Ji lei lives very close to me in Chengdu, but I neither have idea what he usually does nor he knows about me. I know, however, that every once awhile he must have a room full of new works and feelings. It’s like this again recently. I have taken is creativity and constant thinking for granted, because he has been making progress. Therefore, you don't have “oh, there's a new change,” that kind of surprise; Instead, it's like following a drama. If I could know that he would have some updates, I just wanted to hurry him up. I wish, for example, to see him in a couple of years, and find that nothing had changed in his room, no new work, but that he had smoked tactfully, then produced a packet of tea that was finally improving, a little better. That's the surprise.
A few years ago, his “Amusement Park” series was a summary of a long start. What was that start? It almost began before 2000 when many of them painted together at the old Blue Roof. At that time even so-called “art market” did not exist, everybody made a living through making advertisements, interior design and other “way out”, while creating. It is enough for them just to create, to create is to own the world. Once the weather is good, people start to worry about where to go. At that time, there were also many old tea houses in Chengdu. By the Funan river, people drank “Three Glowers”, which means “Three-Level Flower Tea” -- which means a little worse than second-level flower tea. The typical local boss in Chengdu is responsible for pouring water for the guests. If the guest is sitting outside on a sunny day and the tea is poured by a female boss, the boss would give a sunshade umbrella to the guest when she comes to pour the tea. In the middle of five o 'clock, if the guest hasn't left yet, the boss would ask: Would you like to be here for the dinner? I'll go shopping if I you want.
Later, with the change of the city, there was no tea house like that, and there were fewer and fewer places to go and entertain ourselves. With the art market, everyone has set up a studio in the new Blue Roof art district and everything has been “professionalized”. During that time, Ji Lei painted some ruins, recording the passing of the past time. However, when he got more interesting in painting in certain moments, “5.12” earthquake in 2008 happened. He destroyed them all because he didn't want to look like he was describing something that couldn't be described. That thing, along with all the different things happened in 2008, changed the lives of all the people in Chengdu. For them, it was like a node of time. Everyone talk about the story of the earthquake, as if Chengdu people are not afraid of anything. When the earthquake comes, they can still play mahjong. Actually it is to disguise the tears of grief that filled the streets on the day of the first seven ceremonies, and the memory of the whole city fleeing when the aftershock alarm sounded. There is a deeper helplessness behind that kind of humor, which not only belongs to Chengdu people. However, the people of Chengdu have embodied the change of the times in a way that is unforgettable.
All this was condensed into Ji Lei's “Amusement Park” series. There was still a sense of ruin in it, but everything was still standing, moving, behind the complex, frozen texture. He was forced to accept that shift in his own way, then re-enter the new, calm, seemingly unaltered reality. After that, perhaps out of a spontaneous, protective mechanism, he painted a lot of psychoanalytic works and read some classic works related to psychoanalysis. In the end, it's all about finding out that you have to solve your own problems. The postmodern theories, born in the atmosphere of carnival, are at best inferior listeners to one's experience of the times and home, of being trapped, silent, and unforgettable.
At that time, Chinese contemporary art, under the drive of the outdated conceptual art in Europe and America, was performing an artificial carnival. As a result, when people see Ji's “Sleepless Nights" or "Memory Lists" series, they often question him: what is the conceptual structure and clues you have? He couldn't answer clearly because he didn't think like that. Ideas and postmodernism are only his references and materials, not the standards and logic of his works. He was also often puzzled by this, and he felt that in this logic, the distance between his heart and mind was constantly being drawn away. It seems that the process is needed, justified, universal, and “rational.” When people praise his works, they will say: your works are not like those artists in Chengdu. It is also because his works at least "seem" to be conceptual, rational -- or at least in line with the superficial understanding of the form of conceptual art by those who pursue it.
What people don't see is that Ji Lei’s talent is not to structure his works by reasoning, then to turn the lyrical elements into the rational elements. This form of expression is too easy for explaining, too easy for observing and too easy for understanding. He is the opposite: he has some kind of inclusive intuition for "reason". He can use emotion and experience as the framework to let the fragments of reason grow in it. What eventually emerges is a life experience that can be understood and diffused, but cannot be explained by reason. The work is the vehicle of this experience, where every detail is rational -- like life itself, every cell, every molecule can be seen with a microscope, but that whole thing is always a mystery.
