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December 02, 2020
“The Drum Tower on Architecture" series of talks is hosting by Büro Ziyu Zhuang, dedicated to contemporary Chinese design practice and a new attempt in the exploration of architectural theory and practice. The entire series takes lectures, talks, and salons as the main forms to create an informal communication occasion for architects and even excellent practitioners in other industries.
Panelist: Jiang Sheng , born in 1990, established the "Jiangjiaban Buddhist Statue creations” in 2014. To follow a multi- diversified shape the way " Giving Buddha a Body on the Earth," an attempt to continue the possibility of Buddhist art. In today's art world, Jiang Sheng is a rare sculptor who can make his works exude a restrained and calm temperament .
△The third stage of the construction of Drum Tower
Ziyu Zhuang: Drum Tower was built on today has been held for two, the first phase is invited Zhang Dongguang ,co-founder of Atelier Heimat, the second phase is Liu Yang from DL Atelier studio , the discussion of architecture and thought collision gave us a lot of inspiration . This time we try to break away from the traditional category of architecture and talk about art forms other than architecture . Today, we are glad to invite Jiang Sheng, a Buddhist statue artist, to share with us the topic "The Door of an Empty Room".
Empty room door
My name is Jiang Sheng. In 2014, I started a studio for the Buddha-making project called Jiang Jiaban. Our main work is divided into two parts, one is to make Buddha statues for temples, and the other is to make Buddha statues as a creator.
The content of the lecture is called the door of the empty room, which stems from the name of my solo exhibition "the empty room". The reason is called the door of an empty room, because I have struck many times for the exhibition door, knock on the door and a moment of instant between where I also find inspirations. The first story I want to share is about this photo.
The masked monk
Two months ago, we originally planned to go to Seden Monastery to participate in the Guru Rinpoche ceremony, but due to some force majeure, the ceremony was restricted to participate, so the purpose of going to Ganzi became a bit confused. It happened that the next person was a monk. He invited us to attend the Guru Rinpoche ceremony at his temple.
We passed through towns and villages, passing through winding mountain roads, and arrived late at night in 11 hours. When we arrived at the temple, we discovered that the monk who invited us was the temple’s Rinpoche and the spiritual leader of the local villagers.
Dawn at Kangweng Temple
The next day we woke up in the misty mountain monastery, and then went to attend the Guru Rinpoche Day. Listen completed before chanting pujas , I took my camera, want to record something. This time a young monk, is the child in the photo behind the mask, and maybe seven or eight years old, ran pointed to my camera without any words. I asked him if he wants to take pictures? He nodded. This young monk took us to the treasure room, which is a place in the temple where the ancient artifacts are stored. The mask he was wearing was one of the magical implements, and the other magical implements also belonged to it. Before attending the ceremony, I asked him to take a photo with the mask. This is the story behind this photo.
The treasure room generally does not allow outsiders to enter. With the guidance of this young monk, we can see many rare artifacts, which are stacked on shelves and steps. Done puja, monks left the hall, empty room left clothes stacked with and use tools. At that moment, my heart was blank, and I felt as if I had fallen into a place with a very strong atmosphere.
Basilica of monks to leave
Inside of the empty room, tables chairs, clothes, and the temperature of monks, so that the marks left in spcae. An empty room is not "nothing", it carries an atmosphere. Tibetan temples usually with a kind of atmosphere, where believers could feel the existence of "Buddha" through smell or "aura". This is what the empty room wants to explore.
The Ganzi trip was full of contradictions and conflicts , but in the end we all found rationality to resolve these contradictions, and then turn it into a new concept. I hope to use this trip to revise my experience .
On this picture, you'll see those glowing conductor, in fact they are so serious with this element around in decorative statues , and monks are serious to use it in a ceremony as well. At first, I felt uncomfortable. The collision of these two visuals made me feel unserious, because the instruments that I imagined with a sense of age were strongly combined with plastic neon lights.
At that time, I planted a seed in my heart . I hope to find a logically self-consistent theory from this contradiction and conflict , and apply it to the next thinking .
Shown in the photo are the palm-leaf manuscript, Dharma Conch, and Vajra Pestle chanted by the monk, with sunflower seeds underneath. The traditional religious ceremony and the snacks on the table form a strong conflict. The solemn ceremony, because of the existence of snacks, presents a relaxed state.
The main hall of the temple is covered with tea and has a strong tea fragrance, which reminds me of a solo exhibition in Suzhou in 2018 . Classic garden of Suzhou had a close and transparent relationship with nature. Therefore, in the Suzhou solo exhibition, a narrow aisle was designed for the audience to see the works through different windows. In this environment, the sense of smell became more important , so we spread the tea in the exhibition hall, and we can smell the fragrance during visiting.
When we go to temple halls, especially Tibetan Buddhist halls, we feel the solemnity of the space and a strong olfactory atmosphere, but here is a refreshing fragrance from tea.
The lawn with real flowers and artificial flowers mixed
During my journey, I kept finding that these contradictions and conflicts were flooding around and on the main hall or Buddha statue. Most believers from Tibetan temple worship Buddha with artificial flowers, which made me very confused, but I still tried to find out the exist rationality behind it.
In believer’s heart, whether real flowers or artificial flowers, are just a tool or a form, they pay more attention to the interaction of the soul. No matter what the offering is, the more important thing is the respect of the Buddha in people's hearts. These contradictions and conflicts caused me to change my thinking during this creative process, and these changes are reflected in the works of exhibition.
Worship flowers for the Buddha
During my solo exhibition in 2018 to 2019 , I try to use flowers to decorate the statues. After using, I will return them to the nearby lake and sea, because in Buddhism, the flowers for the Buddha need to be returned to a clean place.
