2015 -Ning Space -Beijing
Void lingers in void, abundance vanishes inside abundance
——Transcend the Dilemma of Counterpoint.
By Loy Luo
I once spend over a year trying to emulate the way Gilles Deleuze interprets Francis Bacon in his book, “Logic of Sense”. I applied Nietzsche’s “Will of Power” to the interpretation of an artist and her art. In my judgment, the life of the artist resembles a fickle burning desire. I think that Nietzsche’s philosophy is equivalent to the tenet of her art. But what about the equivalent of mine? For many years, I have been trying to watch myself with the eyes of a bystander, continually looking for an answer to and experimenting with the notion of “Who am I?”, as if I had been deprived of the soul. Am I a fireball burning, as if duty-bound? I am not that strong. Am I self-cleansing water in this earthly world? I am not that calm. I agree to the transcending nature of Chinese art as expressed in Xu Fuguan’s writing. However, rising to the state of nature may seem egoistic and it is becoming of me to keep striving and to adhere to the Daoist thinking of inaction when I quit this world, without regret or feeling obliged? I think that all art practices are about transcending the spiritual constraints, and ridding of the secular burdens that our physical bodies are laden with, only what happens after the transcendence and how enlightened one becomes vary case by case.
Personally, I agree more with the Christian-style contemporary transcendence practice. It acknowledges the legitimacy of idolatry rejections, i.e. the return to an imperceptible omnipresent God. Thus it ushers in the daring experiment of spirits going beyond the material world without severing its connection with the human world, where it resides in the hearts. Men are chosen by God, and are a passage from materialism to spirituality.
Thanks to Pythagoras and Plato, the barriers between western religion and philosophy, and between the secular world and paradise, had been bridged. The division came later on. Arguing vehemently, Plato revealed whether art could transcend the earthly barrier and reach the spiritual realm. Later, in subsequent debates about varied art theories, art has always striven to reveal the truth through images, until imitation art failed in revealing the truth of the world. Oriental art realized earlier than its western counterpart that you cannot judge a book by its cover. However, its realization didn’t go far enough. The truth is, through the proclamation of Abstractionism, the challenge posed by Suprematism and the adventure of Conceptualism, the pure dance of free ideas has become a passion for serious artists. Malevich, Klein, Tàpies, Rothko, were soul dancers good at dancing in the sky, radiating breathtaking beauty and brilliance from within, which has energy in great abundance. Religion, philosophy, and art have not until recently made the drift towards or are moving to the glory of the Holy Trinity.
According to classical Chinese aesthetics and art ethos, all of these dilemmas will be resolved through spiritual transcendence. Nobody knows where we may go from there but the vibrant spiritual wings know where the wind blows.
"I am positive that in the center of the void, as in a human heart, there is a burning fire.” Re-reading Klein’s book, I am even more convinced that one’s art is his religion or philosophy. What one has inside shows on the canvas, and shapes the style. An artist’s character, changing or not, is something deeply engraved. In all ages, great masters have their own fantastic temperaments, which are not made. The temperament comes from within and is a barometer of how tolerant you are of the world, whether you go with or against the tide of life. It comes from your understanding of what it means to be a human being.
Perhaps my psychological traits, my being a Gemini or my AB blood type means that I will wear the shackles of contradiction throughout my life. That plus the two cultures that have nourished me --- and caught between the opposites of earth vs ocean, risk-taking vs caution, openness vs constraints, bright versus claustrophobic, calmness vs fierceness --- my life will be spent waging wars against my other self. Personality determines fate. I think that it is my fate to mitigate the seemingly impossible contradictions inside myself and integrate them into my art.
Void lingers in void; while abundance vanishes inside abundance. This poetic atmosphere is the atmosphere of painting, and the ultimate illustration of life and universe. East and West, philosophy and religion, human and the universe, the flesh and the spirit, void and abundance, existence and disappearance… like the ancient totem of Taiji, the two poles move against each other, circulate, encroach upon and permeate each other, repel and alienate each other. When art reaches such a stage, life will become indescribably expansive, fabulous and worthwhile.
