Jan Leaming: For some artists, making art is a process in which the figurative was transformed into the non-figurative. How did you make the transition from realism to abstraction? How long did it take you to make this transition?
Chen Ruo Bing: Actually, such a transition from realism to abstraction did not occur in my art-making process. I don’t see realism and abstraction as opposites. I am more concerned with how to paint and what the painting will look like, no matter what I paint. In art, one does not have to negate A in order to prove B. A well-made figurative painting can be a piece of good artwork. Good figurative works must share certain principles and standards with abstract works. The important thing is how to concentrate on the quality of the painting itself to create an autonomous entity. I pay more attention to the immediate experience that painting can elicit. Our experiences, feelings, and perceptions are very real. Painting is not something illusory. Our understanding of painting does not solely relies on narratives, or art historical discourses. It is definitely something that a perceptive person can grasp. It is also an artistic and visual reality that one must confront.
L: Could you talk about the breakthroughs and the things that you have pursued consistently in your artistic creation?
C: The breakthroughs in my art are about creating new realms, where new experiences and realizations can be generated as the spirit that resides in the painting becomes transformed. There are things that I have pursued consistently; I reflect again and again on some of the most fundamental principles in art. To return to the origin of things is the only way to make breakthroughs.
L: What about the impact of your colleagues, the media, and the market?
C: The impact of our society on individuals is ubiquitous. When we face the information-saturated world, it is necessary to have an open mind. Of course, there is no such a thing as absolute freedom in artistic creation. Artists’ most important task is to choose. The entire process of making art is about to move forward by making constant decisions. Without making judgments and choices, there will be no such things as rejection and persistence. Artists will lose their sense of direction as well as the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the world.
L: Could you talk about how your art conception and art-making process evolve?
Chen: I pass through several phases as my art concept evolves. Unlike figurative art, abstract art does not necessarily involve the change of a painting’s appearance when the painting’s subject is changed. In a certain phase, my work stays quite consistent in terms of form. In other words, my state is comparatively stable within a certain period of time. Of course, looking back on a longer period of time in my art career, one will find shifting concepts and forms in my work. Change, however, is not the most important thing to me. The originality and autonomy of the forms and images are more important. All changes lead to a common end. An artist may only be able to explore one kind of possibility in his/her pursuit of perfection. Years of quiet contemplation and reflections on paintings are only stepping stones on our path to the essence of our life.
L: From physical and emotional points of view, do you enjoy the way how you paint ? If so, what kind of joy does painting give to you? Did your feelings toward painting change along the way?
C: The purity of form in abstraction certainly meet our subconscious need for order. The power of abstract art is expressed when it is viewed as a whole. In the art-making process, all the unnecessary elements will be abandoned. Only in this way can one create a new logic and a new order. When the form of a painting becomes pure, and when a more powerful force emerges from the painting space, a work of art acquires its raison d’être.
L: Where do you find your inspirations?
C: The inspirations come from all aspects of my life, ranging from attitudes to things that I am interested in. These things influence and guide us all the time. The most trivial things may turn out to be most important ones. On the one hand, when our perception and realizations are oriented toward spirituality, everything can become a source of inspiration. On the other hand, without spirituality, artworks will lose their essence and vitality. For both the artist and the viewer, inspiration opens our spiritual eye in an instant. It, indeed, is the most generous gift that life gives us.