Back to Childhood

Curatorial Philosophy: See the World from Children's Perspective

The world-renowned great artists in the 20th century -- Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró almost simultaneously put forward a slogan: “learn art from children”, and put into practice by spending their whole life experiencing the children's simplicity & fun, free mind, and conscious state of "I'm and I'm not". This is a process of life's creativity returning to its original nature, and also a superb way of artistic practice -- "go backward in order to advance". There are a myriad of styles of art in the world, and each school is charming both theoretically and visually, enough to make numerous artists lose themselves and lose confidence. Only childhood, the beginning of life, is where the original self, and the actual self lies. A life grows up day by day, and goes thousands of miles a day, going with the wind to pursue the truth, while drifting further and further from the id. This is because we are in an internet & digital era, and behind its high civilization are the excessive production of the standardized, intelligent industry and people’s increasing reliance on intelligent tools, which have resulted in a gradual loss of human nature, gradual numbing of sensory organs, physical weakening, and serious poverty in the spiritual world. In his later years, master Joan Miróh’s color sculptures achieved the natural, candid and free expression as in childhood, and entered a thought-free realm of "forget everything", leaving only the original state of the universe, which exists without asking the reason why. There is no way to express the pleasure of that kind of beauty of mind, as it beggars description. What Picasso got more from children was strong curiosity -- "nothing but me" -- any interfering wave would be instantly absorbed by him and transformed into his own creative energy. He also realized that "the more destructive, the more creative", and the belief “There is no construction without destruction” made him pioneered Cubism, a method Picasso followed to his 90s. Famous French landscape painter Camille Corot said in his twilight years: I wish to wake up every morning and pray to God that I can see the world as innocently as a child. German philosopher Nietzsche said: There are three realms of the human spirit: Camel (passive), Lion (active), and Baby (I am). Baby is in the highest spiritual realm of "I am," a state of being in the moment and enjoying everything.


In his childhood when he was 6 years old, Famous South African artist William Kentridge found on the desk of his father, an anti-apartheid lawyer, appalling photos of the black wantonly slaughtered by the white, and this unforgettable influence became the content of his artistic expression for a whole life, and his childhood experiences and memories brought out the primal power of the third world in him. Cai Guoqiang, born in Quanzhou, China in the 1950s, is a famous avant-garde artist, with his childhood full of worship for fireworks, this "playful boy" even used gunpowder to explode paintings, which later became the material and method for his whimsical, creative creations. The artistic traits embodied in him are Chinese farmers' plain, forthright and romantic sentiments. This time, 20 artists at different ages and of different nationalities from three continents of Asia, Europe and Americas, have all experienced their unique childhood years; when a man in his twilight years takes out his childhood photos and looks closely at himself again, he is bound to be moved to tears by his own life course; this is the power of life, behind which there are too many emotional stories.


The world today is turbulent, geopolitical conflicts emerge unceasingly, and trade and economic confrontations are increasingly intense; the world is full of survival crisis and emotions of anxiety, fear and despair, and humanity is swept up in negative emotions such as lies, evil and ugliness. “Does life still have any meaning? And will the world be a better place?” Contemporary art exhibitions worldwide are generally focusing on hot issues like urbanization, environmental protection, refugees, terrorism, universal value, while delving less and less into art itself, the future of art, creativity and its possibilities, and man's imagination. Well, “Back to Childhood” is both an attitude of living and a reflection on life and wisdom, because everyone's childhood is endowed with the most important DNA code of human nature: the true, the good, and the beautiful, curiosity, happiness, adventure, freedom, imagination, creativity, and other traits. More than 2,500 years ago, Lao-zi, founder of Chinese Taoism put forward the origin philosophy of “returning to the baby”, and believed that a real wise man was more like a child. “One's childish disposition remains, and extremes meet”, “Life and death, intelligence and wisdom are interconnected in a cycle”. And the other way round, children are more likely to become an artist or philosopher, as they are more forthright, direct, natural, free, unfettered, and full of curiosity about the world, and would tirelessly inquire into the unknown, and this is human nature. Art needs childishness and fun, which is one of the core ideas of the “Back to Childhood” exhibition.


The “Back to Childhood” Contemporary Art Exhibition is to enable artists to experience their life for the second time.  How will an accomplished artist suddenly turn around and instantly go back to his childhood, using memory to capture that real world in his eyes at that time? And when the two selves coexist, how to hand in hand create a new three-dimensional space work? This challenge is unprecedented, because a mature artist, after decades of practice and making, has had his hands tinted with the characteristics of inertial thinking, his every move has been trained, and he has become accustomed to the art language he has created and has been using for a long time. A child's eyes see what's behind the tangible things, which is the conscious judgment of the child's brain, and such an "adult's hands and child's brain" combination is not easy to coordinate. The three little artists  are the most primitive nature in the exhibition hall; aged between 5 and 10, they are highly talented in art, and free from the influence of any academy education, and therefore these children's works are original creations and have various styles. To learn from nature is the aim of Picasso, Miró and other great artists' learning art from children, and global aesthetic education of children becomes particularly urgent and important, especially in today's China.


Curator: Zhang Wei

In March, 2019

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