The Concealment of Rationality and the Rise of Poetic Senses
Preface to Loy Luo’s Exhibition
By Jia Fangzhou
I was deeply impressed by Luo Yi’s giant leap in art in the past two years when I was invited to her studio not long ago. It appeared that after some meditation and wavering, the artist suddenly hit upon the essence of art, gained the insight and matured intoa master. Although I knew that art always develops by leaps and bounds, rather than grow gradually, I was quite taken aback by her great leap forward. This has confirmed my prediction two years earlier: “Although a relative newcomer to the art scene, Luo Yi will develop fast, thanks to her intellect and sensitivity. We shall soon see that her future is not a dream.”
I remember visiting her studio three years ago. At that time, I saw neither a unified style nor constancy in her paintings. Her works changed according to her mood: pure and simple when she was calm; passionate and exuberant when she was impetuous. In her latest works, however, there are no signs of impetuosity. Instead, we see passion being depicted in systematic, unobtrusive and rational narratives.
Luo Yi’s abstract works are based on her emotion and inner qualities: her involuntary philosophical thinking and reflective poetic expressions. As she is an inherently independent thinker and not a Neophile, her mind is always brimful of question marks and her own answers. It has become a ritual for her to make probing intellectual inquiries. However, this sheer obsession doesn’t go well with her poetic passions, resulting in disharmony of a kind. In her recent works, the disharmony has ebbed away, while the fiery passion has given way to the fiercely domineering philosophical thinking. As a result, her art has become well-balanced: minimalistic, pure and geometric, not revealing or obscuring anything beyond the confines of the canvas. In the repetitive process of production, there appears in her work features akin to steadiness, depth, richness and dignity. While minimalistic and pure on the whole, the works have not become a plane surface untouched by strokes. Her neat rational narrations are imbued with a rich poetic aroma, while the traces of her expressive strokes still hinder the artist from entering the realm of pure rationality. In her work, there still exists an inner conflict: the concealment of Rationality and the rise of poetic senses. That is why it has been difficult for the artist to surrender to sheer rationality.
To rid of impressionist strokes and acquire a pure sense of rational order, or pure logic, Luo Yi has adopted an approach most similar to that of Piet Cornelies Mondrian, among the many forerunners of impressionist artists. Mondrian’s neoplasticism is about representing natural truth. He sought to minimize expressive visual elements on the canvas, including the most reasonable narratives. Inclined to be simplistic, Mondrian paid particular attention to clarity, exactitude and transparency, and was especially fond of using lines. His objective was to reveal the truth behind form through analyzing its structure rather than present the objects in a new light. Luo Yi very much shares his abstract concepts.
As a graduate majoring in sculpture, Luo Yi is well trained both theoretically and in practice. Prior to the production of the oil paintings, “The Book of Song” series of sculptures presented her successful experimentation with abstract representations. The abstract human figures in her works were the result of her inner struggle and spiritual torment. As she put it, “Having helped me weather the vicissitudes of life, the works have again demonstrated that art is the salvation of the spirit, helping me to integrate my sentiments with a more expansive exploration of the universe.”
Luo Yi’s art is such a continuous process drifting from the transcendence of life’s vicissitudes to an expansive exploration of the cosmos.
Pursuing the Answer of the Tao in the Suspended State
By Ning Zhang
Loy Luo is a sensitive female artist who likes to put her thinking cap on. She is in herself an entity of contradictions and we may feel her inner struggles, her leaps in thinking and her entanglements. Her personality shows multiple contrary sides, and she feels herself being torn, which is amply showed her artworks. She likes to use acrylic because it has water character, which she considers Chinese; and to use oil paint because of its oily character, which is seen as Western. At the same time, she blends the two together through force. She says, "My ideal is to build a bridge between the West and the East. I have to do this or else I will feel bad, as I very much like Chinese culture and am infatuated with Western culture. So in a way, I feel obliged.
