Art is very close to us these days, so close that we reach out and touch it in our daily lives. It is as commonplace as consuming three meals a day, in fact, art has become like a sprinkling of the most ordinary flavor enhancer, seasoning the moments of our daily lives with a mildly savory taste. Like an antidepressant, we rely on it to validate our emotions and moods, to help us grasp and cope with the secrets of a changing world, and absorb the passing moments of our days. We are enticed and enthralled by the world as expressed through art, and, as a consequence, continuously consume and celebrate all the many things that surround its creation. Unfortunately, however, art is so close to us that we no longer experience the distance necessary for it to provoke us.
Art may be the embodiment of humanity, but it requires our engagement to ignite its life force. This type of living art is not the same as the animated avatars we create and manipulate in the virtual world. If we are willing, it can be a catalyst that subtly strengthens our ability to negotiate our environment, and opens us up to the vast potential of existence. When we engage with a work of art that is animated by this vital spark, we are able to deepen our perception of the world and embark upon a mystical journey to discover the extraordinary within the mundane. This is no simple feat.
Duan Jianyu¡¯s paintings are animated by this type of vital energy. The simplicity and childlike quality of her work may initially cause people to turn away, but it is just this naivity of spirit that, like a slender line, repeatedly reels the viewer back in. Her paintings do not attempt to tell us about the world as identified and affirmed by the artist, nor do they express a reality that we already know all too well. Rather, they offer a secret emotional code to the deeper workings of everyday life, a world which we cannot determine exactly or precisely express. This code is not controlled or informed by any collective consciousness. Rather, it exists within the tiny universe we all carry within ourselves, imbued with a sense of mystery beyond our control. Jianyu¡¯s paintings offer us a path into uncontrollable mystery and undefined possibility. When we commune with her work, we think about how to abandon ourselves, not how to integrate the things she expresses into our preexisting world view. Giving ourselves over to to her work opens a crack in our reality¡ªan opening that can lead us into another world, allowing us to draw closer to the deeper truths of our lives.
When we talk about everyday life, it is easy to be sidetracked by trivialities. It is easy to overlook or ignore our personal reality, precisely because it is so individual. The politics of everyday life does not posses the seductive pull of the ¡°big picture politics¡± with which we are familiar; it is not nearly so dramatic or stirring. But the power of everday life is like water, flowing through the here and now and growing as we become more sensitized to our inner world.This energy can be shared with the rest of humanity. When we fully inhabit our personal reality, we create a type of individualized, microcosmic universe. Within this space we can approach the essence of being human, rather than exist in an alienated state of social performativity. The inner world exists in a fluid state between the visible and the invisible. By entering this dimension, we experience the intermingling of multiple realities.These glimpses of the invisible, previously ignored or overlooked, are precisely the sharp weapons that can liberate us from the fetters of the visible world.
Jianyu¡¯s paintings allow us to experience the ease and delight of the invisible dimensions that exist within mundane reality. Her work includes comical, satirical, and playful elements, but this is not the crux of what she wants to express. Rather, she wants to show us the interstitial space that she senses¡ªa crack in the real world that lets us us briefly slip the bonds of social conditioning. When we achieve this type of authenticity, our usual state of alienation appears ridiculous and laughable.
Although these paintings are about neither grand themes nor deep wounds, in the moment of forgetting her own identity, Jianyu allows us to us to experience a kind of wisdom about human life. Her paintings open up a door for us. I am reminded of an actual moment in my life: one day, I saw a beautiful young woman riding a bicycle with one hand, while carrying an ear of corn in the other, and taking a bite from time to time. She looked almost comical as she rode away, but at the same time I envied her, because it was so real.
£¨Translated by Maya Kovskaya£©