10: Trying To Re-Create Fong Chung-Ray’s Collage Technique And Farewell
Hello everyone. Welcome to the last blog of my Senior Project.
This last week I tried to re-create Fong Chung-Ray’s unique collage technique, where he creates a natural crackle-effect. I intended to create my own piece using his technique. However, surprise, trying to re-create a master’s unique and private technique honed after decades of practicing collage turns out to not be easy.
What Was I Doing?
From my visit to Fong Chung-Ray, I also obtained two small scraps of his collage. Here they are.
In his studio, I saw large pieces of plastic stretched out on the floor–presumably to dry–already painted and with crackles. Fong Chung-Ray would take these pieces and cut them into the shapes he wanted and put them on canvas first with masking tape, then glue once he felt satisfied with its position. He told me he sprays alcohol on the paint and the cracks form on their own, naturally.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what I thought too but ohhhhhhh I was so wrong. At home, I spent the next 5 days absolutely failing to create anything worth looking at, as I tried to “figure out” Fong Chung-Ray’s technique. I took some pictures of what I’ve been doing, but to be honest they’re quite depressing. It’s exactly what you are thinking: pieces of plastic with paint on it, but there was nothing interesting about them–no patterns, nothing.
I tried different kinds of plastic: Plastic bags, this other plastic bag that feels different, plastic wrap, and some plastic that was above my washing machine. I got different spray bottles that sprayed differently. However, I was stuck with the same isopropyl 70% alcohol. It did not matter though. The fact stands that I have no idea how Fong Chung-Ray makes his things, and that’s okay. I could go into more details of the scraps and what I did, but we aren’t going to figure it out–we would have to ask the man himself.
How Can Abstract Expressionism And Chinese Art Come Together In One Piece?
The moving questions I asked at the beginning of my project was: “What is the relationship between Abstract Expressionism and Chinese art? How does Abstract Chinese art embodies Chinese aesthetics so well, but remains distinct from traditional work?” Answering these questions will help us answer “How can Abstract Expressionism and Chinese art come together in one piece?”
Throughout my practice of Abstract and Chinese art, it became apparent that both styles embody natural effects in their techniques. The flinging of paint onto canvas is a natural effect, guided by the physics of our universe. The flow of water dominates Chinese art. Abstract Expressionists may paint vigorously from emotion in action painting. Wild cursive calligraphers may guide their hands through feelings to create dynamic works. Both Abstract Expressionism and Chinese art chases the same ideal at heart: To express oneself wholeheartedly.
But How Is Traditional Chinese Art Emphasizing Expression?
The themes, however, throughout Chinese landscape art have been fairly similar. So what’s going on? While painters learned from past masterpieces, their own personal growth and enlightenment must be found by themselves. The dominant belief from Chinese culture and religions is the pursuit of enlightenment, which many believe can be found in nature. The literati, scholar-artists, seek 境界 (jingjie), this enlightenment which is above earthly–above wealth and power. They wanted to convey inner peace with their painting and poetry, and the predominant culture guided such works to nature.
I’m not an art historian or an expert on this so please don’t quote me. It is also said that the Song and Yuan Dynasty artists emphasized unique expressions in their art. The painting landscape may be changed to fit their feelings, not necessarily a copy of the view in front of them. Trees can be exaggerated to be large or represented by distant dots. The mountains may represent the emperor, and the streams are the subjects. Perhaps the easiest examples are seen in 草書 (caoshu), wild cursive script. 草書 gives the calligrapher the most amount of freedom, where words can be stretched and disproportionate, characters blend into the next through fluid lines and dots, and the strength and speed of a stroke tells a story of the artist’s expression. Wild cursive calligraphers completely own their works, truly emphasizing self-expression.
So What Makes Abstract Chinese Art Different But Still Chinese
Abstract Chinese art chases after the same or similar values, but are no longer restricted to traditional materials and methods. The breadth of techniques and styles used can still embolden Chinese culture. Fong Chung-Ray, Liu Guo-Song, and Zao Wou-Ki, all carry some aspect of Chinese art and made it their own.
Blending Abstract Expression With Chinese Art
At the heart, I am still creating Chinese art but adding abstract abbreviations and exploring new techniques. The Abstract Expressionists and abstract Chinese artists used new methods to create their work. They embody avant-garde. To blend the two together, the simplest way would be to borrow techniques from both aisles in the common purpose to achieve your own expression.
This Senior Project has been quite a journey. It turns out I really enjoy painting. I will continue to make art as a hobby and experiment new methods of painting.
Thank you to my advisors and everyone who helped me along the way. See you.