Luo is a person who likes questioning, whether they are directed towards other people or at herself. She has been studying and thinking about philosophy and exploring the inner spiritual world. Her artwork is a pursuit of the Tao, a process of enlightenment. This can be seen in her paintings, Untitled Memories series and Suspending series, and in her series of sculptures entitled Poem. In her works, feelings and thinking are one and the same, while senses and rationality are unified. When she paints, she looks for inspiration through using the paints and changing layers and layers, until she finds an ideal images. In reality, she feels suspended, probably because she fell into a hole by accident when she went swimming in her childhood. She could neither rise up to the surface nor sink to the bottom, and had to see yellow water bubbles flowing by. That near-death experience is the origin of her thinking behind the suspended state of life. Her Suspending series is an experssion of suspended state of her life experiences, through dreamlike hues and exploratory strokes.
It is meaningful to embark on an artistic pursuit of the Tao. Inspired artworks are powerful . Our spiritual growth is a process of studying , thinking, questioning and seeking the truth. Sometimes, Our effort is aimless, uncertain and suspended. I think we will find the right answer if we continuously investigate the truth with our own wisdom independently and ceaselessly. I like the dedication Luo has shown to art, and admire her spiritual thinking and expressions conveyed through her paintings. I think that her art creation is a process of self-discovery and self-reflection, as weill as a process of seeking the truth and answering her inner questions.
LOY LUO—CHANGING WITHIN A STANDSTILL
By Lennart Utterström
Countless times have I encountered Chinese painters — males of course — claiming not only that they are the best artists in the world but more surprising, that there are no good female painters in their country. However true in these men’s sunflower seed sized worlds, as a general statement it is as uninteresting as the art these men are creating. But then, in China’s extremely sexist art world it is seems like an established truth: females are not half the sky. In fact they are not even an insignificant cloud! The reason is obvious: pressure from society forces them, after some years of struggling with their artistic creativity, to drop out and fall into the “normal” rank and file. Echoes of the cruelty of Chinese traditions rattle between the walls.
LUO YI is not one of these bent and chastised females. Already the first time we met, four years ago she impressed me as an exceptional lady and a stunning painter . Compared with most male artists I have met in China, she was and is more dedicated, hardworking and indeed more gifted than her male colleagues. She has something called a natural gift, that special endowment called talent!
What is Lou Yi’s pictorial art about? The best way to characterize the oils might be as a feeling changing within a standstill. After many years struggling with oil colors in tubes, brushes, knifes and different qualities of canvas she has definitely reached her inner space — but it has taken time, efforts and a constant and hard struggle. Today this lady has reached the platform where she, as any true artist, has the capability to both touch and capture the unspoken parts of our intellectual perception of life, on a rough surface of a stretched piece of cloth.
Apart from her earlier formalistic experiments, Lou Yi is today caught between formalism and pure abstraction. The word “caught” does not mean “trapped ”, on the contrary it is rather a very particular way she moves seemingly undisturbed between the two genres: in fact sometimes she paints abstract and sometimes she does her more formal — or shall I say “architectural” paintings.
Many, possibly far too many, painters of today are doing abstract art. There are many good reasons for that: many of these people are not good enough to do more formalistic paintings due to lack of technique, ideas or formal training. Abstractions become an easy backdoor. The result is mostly uninteresting and utterly boring.
For many years I was also hesitant about Lou Yi’s abstract works. The paintings were too “easy” and too “independent” of earlier abstract expressionists from especially German’s. But fairly recently, something has happened and it is obvious that LUO YI has developed a voice of her own. Take the time and sit down, relax and focus on the color fields, the organic structure of the paint and see the hard work behind the lines. If the perceptive you might get the same feeling as I do: here is a painter who opens a passage to her complex inner life where a struggle between the different kinds of shadows takes place as a daily routine. Knowing the artist rather well, I both see and feel the deep resonance of this inner fright reflecting her complex personality and the way she manages to express herself in the paintings as a dialogue between “I want” and “I must”.
