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Way Out

Source: Guangdong Museum of Art Author: Xiang Liping Translator: Sean Fox 2018

After cooperating and communicating with many excellent artists, I found a phenomenon: as long as artists have independent thinking and in-depth researches, they would have their visual histories and unique views on various artworks in art history. Su Chang is one of them.

In nowadays accelerated society, people are increasingly seriously alienated from their actions (labor), their products (objects), nature, other individuals (society), their time, and space. The so-called "alienation" is "the relation of relationlessness" (Rahel Jaeggi), but Su Chang's artwork and researches have found a way out for an urbanite to fight against this alienation, further inspiring people to re-examine the relationship between themselves and their surroundings.

The neighborhood, he had been living, is being demolished: like the old government compound and public bathhouse. As a past life experience gradually disappeared, Su suddenly realized that an enormous social change was insidiously taking place. He began to represent the demolition site, broken walls and tiles, broken toilets, a lonely sink, exposed pipes, and so on.

In the beginning, the way Su reproduced demolition construction was realistic sketch style. Similarly, ancient Chinese made ink with burnt pines, made paper with trees, then used these ink and paper to paint flowers and trees; used green and cyan pigment purified from ores to paint rocks and mountains. Today, the most common materials that he used for these "demolition" sculptures were taken from the construction itself: the red bricks, part of the sculptures, were real milled bricks from the demolition site, covered cement, and plaster. Inspired by art history, he re-established the kinship between works and materials.

As he moved away from the demolition districts and the changing of the living environment, he turned his attention to the parts and components of buildings such as sinks and tile walls. Su Chang reveals another intimate relationship between taps and pipes, which are easily overlooked; the bathroom is the most direct place for human beings, and also the private space for a person to be honest to the self. Pipers, sinks, and taps silently contain and clean up daily activities, people’s eating, drinking, pooping and washing, people’s filth and mess, finally allowing every individual to relax and continue to reenter life by a bath. According to Su Chang, the bath retains ritualistic behavior and meaning until today. In Su’s sculptures, a spirit of human’s figure was added to the objects to express the presence of human beings: the leglike pipes are about to walk, a body figure cast bathtub, the rectangular tile columns look like a crowd from a distance, a sink is crying, etc. Su Chang gives these objects enormous vitality and spirituality while removing their functions, and thus established an intimate relationship between inanimate objects and living people: As the organs and viscera of buildings, faucets, tanks, and pipe systems maintain the smooth of the buildings’ internal circulation, connect and activate each building and the entire city. They are the outlet of negative energy and the passages of positive energy.

When Su created sinks and other relevant works, the shift of his expression toward the higher level metaphysics; instead of neither emphasizing the pure concept of “I think”, nor the abstract expressionism of “I express”, his works are the minimalism of “I feel”. Most of his works are molded in plaster and glazed with shellac, establishing the inherent relationship with the ancient pottery and porcelain traditions. The form of those pieces is more abstract. The plaster is the major material of his sculptures, is also the molding material of bathroom ware such as sinks, is an important building material as well. Unlike marble and fiberglass, which are stable, idealized mediums, plaster is a temporal substance. According to him, the pottery was the most ancient sculpture, further it is particular about the relationship between mold and glaze. Su Chang’s works are abstract but concrete, minimalist but abundant, an intermediate state between objects and monuments. They look simple, but the perceptual ambiguity they cause makes them complicated. For example, "Portrait of a Wall", which is remodeled from a tiled wall, is a relief, a monochrome painting, an abstract grid, and a realistic ceramic tile.

The tree is also an important subject in between the object and the human being among all of Su’s creations. It is not only living and natural but prunable and artificial as well. If sinks lead people to indoor rooms, link the human and the architecture, trees lead people to outdoor fields, link the human, the city, and the nature. The rapid society’s changes cause an increasingly distant and indifferent relationship between people and city, people and nature, fortunately, Su’s creations re-establish an intimate relation and a spiritual outlet for us.

Last but not least, I am a little numb and skeptical about solo exhibitions of various famous artists which look powerful but difficult to conceal the weakness. Su Chang's makes me realize the significance of solo exhibitions in the museum-to explore young artists and provide them a key to the "future art history".

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Way Out


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