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Hua Shuchen: A Dialogue

2023.07.22 - 2023.08.26

Artist: Hua Shuchen

Text by Leslie Dong

I maintain we have to make it clear in advance that the topic of the ‘dialogue’ that the reader is about to read is quite unclear, and even some ‘dialogue’ are mostly fictional, and that if one has to ask what the meaning of the ‘dialogue’ is, what point it is trying to make, what message it is trying to convey, and what deafening content emerges...... I think that ‘dialogue’ is also a daily thing that happens all the time, just like Hua Shuchen's creations, which are kept in a restrained and calm manner.

But we must also emphasize that the key word for ‘dialogue’ is ‘sincerity’. ‘Sincerity’ is always a must.

(In the following dialogue, L refers to Leslie, the author of the text, who is the interlocutor in fantasy; H refers to Hua Shuchen, a fictional artist image. They talked in fantasy.)

L: ‘MANY YEARS LATER as she faced with the scenery of business as usual around her, the artist Hua Shuchen will recall the distant evening or late night on her way home when she saw the possibility of self-expression. At that time the neighbourhood buildings were just the backdrop to Hua Shuchen's regular school life for more than a decade. The greenery of the old community had long been neglected, the corridor is old and mottled, the wooden door creaks, the surface of the metal chandelier can no longer be seen whether it is rust or the original black paint, but ceramic tiles on the floor had been wiped very clean so that the sun could always find an angle to cast the shadows of the orchid on it, window shades and window bars passively divided up the scenery in a sort of geometric composition, leaves and petals would always be found scattering all over the balcony’s floor on a windy day; in the dark, the burnt apple on the gas stove looks like prehistoric eggs. Many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point ......’

L: ‘Off topic, that's a beautiful sapphire on your hand.’

H: ‘Appreciate.’

L: ‘Excuse my liberties. We certainly can't be Gabriel García Márquez, I just introduce Hua Shuchen's works by imitating the opening of that great novel②. A very old-fashioned but effective approach isn't it.’
H laughs. L laughs too. 

L: ‘I would say I think we can talk about creations for a long time, but the problem is that people are bound to end up saying we are over-interpreting. I need you to be honest. What do you want?’

H: ‘I've never thought about it, but these things were there originally, I happened to pass by and I see: we live in the Graveyard of Definitions③.’

H: ‘What surrounds us we endure better for giving it a name—and moving on. But to embrace a thing by a definition, however arbitrary—and all the more serious the more arbitrary it is, since the soul then overtakes knowledge—is to reject that thing, to render it insipid and superfluous, to annihilate it……③’

L: ‘In the Graveyard of Definitions....... Aha, it's E. M. Cioran④!’

H: ‘It’s him.’

H: ‘Intuitively, our experience is accumulating, our practice is approaching some great concepts of ‘metaphysics’; but the matter is counterintuitive: our experience declines and diminishes in the superposition, our abilities deteriorate; the more we try to present the object, the more we tend to be obscured by the object itself; be wary of arbitrary definitions.’

L: ‘Is it wrong to be enthusiastic, positive and forward-looking?’

H: ‘No, we still need passionate emotions, but there may be a trap in it. We'd better not fall into Narcissus' trap⑤ so easily.’

L: ‘It's a restrained calm.’

H: ‘Focusing on landscapes and objects of personal life, I try to change the perspective of observing, refine it through the way of flat, so as to defamiliarize the common sense, and increase the difficulty and length of the viewer's perception, in order to arouse people's keen awareness of the nature of things.’

L: ‘In layman's terms, it creates a bit of trouble for the audience.’

H: ‘Right. I deliberately reduce the description of trivial objects and widen the distance between the real scene and the picture, hoping to enable the viewer to distinguish the difference between the perception of art and the habit of daily life. This process would help the viewer to escape the state of being deceived, so that he can return to the origin of things again. Shklovsky explained the subversive power of defamiliarization, which allows us give up the position of indifference—because the essential function of art is to stop looking at habits and familiar objects from an indifferent perspective⑥.’ 

H: ‘My art practice is not a book dogma nor a work guide, let's see, it's like……’

L: ‘A Dialogue.’

H: ‘Clever! It's like a dialogue that takes place anytime, anywhere, it doesn't matter who you talk to, the moon or the wind; you can also talk about anything, art or love stories. It has no clear Intention, it's just there, it's just something I happened to come across.’

L: ‘A Dialogue. The people involved are excited and in a way this also helps us to get rid of the practical experience that is numbing and declining.’

A Dialogue ended abruptly. See you in another dialogue!


① A parody of the first paragraph of One Hundred Years of Solitude. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a 1967 novel by Colombian author Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez. The novel is often cited as one of the supreme achievements in world literature.
② Same as note ①
③ Cioran E. M. (2012). A Short History of Decay. New York: Skyhorse Publishing Imprint Arcade Publishing. 
④ Emile Michel Cioran (1911—1995) was a Romanian philosopher, aphorist and essayist, who published works in both Romanian and French. His work has been noted for its pervasive philosophical pessimism, style, and aphorisms.
⑤ Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who was so impossibly handsome that he fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Even the lovely nymph Echo could not tempt him from his self-absorption.
⑥ Shklovsky V. (1917). Art as Technique. Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky (1893—1984) was a Russian and Soviet literary theorist, critic, writer, and pamphleteer. He is one of the major figures associated with Russian formalism.

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