After experiencing this trip, I tried to transform flowers into immortal flowers(artificial flowers.) These artificial flowers are completed by sculptural methods with lacquer materials. We made more than 1,000 sculptural flowers and chose a part of them for decoration on Buddha. When flowers are transformed into sculptures, they actually turn the fleeting things to a relatively eternal status. When I design Buddha sculpture and intentionally leave space for flowers, the flowers and Buddha statues are in fusion. The image of Buddha in the thangka is actually decorated with flowers, I found the rationality of offering artificial flowers to Buddha from this.
Offering flowers to Buddha
I began to look for contradictions actively during the journey, and then digest them.
This special building of Ganzi appeared in this picture was took in our way. It was built with soil in block- shaped way, and combined with modern-style . They are used as storage rooms for wood and weeds. It has huge difference with local religious buildings and residential styles. I felt interesting. Before coming to Ganzi, I thought about doing an exhibition with soft lines, but after watching this kind of architecture, we felt that we should return to the language of modern architecture to design .
Indoor exhibition space
This photo shows a few days when we were preparing to go back and saw a rising rainbow. The reason I share this picture is because I used a lot of real and imaginary materials on my new creations. In Tibetan Buddhism, many eminent monks and great virtues, or Padmasambhava, have a phenomenon of "rainbow body" when they pass away, that is, their bodies turn into rainbows and rise upward. The Buddha statues of Tibetan Buddhism are very specific , but the result of "rainbow body " is a virtual concept. So the Buddha statue works at this time are made of colored glaze, and the surface of the Buddha statue presents a real appearance, integrating the concepts of reality and imaginary into the work.
Buddha art works with combination of virtual and real
The works displayed in the empty room, we follow some traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. First of all, this is a Buddha statue that needs to be worshiped; at the same time, it is also a work of art, so it returns to itself in terms of language expression.
Ziyu Zhuang: During our practice, we have done many projects related to Chinese traditions, but in fact our approach is contemporary, and this balance is same as ours. Actually, we do not directly reproduce traditional images and elements, but turn them into another translation language, which is a combination of contemporary and traditional.
The reason why we invited Mr. Jiang, because we have similarity, although our creations based on different foundations, but the method is common. Jiang's works are like what we can usually recognize, but completely break away at the same time, or even beyond traditions.
What he shared today is not much directly related to the content, craftsmanship, and technology. It is more about the experience and the thinking transition process of the creation of the work, and these can bring better inspiration to the creation. Thank you for the wonderful speech!
/ On-site question x Jiang Sheng /
Ziyu Zhuang: Will you make some design or operational changes based on the personal attributes of the client and his individual needs?
Jiang Sheng: In our industry, opposing relationship clients and designers is relatively weak. For example, if you are a master and you want to made a Buddha, and I am a craft man, we have the same goals and ideas to correct the correctness, and finally get it done .
Ziyu Zhuang: Are the works you exhibited this time, such as Padmasambhava, is free creation, or creation for a client?
Jiang Sheng: Free creation. Although it is a work of religious art, it is interesting that many masters can recognize and accept it. There is a delicate balance here. Padmasambhava on many thangkas looks like this with hits of identity. For example, the elements of the sun and the moon, vajra, face, beard, etc. The heads of Tibetan Buddhism will summarize these elements in great details. If the Chinese Buddhism shaping process is done a simple math problem, the Tibetan Buddhism is a profound Olympic problem.
Li Na: The Padmasambhava statue you shared before has a transparent glass inside and a very solid texture like "stone" outside. After your speech, I can get the message you want to convey, but as a viewer at the scene may not feel it. I want to know how to let the viewers understand the deeper meaning?
Jiang Sheng: Although there are information in the scene, some viewers may still ignore it. But at the scene, they can still feel the atmosphere of the "empty room". For example, when viewed on site, the edges and backgrounds of the works are almost imaginary. This kind of real and imaginary existence cannot be expressed by photos or words. This is also what this exhibition wants to convey.
Zhang Haiyan : There is a saying in Buddhism that "the body is like colored glaze". After adding copper powder to the blue body of the Medicine Buddha, this pure texture may be destroyed. Will the audience criticize this form?
Jiang Sheng: Before the audience participated in the exhibition, based on our pre-notice, the exhibition has already started. If the audience is willing to come, it means he can accept it.
Ren Zhongqi: When a work is presented to the public, how the audience interprets it has nothing to do with the author. Mr. Jiang mentioned that copper powder like flowing blood when it was added. I think this explanation gives the work a dynamic. However, different audiences may also interpret the elements of blue, bubbles, and copper powder as the starry sky or anything else. It is normal and interesting to have different understandings.
Yu fanshi: You said that Buddhist statues have a clear image of rules and regulations, but these specific information will weaken the creators imagination. For example, when a great novel is made into a concrete film, it often compresses the reader's own imagination. So how do you keep the balance between free creation and rules or regulations?
Jiang Sheng: "Fo Shuo Zao Xiang Liang Du Jing" talks about the standards and regulations of statues and offerings to the Buddha. These rules and regulations have political, historical, and religious factors. But in fact, the Tibetan Buddha statues we see today have great changes. There is no absolute rationality in shaping Buddha statues. For example, I am making Buddha statues every day. If I have a good mood today, my work will be happy, but if I may have something today, I will never think the work is fine. That means it is important for craft man to adjust his mood, which I shared as a craftsman. Regarding Buddha statues, all sculpture works are the result of a quantitative change to a qualitative change, and this kind of change always has artist’s personal style. So if we talk about art forms without Buddha statues, it must not erase the personal thing.