At Xu Liao Yuan’s Museum (XLY MoMA) appears a new style of art
I am Antonio from Switzerland, living in Chengdu
Three-dimensional paintings? Hey, they are not made by a 3D printer! Can you imagine how this looks? In San Sheng Xiang, at the XLY MoMA New Art Experiment Centre, a whole building is filled with artworks of this “three-dimensional kind”. Various colors of paint are on the canvas, but not as we usually see it depicted, there are many ups and downs like on a small mountain. The thick areas might be up to 7cm high, the low areas around 2mm. Some of the artworks have already attracted Chengdu’s buyers. After seeing those works, famous painter He Duoling stated: “One can see right away that those artworks were not created by a Chinese artist, but there is an obvious influence of Chinese culture in them.” The author of those works is called Antonio Wehrli, he is an artist from Switzerland, but now he is willing to be called a “person from Chengdu”, because he has settled in Chengdu.
Interesting: Bedtime creation “Cream Cake”
“Where is your home?” Faced with this question, Antonio starts to smile, shrugs his shoulders slightly and answers: “Oh – in Chengdu!” Sometimes some words in Chengdu slang emerge, and he continues: “I live in Moonlight Lotus Pond (He Tang Yue Se)”. Naturally everybody begins to smile, this foreigner is very interesting. But when you read his works of art, you will feel that “interesting” is not only his character, but also his works, that are done in a very creative way. He says: “Most of my ideas are completed in bed, every day before I go to sleep, I meditate and paint in my head, sometimes, out of excitement, I will hurriedly draw a first sketch with pencil on paper.” The next morning, as soon as he wakes up, he will sketch his idea straight onto the canvas. I think, at first glance the artworks of Antonio will amaze and strike the heart: “Is there such a painting?” Pink, dark green… a variety of brilliant colors, no, accurately said, pigments, thickly “accumulated” on canvas. If it is a just-released new work, the pigment will emit a faint scent, like a freshly baked cream cake. “Such thick layers of color, will they crack after some time?” asks the reporter. Antonio replies happily: “I think so, but this will take about 30 years, and the natural cracking will make it a new work!” Such an alternative way to express makes almost all the people that pass care to know who the author is. Then, many people are aware of Antonio, and gradually artistic circles in Chengdu also consider him a minor celebrity. In Chengdu, enthusiastic and helpful Xu Liaoyuan became Antonio’s “Patron”, especially in organizing museum exhibitions and recommending Antonio's works to buyers.
Destined: Xu Liaoyuan, He Duoling are happy to help
Famous painter He Duoling is another patron of Antonio, he critiques this interesting works: “One can see right away that those artworks were not created by a Chinese artist, but there is an obvious influence of Chinese culture in them”. The affirmation given by Xu Liaoyuan, He Duoling and many other local artists for his artistic expression ranged between East and West, greatly enhanced Antonio’s confidence, while giving him a deeper impression of Chengdu. “I have come to China many times, but was immediately attracted by Chengdu.” Antonio told the reporter that since after he met his Chinese wife Zhang Yulian in 2007, China has become the place to which he often comes. In July 2011, his strong interest in traditional Chinese culture brought him to Heming Mountain, “En route through Chengdu, I cannot say what exactly, but a very comfortable feeling told me that I want to settle down here.” Just in this very simple way and with the strong support of Zhang Yulian, they rented a house in the Moonlight Lotus Pond to live. Then, Antonio soon discovered that his and the city's "fate" are deep. “The development of contemporary art in Chengdu is very prosperous, there are a lot of artists, and the entire city is filled with an artistic atmosphere. “ A chance that Antonio met Xu Liaoyuan, who wants to think of new ways to paint in Chengdu, he immediately obtained Xu Liaoyuan’s enthusiastic response. Quickly, Xu Liaoyuan opened up a new space at the New Art Experiment Center to let him have an exhibition. Xu Liaoyuan himself helped with the navigation and introduced Antonio to the audience. “Master Xu, Master He and many other young artists are very enthusiastic, I experience this place very welcoming and they accept me.” Antonio says frankly, that he decided to stay in Chengdu.
Determined: A wonderful combination of Western and Chinese culture from a different angle
“Design is the premise of art; Antonio’s artworks show a wide range of visual arts, they have changed the understanding of oil painting in Chengdu’s audience.” Xu Liaoyuan comments. Antonio recalls that an early artistic influence was the work of a Van Gogh in a museum. That painting was not done in the traditional way of oil painting; there were a lot of pigments, which gave Van Gogh’s artwork a three-dimensional relief, “but not as thick as my paintings now, only about 2-3 mm.” Antonio continues to say: “My work has a lot of Chinese symbols, for example, there are many landscapes, I have to admit, that Chinese paintings had a great influence on my creations.” Commenting on Antonio’s Chinese symbols, Xu Liaoyuan identifies that the use of strong colors is an element of Chinese folk tradition, “like embroidery”, they will not appear strange to foreigners, because the work itself is created from a Western perspective, and Chinese people experience a feeling of closeness, because the creative content relates to China. As example a “Lotus” painting has become the major artwork in a high-end club; Antonio did not paint it like Chinese artist from a commonly used 45-degree angle, but looking down, so that the effect becomes a lotus that is “looked at from above”, which actually feels very refreshing. Antonio told the reporter that Chengdu is his lucky place that attracted him and that gave him reason to settle down and live here. “Last year, my mom came from Switzerland to specifically see me. She was glad that I am able to integrate in Chengdu’s life, and when she left, she was very proud that I realized my artistic dreams in Chengdu. I want to continue to live in Chengdu, become a person of Chengdu, and later on, we will also have children in Chengdu.”
Reporter: Zhao Bin – Photography: Zhu Dayong - Translation: Zhang Yulian & Antonio Wehrli
我是奥东尼奥 来自瑞士 家在成都
“设计是艺术的前提，安东尼奥的作品展现出多元化的视觉艺术，改变了成都观众对油画的理解”，许燎源如此评价。安东尼奥回忆，自己受到的艺术影响最早是17岁时参观博物馆看到的一幅梵高作品，那幅画就不是传统油画，大量的颜料使用，让这幅梵高作品“立体”起来，“不过，没有我现在的画作这么厚，大约只有两三厘米”，安东尼奥回忆说：“我的作品里有很多中国符号，比如会有很多山水，我得承认，中国国画对我的创作有影响。”对安东尼奥的中国符号，许燎源认为十分到位的地方是关于中国民间色彩元素的运用，“像刺绣”，所以老外不会陌生，因为作品本身还是西方视角，中国人也会有亲近感，因为内容创意都跟中国有关，比如已经成为一家高端会所招牌画的《荷花》，安东尼奥并没有像中国艺术家那样常用的45度视角创作，而是俯视，这样出来的效果荷花变成了“平面视角”，反倒让人觉得耳目一新。安东尼奥告诉记者，成都是他的福地，既吸引了他，还给了他安家扎根生活的理由，“我的妈妈去年专门从瑞士来这里看我，她很高兴我能融入到成都的生活里，回去的时候她告诉我，我在成都实现了艺术梦想，她很为我骄傲。我要在成都继续生活下去，要当成都人，以后还要在成都生孩子！”本报记者 赵斌 摄影 朱大勇