“No rules, No games” as the old Chinese saying indicates rules restrain the fun from the games. Is it what Pan Xiaorong intends to tell us through his art works? In a way it is true. The basic elements of Pan’s works are very much based on rules, not least in his early works, ruler was applied to assist him making such tidy and well-organized surfaces. We can almost imagine Pan Xiaorong as an artist sitting at his desk caving paper with knife and ruler day after day, soberly and persistently.
An artist whose narration is expressed through paper-cutting knife, white cardboard paper and black ink, Pan has to rely on rules and rulers to constrain himself. It may sound like a boring and repetitive labor, one who works in solitude in accompanying of his own natural endurance.
Pan works with no models. The choice of his working tools is in itself experimental although he has no intention to abstract any natural subjects through his creating, nor is he commenting on any philosophical discourse. The white cardboard paper erects his impulse of expressing and the rest of the tools: paper-cutting knife and ink, are all part of the experience. He spends time with them: the smoothness of the cardboard paper, the texture of the inside of the paper revealed when knife cuts through it, the geometric shades formed under different lighting, the rhythm of black and white color bouncing between slightly loosen ink and largely fulfilled ink, finally the contrast of color forms in their own space. The artist is not working on statistic data analysis to obtain control, his repetitive experiments transform something non-controllable to something under control, with exception of accidental mistakes or defects, which unexpectedly add the charm of free spirit.
It is a process that the artist is working in line with his natural born quality. Pan Xiaorong has made up his mind to work against any disturbance from the outside world by closing himself in his own world. He is working under a spell that he has put on himself, within the restrained space, under a limited time span. The rule of the game he made for himself and under this rule, he has worked for five hard years!
His long-lasting endurance and persistence have been rewarded. Since his first solo show “ Point Zero” to his latest one “ Carving As Painting” five years have passed. Now Pan has reached the point of his origin. Finally he is able to catch the sparkling of ideas that emerging underneath his subconsciousness within his limit of control. He feels like a long-determined swimming student who finally grasp the technique of moving hands freely. For Pan Xiaorong, “Back to origin” means he finally feels he is confident to face the original feeling about art inside himself.
So what is this original feeling about art inside Pan’s heart? Pan replies with a smile, “ I have a plan, a conspiracy.” What does he mean? A secret code that concealed inside his works? In the 8 news works, a circle and different formation of a circle appeared. With the circle Pan claims his own way of looking at the world. Circle being the totem of the sun, the original source of everything on the earth, is profoundly related to life, labour and creativity. Just as Plekhanov claimed, “ art originate from labour”, it is the human activity and self-revelation that all art creation derive from. Pan Xiaorong’s art is undoubtly a hand-made labour-consuming process. Perhaps it is too simple to regard such labour as the origin of art, in lack of a definitive concept to formulize his way of working, we can only think that his work doesn’t really concern the formalism indication.
Tims is highly consumed in Pan Xiaorong’s art process. He pursuits a kind of rule which is defined by his own experience. The hiding code within his work seems to indicate that he is ready to return to the origin and to extend his experience to the contemporary context. He applies his personal language through the uniqueness of the material he uses, steadily but surely he is marching towards a goal which he describes as “The integrity of expression”.
What does he mean by “the integrity of expression”? It is an expression that focuses more on the entire spirit of the work instead of detailed study of forms or things around or philosophical reflection of everyday life. The twenty new works showing on this exhibition express duel sides of the artist, like Cingvino’s description of Lumanina, it is the two sides of the same paper, “ Forms and figurations on both side of the paper. There is no thickness only two sides of the same paper. They can’t be separated nor can they face each other.
At the first sight of Pan’s work, you’d imagine an artist hiding in his studio working in silence, however, when you meet Pan in person, you’d experience him as any young man of his post-1980s generation: naive, naughty and very intuitive. When he talks, he’d slap his head abruptly, roll his eyes to show his confusion and frown his forehead subconsciously. He can make quite intuitive conclusions to things happen around him or to people he doesn’t know. “All information can be misleading, in this case, an intuitive judgment is a better judgment.” as he explains. Perhaps this is the drive that makes him decide to stay inside his small shabby studio and simply keeps on working . As he sees it, “ The way to understanding goes through the accumulation of minutes and minutes of work.”
In the new body of work, Pan continues with color formation on his paintings, participle or entirely. This time he is more clear and direct in handling with bigger forms whilst he dares to get rid of those deliberate sections of displacement. The separate sections with contrasting texture are put together to create mood in the painting: the well-organized grids are placed together with intensive rhombus in black and white; quiet and serene pieced squares are placed with intensive diagonal spots, contrast color spill on large monochrome background. Such spots and contrast break up the harmony of the work and leave our views open to imagination. They are like the moles on a human face. They make the painting special like moles on a beautiful face.
In the new works that contains circles, patterns are carved more or less spontaneously. The edges of the color patterns have been modified smoothly. The circles contain mixed feeling of nervousness, anxiety, boredom, happiness, hesitation and total calmness. There is an irrugular movement in the treatment of the circles. Again the juxtaposition of several rectangles seems to redirect the mood of the painting. Such contrasting presents us two sides of the artist, one who is active and restless, the other one who is calm and harmonious.
Pan Xiaorong’s works is about forms, its connection with the tools he uses and the rules he creates. Time consuming is not yet an element in his works, but he does tell me that he is planning his next “point of origin”.