Untitled Memory - 2
Untitled Memory - 6
Loy Luo’s Poetic Vision
By Suzanne Russell
Several months ago, I traveled from Copenhagen to Beijing to look at contemporary Chinese art. I bought a cheap bicycle and started out to visit galleries and artists’ studios with my best friend, who is also an artist and curator. We saw a wide range of work, mostly expressive figurative paintings made by women artists. What surprised me the most was the passion with which the good, and not so good, artwork was made. I did not expect Chinese artists to be so intense and individualistic in their expression.
The most interesting artist I visited was a fierce woman named Loy Luo. I visited her studio on my own, without my friend. Because we spoke together without a translator, I know very little about Luo Yi’s life. I learned that Luo Yi has a Master’s Degree from the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology from the Department of Plastic Arts; she studied painting, sculpture, and art theory. I understood that Luo Yi has been making artwork fulltime for over ten years. But most what I know about Luo Yi, I know from experiencing her spacious studio in Black Bridge, watching her graciously prepare tea, and studying her powerful artwork. Luo Yi is a multi-talented artist, both a painter and a sculptor. She also boxes and plays the seven-stringed Guqin, a traditional Chinese instrument from the zither family. The fact that Luo Yi’s art studio has both a professional boxing bag and a delicate string-instrument reveals a lot about the sensitive artist who packs a hard punch with her artworks.
As an American artist born in the 1960s, my first exposure to art was through abstract art. I have feasted my eyes on the works of all the greatest abstract expressionist painters from Jackson Pollock, to Mark Rothko, to Willem de Kooning. I have appreciated the sculptures of David Smith, Louise Bourgeois and Isamu Noguchi. My favorite artists growing up were Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler and Susan Rothenberg. Abstract Expressionism was my first love, a way of experiencing the world that fills me with nostalgia.
But Loy Luo’s artwork is not old-fashioned or nostalgic. Before visiting Luo Yi’s studio, I often wondered if the possibilities of abstract expressionism had been exhausted. But standing in Luo Yi’s studio on the outskirts of Beijing, looking at her non-figurative paintings and sculptures with their highly emotional use of form and color, I could see that abstract expressionism is still a relevant way of communicating. Luo Yi’s artwork is original, engaging and very contemporary.
Luo Yi most recent paintings appear to be monochromatic, or with a limited color pallet, but they are not. Using many different colors, Luo Yi carefully layers the oil paint to produce textures that reveal bits or blobs of earlier layers. The colors are harmonious, the changes in color are subtle, and the experience of looking at the paintings is uplifting. Most of Luo Yi’s paintings measure around 150 x 120 cm., a bit smaller than many of the original Abstract Expressionists’ paintings. Both the size of the paintings and the thickness of the paint make the paintings feel compact.
Each painting takes great risks and, at the same time, reflects great restraint. Each painting requires careful looking and painting, lots of time, and many layers of paint. Each painting takes Luo Yi down an unfamiliar road to a place that she has never been before. I was not surprised to learn that Luo Yi listens to Mahler when she works. Each painting feels like a leap of faith.
Luo Yi most recent sculptures are also reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism, but, again, reflect the artist’s intensely original vision. The nine sculptures, each named after a poem from the Book of Songs, are both graceful and powerful. They are abstract, organic forms that elegantly twist and turn to suggest a figure, or a limb, or a fist. They are all approximately the same size, 60 centimeters tall. Every viewpoint and angle has been considered and tweaked so that the eye dances around the different surfaces in seemingly endless patterns. Like the poems in the Book of Songs, the group of sculptures serves as a study in rhythm, using elements of repetition and variation.
Luo Yi told me that when she starts to make an artwork, she sometimes feels like she is a prisoner in her own body and mind. As she works, she becomes less self-conscious and freer. By the time Luo Yi finishes an artwork, she is in perfect harmony with the universe and the artwork is the result of this artistic meditation. This is how I feel when I look at Luo Yi’s paintings and sculptures; their beauty moves me and I experience a deep feeling of well being and peace. What experience could be more valuable in the world today?
