Hu Xiangcheng

Out of Africa. Visual and objective existences are often discordant, divided into the evident and the hidden. These discrepancies are especially strong for an artist like Hu Xiangcheng who has spent time in Africa and Tibet, just as the feelings of certain moments seem always to exist as if among ruins. From a material perspective, we often note how matter changes state among the forms of liquid, solid, and gas. Things with form are solids. In the same way, the organic and inorganic worlds are constantly cycling between each other. Hu Xiangcheng likes to follow dreams, and to exist in a dreamy state. He likes to raise doubts about the relationships among heaven, earth, and humans, and he does not like to answer questions. He is often curious: what indeed are the tangible and intangible powers hiding behind the image? What kind of material is driving forth the changes among matter? This sort of feeling grows quite strong in Africa, and Hu Xiangcheng is anxious to find an answer. In Africa, he discovered the primitive state of life among people there. He observed many surface realities, but he yearned to transcend this boundary between a primitive society and his own modern society. He wanted to answer questions. Hu Xiangcheng insisted on creating a kind of potential to transcend time and space and think about this question. Hu Xiangcheng saw an innocent, true, and honest side of the African people. In a small African village, he completely separated himself from the kind of living environment of economic and cultural relationships that we face in China now, accumulating a kind of power with which we are unfamiliar. We know that our ancestors of 2000 generations ago all came from Africa, that everyone has the same M168 gene, and yet that cultural genes vary across the world. Looking into their dark eyes, we see ourselves at our most primitive. The sculptures are formed from dancing patterns and repeated hollow spaces, like components of some machine, or the remains of some animal. The sculpture “Stranger” refers to how life begins in an inorganic world, and develops to a point of high intelligence, moving ultimately toward extinction. This type of stranger, in traversing the universe, is perhaps seeking a kind of eternal, cyclical existence. “Arrow” refers to the process by which man developed from primitive life to his current status, his states and necessary trends as they contrast with nature.

On a whole, Hu Xiangcheng wants to tell us that the arrow is always encircling this round world, representing many meanings: first, perfect symmetry. For the arrow, it is just an emblem, a center. Three hundred and sixty degree rotation, no matter how it is seen, represents a perfect symmetry. Second, for us humans, the arrow can be seen as a kind of demand, a spirit of adventurousness, a kind of fervor. This arrow represents every different possible disposition of humanity. Third, Hu Xiangcheng also wants to explain the questions of man and environment, including the territorial desires that come with art. If one were to use an image to symbolize the whole of human activity on planet earth, Hu Xiangcheng sees none better than the arrow. From the arrows used to create fire by friction, to the long bows of Genghis Khan, on to the oil wells and the destructive power of the rocket (“fire-arrow” in Chinese)…from struggles among humans to the human struggle to conquer nature, the form of the arrow leads us to think of many other words, including occupy, sacred place, center, absolute, direction, ideal, target, advance, speed, direction, inside and outside, weakness, demand, and hope… Hu Xiangcheng plans to realize the arrow project on the earth, as arrows appear each time in special environments and with other relevant works of art. Generally speaking, people often harbor a misunderstanding that works portraying impressions of Africa are all abstract. For Hu Xiangcheng, these works are not entirely abstract, some are concrete, but the concrete things have been hidden by a kind of power. Whether it is strangers or arrows, all are microcosms of the Africa in Hu Xiangcheng’s heart. At this moment, Hu Xiangcheng’s heart has already left Africa.

Text by

Zhang Qing

August 2, 2007 in Shanghai