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Guillaume Hebert

May 14, 2019 ~ Jul 10

Looking at the unearthly poetic and spiritual touch of Guillaume Hebert’s work in such collections as Sea Etude, Suite for Shadows on the Sea, Rocks from Other Hills, and Apocalypse, and weighing and considering about the philosophical thinking and the production course behind his creations, I cannot help but think of the pioneer in German romantics-the poet Friedrich Hölderlin.

It has long been noted by Hölderlin that, with the constant expansion of capitalization and industrial civilization, the human spirit has been lost, and that mechanical technology and utilitarian pragmatism have taken the human race away from the original cradle of the soul to the realms of coldness and strangeness. In the reflection of how French Revolution eventually descended to blood and fire, the poet realized that the rationality upheld in the Enlightenment was not the highest principle, and that what transcended knowledge and rationality should still be a true understanding of the origin of life and life itself, the fulfillment of life in its struggle, the unity of subject and object, and the synchronization of the son of God and the son of Man. And as far as Hölderlin is concerned, only the experience of beauty and the divine belief in love can lead us to this unity:

As long as friendliness and purity dwell in our hearts,
We may measure ourselves not unfavorably with the divine.
Is God unknown?
Is he manifest as the sky?
This I tend to believe.
It is the measure of the human.
Deserving, yet poetically, we dwell on this earth.

In the works and ideas of Hölderlin lies a blend of Hibs, Greek and pantheism features.

In fact, Guillaume Hebert, in his earlier narrations, stated that a French man as he was, he was more of a Taoism fan. Taoism denies the method of obtaining knowledge from experience, and claims it does not suffice: ” Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuit of the limitless is fatal.” (“The Preservation of Life- Chuangtse “) Therefore, the Taoist advocates the elimination of the definitions of superiority and inferiority and the celebrated values drawn by the elites, and returns to the rationality and intuition of the heart, relying on the ignorance and inaction to abandon the pursuit of external seeking, and returning to the silence of the mind, in an attempt to achieve self-discipline without fatigue. In such ways, one shall feel free and easy, transcend everything, and eventually reach the realm of “no self”. This also mirrors Buddhism: break the cognition of “my possession” first and then trigger the prajna of the emptiness, the so-called “a mind which does not abide in anything”, so as to intuitively realize the truth in the law of origin and grasp the absolute thing-in-itself. However, Liu Xiaofeng pointed out the potential crisis of the traditional Chinese philosophy and rationality: in Confucianism, through rationality and intuition, the benevolence is raised to the integration of heaven and earth, and the benevolence is objectively and realistically established as the body of all things, from which even the order of the universe is derived. In Taoism, however, it is through the understanding of “abhava” that the perpetual individual returns to the nature, with all the knowledge yet at the same time no knowledge at all, intending to obtain eternal, time-transcending meanings in the idealistic nature and the universe order. But how can this be done? Set the different, limited, and occasional body of benevolence as the actual source of ontology, and try to use it to cover the Heaven and Earth, the sky and the sea, grass and trees, and all the objects. In this way, it is inevitable to fall into the fallacy of existentialism and epistemology.

And this is precisely the dilemma that Guillaume Hebert realized in the process of creating the object of meditation with the sea. On and on, the views, in the passing of time; the changes in the physical world; the ambiguity, vagueness, and trance in the evolution of self-consciousness; and even the elusive ebb and flow, reveal the limitations, the contingency and the void of the nature that surrounds everything including the heart of every individual. And this may be the reason why Guillaume Hebert eventually woke up from his ultimate abandonment of persistence, the boundless, pure poetic aesthetics, and the futile struggle to attempt to abandon time through the epiphany of the true essence, turned back to the cradle of the soul, and relied on the proactive call and revelation of that natural and self-contained founder.

It is at this stage of life that Guillaume Hebert read the records of the vision Disciple John had seen in the revelation during his exile to the island of Patmos during the Roman Emperor Domitian ‘s reign. With regard to the short-lived glamor and power created by mankind through plundering and tyranny, and the emergence of new heaven and earth afterwards, Guillaume Hebert has created, in a moving fashion, a series of works that strike like spring thunders and emerge like the doom of the world. Through this series of works combining the elements of Western classical painting, Guillaume Hebert tries to inform us that the understanding of individual life and the whole world; the unity of the subject and the object; the ideal of unity of heaven, earth and people; and even the aesthetic life of poetic dwelling on the earth have always and only been the acceptance of revelation and grace.

Article: Stanley FUNG