Suspending - 5
The Abstract Expressions of The Logic of Senses
On Loy Luo’s Sculptures and Paintings
By Li Xiangming
In the past two years, Luo Yi’s works have mushroomed. Regardless of the art forms or mediums chosen, her many works all clearly convey a sense of conflict and an unstable state of mind the artist is in. Her earlier works are more like conduits of emotions; but since 2014, in general, the artist’s works have become more pensive and steady, gradually indicating a clear trajectory of her art career.
Behind the surface of forms lie the in-depth philosophical thoughts of this thinking woman artist. In especial, the new works in 2015 mark the artist’s opposing philosophical expressions based on the correlation between symbols and structures. Her works, particularly “Suspended” and “The Beginning”, consist of contrasting elements such as tangible vs intangible, long vs short, big vs small, point vs plane, bright vs grey and cold vs warm. These opposing elements are not used by the artist as technical logics in the treatment of paintings, rather she conveys her ceaseless probe by deliberately highlighting opposing relations. In one of her articles, she described herself thus: “For many years, I tried to observe myself as a bystander, and through pictures, forms and texts, constantly sought the answer to and examined the question of ‘Who am I?’, as if I had been deprived of my soul. This resulted in a valuable conclusion, i.e. the essence of art. She wrote with an air of self-confidence, “The greatest art practices in the world are about transcending the human soul and they all try to break free from the mundane secular world. The only difference is that beyond the transcendence, the ultimate goals vary. In fact, Luo Yi’s art is a carrier of her life, a carrier of the transcendence of her soul.
Simplistic and abstract, Luo Yi’s works are not the rational representations of pure visual senses, nor are they a revolution of sheer visual forms. When we think about abstract works, the earlier geometric abstraction and Suprematism as represented by Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian easily spring to mind. The simple structures of forms denote only the integration of colors with dots, lines and surfaces. That said, the innovations in form and discovery of earlier modernism blazed a new trail in visual art and as such are of epic significance. Luo Yi’s art may be deemed to be a dance upon the shoulders of giants. Although the narrations of the colors are plain and unadorned, like Malevich’s colored squares, they don’t lead us to such insipid abstract concepts as economic principles. Instead, they present to us an emotional world characterized by femininity, a world that is tender and soft, still and pensive, lonely and helpless, or full of desires. The symbolism of colors and its relationship with structures reveal the indescribable spiritual entanglements at the bottom of her heart. The sentiments can be best defined by the following poetic lines: the beauty and fragrance of plum blossom can only be felt by the hermit living by the West Lake.
Luo Yi is a talented woman artist skilled in music, poem, calligraphy and painting. The way she named the artworks has instilled ample room for imagination surpassing rational and stylistic abstractions. Using the rich literary connotations of the titles, she has expanded the depth of her works. The sculptural works in 2014 were named after titles in the Book of Songs, including Worn With Grief, Climbing the Hill with Trees, Dew on the Path, Gathering Duckweed, etc. Those works are characterized by powerful styles and have an exuberant air of dignity, grace and beauty.
Luo Yi’s sculptures, like those of Henry Moore’s, are abstractions of female bodies and touched with gentleness and subtlety. At the same time, her works have the chaos, splendor, dignity and plainness typically found in oriental cave arts. In terms of style, overall, her works seem to be springing up from a solid foundation, and are therefore imbued with tenacity and admirable willpower. The complementing use of fluid and vertical lines, and the changes in gravity and texture, have enhanced the richness and charms of her artworks, rendering them brilliant and rare as far as contemporary sculptures are concerned.
Deleuze argued that the logic of senses was the primitive unity of body without organs. I think that the “body without organs” is used to understand the senses of man, beyond the functions of a single organ. Human senses are the collaborative effort of multiple organs. When applied to art, senses are an alternative to pure visual art. That is what Luo Yi’s art is like. Her abstractions of the cognitive world are images converted into symbols from life experiences, sentiments and knowledge. She is one of the few woman artists who use abstract geometric forms to speak for themselves. Her independence and self-confidence propel her to strive and explore without cease. She has reached a height of her own and opened a window to her own abstract art world. I am confident that her future will shine even brighter. (Written at Bei Shang Ju)