In his works, the tranquil, restrained and hot-pot flavor of his works is not spicy, nor pink like peach blossoms. However，the state of natural and deep pain was the most representative inner color of Chengdu people of that era. From this point of view, even at the level of consciousness and emotion, rather than philosophy, the people of Chengdu lived "poetically" in that age of change. Or, the same is true of people in other places.
Then, in a blink of an eye, it was 2018. Ten years was as fast as half an article. When you look back, you can see everything. In the meantime, I attended ji lei's wedding. Then life went on as usual. He was always the same, and if he went into his yard, he would look at the trees he had picked and say affectionately, "well, still alive." Indeed, he was not a good gardener, and his art had nothing to do with his garden, if that could be called a garden, but with the street, or on the road, or on the road, or at bedtime, or at the end of the meal, or in the temporary Spaces that somehow sprang up. His writing has also become more open. In the series of "crossing over land", there are many more specific and local elements in the works, such as "bright road" and "bacon road", but his heart, as indicated by the general title "crossing over land", has gone to a higher place.
His work also becomes concise and transparent, which is the light from the heart after metamorphosis, but as he said, I don't know where the light comes from. Just like the telephone pole after a heavy rain, there is no change. It is only because of the stability of the foundation and the end of a heavy rain that we can be in different time and space -- how many artists are lost in the rain. No one can tell how this metamorphosis came about. Most people get lost at some point in their lives, and he doesn't, at least not yet. He did not live in the past, nor did he complain about the present, nor did he look forward to the future. He found the courage to face the world and his own heart. The evidence in the work is that he not only has his own canvas, his own landscape, but also his own color.
When I went to his studio that day, he showed me new works. He still said little, but he would tell me the name of each piece. Listening to the name of a work is always a pain for me, because as a proud art critic, I have always felt that it was inappropriate for others to generalize about a work, even if it was a title. And then, there's a piece that looks like this. In the middle is a woman in a qipao lighting a cigarette for herself. What? You think women who smoke are lonely? No, she just needs a cigarette. Next to her was a sofa, a lamp, a window, and a transparent wall. The sky outside the window is gray, not Chengdu's sky grey, but a kind of moon grey. In the midst of this dust, there was a round moon, not so grey. Yes, the color of the moon is never more representative of itself than the color of the sky around it. Is the moon white or blue? This is an eternal topic, which is often mentioned by ancient writers after the busy day: the blue moon shows that the world is in the heart; The white moon means the world is out of the sky. And that's exactly what's going on in this painting. The sky beyond the transparent wall on the left is brighter -- darker, to say the least, as if colored by the woman's smoke. The transparent wall on the right is darker -- or brighter, like a dream about to begin.
I was immersed in watching his paintings, and then immediately moved when Ji Lei muttered untimely: "this work is called 'in the mood for love'." In my opinion, the work expressing more feeling than that homonymic movie when it in conjunction with the title. Probably because Ji Lei has passed the stage where he needed to make a movie like that. Ji lei's in the mood for love is not that love hiding in the street corner, but leaning against the telephone pole after rain, it is like this painting, neither happy nor sad, neither nostalgic nor hopeful, just like a flower’s blooming period. His paintings poetically perched upon words, and hard to understanding as the impenetrable moonlight, and as fleeting as the fire from lighter, however, it is eternal, because it is the mood for love.
This is the most touching one of Ji Lei's new works. As an art critic, I should not write too much words on just one work in an article, I would like to make it clear that his other works still excellent though not as touching as this one. However, I was too lazy to write down every single piece that strike me, I only wrote this one. Besides, if I write all comment down, readers will fall asleep while reading.
Finally, I'd like to end my writing with Ji Lei's other new works related to the sky phenomenon. In those paintings depict ordinary scenes, the sun is often obscured by the moon, which means there is an eclipse. Darkness is generally terrible, but the darkness in night is often fascinating. The eclipse of the sun was terrible for the ancient people, but it is a rare and wonderful sight to modern people. It is because we are filled with light and are certain that light will come back again when we think darkness as a wonder. Therefore, learning to appreciate them and explore the inspiration they can bring when darkness and loneliness are coming, because it is such a rare and fleeting wonder. Ji lei bring us the secret of the that loneliness and darkness world he has discovered through his works, and it has always been a Mood for Love.