BACKForeword II — Introspection: Between Seeing and Be Seen | OuYangJangHe

The representation of time and space in an artwork and their embedded congruity between the

viewer’s heart and eye has always been a critical quality of intellectual identity in traditional

China. However, such variables have been transformed onto two-dimensional representations in

the contemporary era, for which time has been compressed to codes. Especially with dominating

interventions of the Internet, DV and other media, image has become a channel of information to

identifying the self. In other words, the representation and physicality from the overflow of time

and space have been rudimentarily replaced virtually. Throughout this evolutionary process of

identity-awareness, what has taken place in the field of artistic creativity? I think it’s not sufficient

to only point out the changes taking place in the visible self-reflections and the changes in aesthetic

mentalities, perhaps, more profound changes are unfolding on the act of seeing.

Among various phases of He Sen’s artistic practice, viewing as a variable, has had considerable

paradoxical qualities. Among his earlier works, the portrayed objects embodied vivid pre-historical

impression seemed to gather together or dispersing to fossils left remarkable impression on the

viewers. In the ensuing period, the young girls in his paintings had both degrees of cruelty and

fragility under their highlighted surface, the high-tech polished gaze are frigid, manipulative, and

robotically inhumane. Yet, the sight and response provoked by these works were unquestionably

contemporary imbued with a bodily scent of the quotidian. I noticed that, in these two creative

periods, there is a transitional phase (or period) referring to He Sen’s shut-eye portraits. Is that

referred to being seen? We are aware that the basic premise for the acceptance and wide discussions

on contemporary art is to posit art into various contexts to establish different dialogues. As for

dialogues established through viewing, not only the viewer and the objects are deeply rooted in

dichotomies of history/reality, mind/body, criticism/consent, sometimes, both are also blindingly

inlaid by the act of viewing. Such blindness is unnamable, cannot be ignored and is destined.

Because, under the premise of predisposed theological structure of dialogue, as the viewer looks at

a contemporary artwork, the unseen and the unknown of the artwork looks back and gauges at the

viewer. The mysterious gaze of the artwork to the viewer perhaps borrows from a ghostly gaze and

the viewers’ predisposed blindness. Consequently, a more profound viewing of the mind is born: it is

not an act between the viewer and contemporary art, nor is it a metaphor for art and life, or simply

replacement of the reflection of men from a dreamscape context without assigning a physical body.

The multiple refracted relationships shape the way of seeing and being seen – layers both closed and

open, provide interesting viewing samples for the historical progress of Chinese contemporary art.

Seeing and be seen in He Sen’s artworks from his earliest to transitional phases are paradoxical.

And once he channeled this energy into his recent practice, the paradox transformed. Not only the

contemporary figures became the ancient depictions, moreover the quotidian reality became textual

references. Through this transformation, the change in the way of viewing precedes the artist’s

creative concept. Certain secondary mysterious inner force propels one’s second nature (nature of

text) to be adopted into He Sen’s primary nature (reality) of viewing. Ming dynasty painters refer

to such viewings as viewing by the “dynamic eye”, it grants the viewer with both complex and

enlightening impressions: overlapping and antagonizing the vastness of the universe and the enclosed

textual space; furthermore, the pining linear timeline also began to twist. For which, I believe that

He Sen’s recent paintings has a spiritual geometric quality, providing a comfort through simple yet

myriads of interactions. Meanwhile, I also believe, one should allow introspection on He Sen’s recent

paintings, because introspection assists to inner reflection.