the system, order and logic symbolizing human civilization. The ink and wash traces with no fixed forms transform into the major backdrops of human beings. The specific implicit feature formed by the water ink on the Xuan paper displays an unknown mystery. Due to the conciseness, these elements are highly symbolic. With different combinations of these symbolic elements with designated meanings, he manages to translate and reproduce the rules of complex changes in the current world with visual symbols.

On the one hand, these highly concise works are a metaphysical interpretation and a visual display of the issues he concern, which make his ideals clear and penetrating. On the other hand, in the combination of many of his works, the complicatedness of the fields and levels of his concern and are shown. These rich works with various references are just like maxims which look fragmented but actually refer to issues of interpretation, linguistics and religions closely related to the existence of a contemporary urbanite.

An overview of the previous works of Hu Canbo indicates that the relationship between people’s free will and various cultural systems is the major target of his repeated thinking and summarization. In the meantime, it also comes from the daily experiences and spiritual resorts of him as a contemporary urbanite, thus ensuring the vivid and rich characteristics of these issues. The emerging and continuing of the awareness of issues comes from the aspiration for the existence of innocence and happiness, thus the objection to the state of living of being carried along by the tide, as well as the examination of various cultural systems.

Through his image, he offers his metaphysical interpretation of these issues in an intuitive and visual way. At first, he mainly centers on the relationship between individuals and the contemporary urban culture. As to the great manipulation of urban culture and the discomfort of individuals, there is refined characterization in his works and the subjectivity of culture is stressed. Later, the integration and control of people with various cultural systems and the restrictions upon people becomes his major fields of concern. These are issues with contemporary color with the concern and portrait by many contemporary artists and there are in-depth expressions in certain specific aspects. Compared with these artists, there is no specific penetration into a certain aspect in each piece of artistic works of He Canbo. However, when putting his numerous works together, you will find the abundance of areas and levels of his concern. In each of his paintings, there is systematic concern and precise description of these fields and in this process, there comes the macro and holistic concern. The series of works of He Canbo is of great significance as an entirety.

After system concern over the representative fields of concern, He Canbo realizes that people are always immersed in specific cultural systems with various features of times and regions, thus generating different cultural issues. Meanwhile, getting rid of the restraints of these cultural systems and gaining a more natural sense of existence is the transcending impulse of every person with self-evidence. This is universal. At this time, the relationship between people and the universe becomes an issue you must face, sooner or later. As a Chinese ink and wash painter, He Canbo first interprets from the culture of mountains and waters, or landscape, with which he was very familiar. In addition, he extracts the universal factors in the specific beliefs like the Buddha and the God in visual ways and gives systematic concern and characterization. The formless water and wash traces are specified as various scenes of movement of the universe in different paintings. The people are embedded into this backdrop. The halos and lines become “psychic” symbols in his paintings.

In He’s works, there seems to be his personal feelings and orientation. Just like a series of formulas for the movement of the world listed by bystanders, his works set the viewer thinking in a rational way. As to the self-identity and choice after thinking, they are the freedom of each person. But as life in the current situation, people must make choice, even choices like drifting like the tide, as long as they don’t choose to end their life or aren’t away from human society. In real life, people have their own opinion about happiness. This becomes the basic motivation for various activities, as well as the source for his value and significance. Thus in each specific circumstance, it is of great importance to make the choice, especially in the current cultural situation with .confusing and perplexing cultural values.

This is no exception for He Canbo, as even if one can understand the regular pattern of the world, he or she still needs to make a choice and put into practice. Although he seems to isolate his own position and choice, his works indicate his passion for the issues of belief. He describes it like this, “with the image of human beings, the spirit transcends everything.” This becomes the sub-current through his works, especially in his recent works. It is also a constant issue amidst the numerous complex ones: to pursue spiritual, transcending and constant feature and in the secular and transient existence and gain something. This issue doesn’t disappear in the contemporary era with cultural politics as the main issue; instead, it becomes latent. In dealing with the social and political issues, facing and solving the in-depth emptiness is a constant issue in each era. As long as there is such appeal, the issue of belief should be touched upon and, the choices and creations generated in this process enrich and enhance the spiritual feelings of people, thus penetrating into the whole concept of existence. The works of He Canbo in recent years are just shown around these issues.

For the artistic creation of He Canbo, it is of great significance to touch upon a certain constant core issue and make more comprehensive and in-depth interpretation from the contemporary global cultural perspective. In addition, in the current cultural situation, as opposed to the single-dimension cultural and political criticism, the orientation he concerns is a kind of supplement as well as continuance and correction. And this concern comes from the independent sense and calm thinking in the face of mainstream cultural system, as well as the impulsive and ability to trace the source after an overview of the surface issues. The height of artistic works originates from the choice in the field of certain core issues in specific cultural situation, as well as the profoundness of reasoning, enthusiasm of experiences and preciseness of language expression. The greatest charm of the works of He Canbo is that with the symbol of human beings as the base point, it displays a unique and large visual space, in which there are range of vision and poetic spiritual dependence. With diverse works of art, rich ideas are reflected, rendering the viewers reflections in unique aesthetic situation amidst imagination in different space and time. For He Canbo, the significance lies in the transformation of various rich experiences in the complex world into paintings, so as to show the thinking of existence of human beings and boundless spiritual situation. With a high ideological level and distinctive oriental cultural flavor, his abstract works have enriched the artistic content in this era.


Written in August 2010

Du Xiyun

Born in 1978, Du Xiyun graduated from the Department of Oil Painting of the School of Fine Arts of Shaanxi Normal University in 2000. In 2006 he graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with a Master’s degree. He has been engaged in fine arts criticism, compilation of magazines and exhibition planning. He is now Executive Editor of Art Time.