Lu Ping Yuan

LEE : Hello. I'm happy to talk to you. First, please introduce me briefly.
LU : I was born in Jinhua, Zhejiang. As a child, with my family’s encouragement I started drawing and painting, in the hope that I could become an artist when I grew up. I read about the lives of artists in children’s books, and their influence slowly seeped in. I hoped I could be like them one day, and start creating my own works.

LEE : Were there any memorable events when you started Art Work?
LU : I’ve been influenced by a great number of artists. After graduating, I began to work at Biwing Art Centre, and also made contact with certain artists that have had a great effect on me, such as Xu Zhen, and Yang Zhen. The stories around artists had a greater effect on me than any of their individual works. I discovered that I was extremely drawn to the narratives of art itself, to me they were full of the same mystery as folk tales. As I grew older, I started to become familiar with works of contemporary art; I was also very motivated and inspired by my father. My father is a doctor, and has always worked steadily and with a very rational mind; this attitude led him to make many miraculous discoveries in his medical practice, extremely rare physical diseases that he eventually cured with supernatural techniques. These discoveries would sometimes make him full of hope and wonder, and he would tell me about them, and passed these feelings onto me. This led me to strongly believe in the power of miracles and their ability to give people hope.

LEE : Does the experience you received from your father have to do with inserting text on the big stone?
LU : Yes. I started to focus on creating hyperreal narratives. This enabled me to create works which were physically impossible to achieve, and furthermore create a series of artistic folk tales. I was inspired by a science fiction novel that depicts a world where information technology has collapsed, so humanity must record all information onto stone, to prove that it once existed. So over the last few years I’ve been trying to engrave my stories onto stone.

LEE : < Ghost Trap >, < Night Singing Palace >, < The Man Bitten by a Book > etc. Is there a particular standard for stone laying in your typical work?
LU : Sometimes, specific scenery dictates the way things happen in my stories. For example, in one story I designed two different endings in accordance with the Nanjing mountains; I believe the setting of a story becomes one of the ways it’s experienced. < Ghost Trap > piece was created specifically for an exhibition titled CASS. Stone is a very basic and natural material of the earth; when people read from it, they aren’t necessarily conscious of its materiality, as it exists everywhere.

LEE : < Van Gogh Ltd. > is not stone or natural, but text carved on the outer walls of an artificial building. It's a different way of doing things, isn't it?
LU : My stories don’t necessarily appear in nature; they often appear in cities, or within exhibition spaces. They could even appear suddenly behind you, just like a ghost. To me, ‘text’, just like the ghostly apparition that is the ‘story’, needs a body, a physical form, in order to be seen. We as humans are accustomed to using language to describe consciousness, it’s become very convenient. 

LEE : The Liverpool Biennale's " Don't Open It " received a lot of attention in Europe.
LU : < Do Not Open It > is entirely based on my works which deal with the medium of the story. I collected lots of doors, doors that once belonged to different people’s homes. Many different stories once occured behind these doors. These doors together created a wide flat space; hanging on a gallery wall, they highlighted a kind of pyschological distance. Thus, this is a graphic work with “information”.

LEE : You're working on installing text outdoors until 17 years, and it seems like you've changed dramatically with animation like Toy Story and Thomas and setting up amusement facilities for children.
LU : My decision to use children’s toys wasn’t at all sudden; I’ve actually long been interested in them, in connection to my ongoing interest in stories: I’m always looking for a kind of physical base or manifestation for them. Stories to me are the same as sculptures; in the same way that a sculpture would have a base or plinth, my stories also need some kind of base. The kind of base required depends on the story itself. One of my stories is particularly influenced by the film Toy Story. To me, Toy Story is a truly hyperreal work, and it left a mark on me as a child. After seeing it I was constantly afraid that my toys would suddenly start moving. So in the year of the 20th anniversary of Toy Story, I decided to base an exhibition around it. I used as source material the personal fears I held at the time, and combined them with newly-made toys; together they helped convey the story I was telling.  

LEE : In fact, as amazing as Toy Story is Hommage of ON KAWARA. Please explain about it.

LU : The Today Series was a series of painting works by artist On Kawara which began in 1966, and continued up until the day before he died. In the works, he painted the exact date (year, month, day) of that day onto a single colour background, in the form of the local language of where he was at the time. If he was unable to finish the piece that day, he would destroy it. One night, after he had passed away, On Kawara appeared to me in a dream. He invited me to help him complete this series of works, as he felt his life’s work had been left incomplete. After waking from the dream I immediately set about learning how to create the Today Series paintings, and I’m still helping him make them today.  

LEE : What are some important keywords in your overall work?
LU : Stories, people, nature, cultural phenomena, humanity, life, ghosts, spirits, space, time, etc. I feel like it all originated with text; I began to explore the social context of stories, and through this began to produce more interesting work. I don’t art should exist for sociality. Art should absorb the sociality and sublimate it into a more metaphysical spirit.

LEE : 'The 11th Shanghai Biennale' received a lot of attention even before it opened with huge capital. What was the experience of the biennale?
LU : I printed the story onto mental plates and displayed them throughout the venue. Visitors would read the stories inadvertently while viewing the show. I feel Shanghai biennale is evidently important to Shanghai’s contemporary art scene. It used to play a crucial role. Large capital is not a bad thing for art. It’s helpful for art’s development, of course, if under the circumstances that art maintains a high quality.

LEE: I want to know the art scenes of China. Does Shanghai have enough platforms for Artists?
LU : China’s young art community is dynamic. It starts to have more exhibitions and more young artists start to engage creative work. In Shanghai in particular, there are many new museums, institutes and galleries, which bring many opportunities for the young artists. Actually, there are more than enough platforms. However, good art sometimes has very little thing to do with the quantity of the platforms.

LEE : Are there any notable activities in the recent Chinese art scene?
LU : Nowadays, China’s young artists are relevantly independent. They tend to work independently, which is different compare to the social environment of group activities in the past. Contemporary art is always in a pioneer position in the society, so does China’s art world. It is the same worldwide. The only difference would be our background and our audiences. 

LEE : Thank you. Finally, let me know your future plans.
LU : In terms of future work, I’ve decided to focus on writing a novel, something of an adventure. I plan to incorporate both my works and artistic sensibilities into it.