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Triple-Taste-Arthouses: Living in Art

王烨昇Johnny Wang 2019-02-25 15:56

These three artists are conceptual photographer Ma Liang (Maleonn), founder of “Nanmen Calligraphy” Zhu Jingyi and visual artist Wen Jing. They designed new artworks for the Pocky Art Show to deliver their bold ideas. Conversations with them remind me of writer Lu Xun’s “Triple-Taste House”, where different books stand for different tastes. Here, three talented artists, have their different stories to tell. 

Scintillating Surrealis

The first sight of Ma Liang’s works stimulates your palate: it’s the visual presentation of the typical “Jiangzhe” cuisine – rich and flavourful with sauces. Take What Is Love – Like a Moth to a Flame for example, the subject of the painting is an abstract human head, restrained but disdainful, on which stand many butterflies to contrast with the moth flying to the flame. Symbolising the subtle relationship between lovers, the work exhibits an interesting irony in the creative framework of a stage play. 


Ma Liang started learning fine arts at an early age. He initially worked as a commercial art editor and director. His working experience in the world of photography inspired him to develop a new focus of creation, when digital cameras began to be accessible. As he recalls, in 2003, as digital cameras just started to be popular, he purchased a model to shoot photos for painting copies. Influenced by his family, his very first photographs, like The Circus series, were already surrealistic. His later works are widely recognised as contemporary art, and featured by “expressing imagery concepts through photography.” 

It’s natural for artists to plant their emotions into their works. However, the topic is never exempted from criticisms on value and acceptability. Ma Liang at that time also noticed his works were welcomed by a limited number of audiences. Though he infused much passion to his works, the public was not interested. 


Things began to change with his invention of “Mobile Studio”. The device in an automobile was inspired by old-fashion photo studios. The moving device breaks the limit of space and offers a more pleasant environment. It’s a milestone in Ma’s career. “The life of a professional artist is to transplant personal emotions into works but it may not be understood by others. The Mobile Studio is an interactive and romantic creation, where I could share my eleven years of expertise of fine arts and photography with ordinary people, in the happiest way.” 

Ma’s surrealism is fun, absurd, but lives in the reality. In some way this is the core of his art philosophy. Art is just the form, what it delivers, matters. 

Piquant Realism

Compared to Ma Liang, Zhu Jingyi’s lifepath is quite different. Boldly ironic, artistically cynical, Zhu’s art is allegorically presented through calligraphy, and speaks the true mind of the artist. However, talking with him is another thing. Seemingly critical and sarcastic, he is an ardent explorer of new ways to interpret life. 


Artists are reluctant to succumb to customs and regulations. For Zhu Jingyi, it’s not the case. Educated as a traditional Chinese painter, he accidentally practiced as an indoor designer for three years. His experience taught him that the difference between art and design, is just art is one-way expression, but design a mutual experience. “Some artists seek commercial opportunities and they learn to meet their demands. The fact is that art has no absolute ego. I always tell myself that if you want to be creative, you have to dance with the chains on you.”


Zhu’s graphic art is largely influenced by his training in traditional Chinese painting. For instance, the lines on his art installation is featured in black and white. “It’s highly related with my knowledge in Chinese painting. I think lines best represent the oriental charm, and through the lines we interpret the philosophy. A single line is able to express the entire world, which is seriously neglected by the public. Nowadays we are over-influenced by the west and fail to understand the traditional beauty of lines.” 


It does not mean Zhu Jingyi is a conservative artist. From a personal perspective, Zhu regards the old traditions of art are the natural outcome of engagement with the past society. Yet the stereotypes of conceiving art hinder the development of art itself. To gain a new life, art must live in the current. In his eyes, all forms of art are supposed to convey and express feelings. That’s why his works of art, the Nanmen Calligraphy for example, bring the audience a moment of self-irony. 

Then, it’s understandable to think the “anti-stereotype” art perspective offers Zhu Jingyi a broader vision and more flexibility between art and the commercial. 

For him, the contemporary art must be the living art. 

Mellow Pragmatism

Art tells the mind. Through Ma Liang and Zhu Jingyi’s works we understand their respective temperaments. And from Wen Jing, we see how art resembles to its creator – like a cup of mellow rose Pu’er. 

Wen Jing just returned from her overseas shooting. Still excited from the trip, she says “among all the countries I’ve travelled, I love French towns and Norwegian sceneries most.”

Wen is now a prominent figure in the industry. Her first work is a poster for A Story of Lala’s Promotion, which won her favour from the producer and kick-started her career in commercial photography. For Wen Jing, the creations in work combines art and design. That means besides inspiration, the response from working partners, market and the public are all taken into consideration. 


This explains why Wen devotes so much attention to observation and communication when working. During the shooting, she concentrates on the state of mind, of the models. “For example, I would pay special attention to how relaxed they are. Many of them only care how good they look in appearance – which could be easily photoshopped – but the state of mind is hard to re-create. Lightings, hi-end cameras are important, however, the most crucial part is to communicate effectively with the models.” 

Speaking of the role of photographers in the process of creation, Wen thinks that photographers observe the subject of picture, decide which angle is the best, and direct the model to pose their best selves. From a certain perspective, the quality of a portrait photograph depends on whether the photographer is good at directing the models. Certainly, the photographer’s sole job is not controlling the lights, but also the organisation of the whole working team.


Lastly, Wen describes her feeling when working, “photographers enjoy the process of working most, just like directors love organising his scenes.” Wen’s creations are full of aesthetic enjoyment, both visual and conceptual. She would wait patiently to capture a special moment in the Arctic, and shoot the changes of a person over a decade. 

Wen Jing is not essentially an art theorist. However, in a world captured through apertures, she leaves her unique footprints on the film.

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