Editor’s Note: On May 20th, CAFA Online Graduation Season was officially launched. Within the first 24 hours, online browsing exceeded 2.13 million and the number of individual visitors reached 530,000. Up until now, online browsing has exceeded 2.46 million with 620,000 independent visitors from 115 countries around the world. This graduation exhibition has attracted global participation and attention.
Offline exhibitions can collect feedback from the audience as soon as they visit, and they can accurately receive information from the art market and then become a stage for exchange and learning between students ... In comparison, we know very little about the online graduation exhibition. How do teachers from CAFA look at this new form of graduation exhibition? How do they guide students to create? What challenges did they encounter?
CAFA ART INFO interviewed Professor Tang Hui from the Mural Painting Department of the School of Fine Arts at CAFA. He discussed his views and understanding from the graduation creation class of the Mural Painting Department, the students’ creation and mentality, as well as his grasp of space and his own state.
Interviewee | Tang Hui (Professor of Mural Painting Department, the School of Fine Arts, CAFA)
Interviewer | Yang Zhonghui /CAFA ART INFO
Interview time | May 10th, 2020
Images | Courtesy of Tang Hui and graduates
Translated by Emily and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
CAFA ART INFO: Hello, Professor Tang. Because of the pandemic, the graduation exhibition at CAFA has changed a lot this year. We have also paid attention to the topics related to the graduation creation of students. Can you introduce the graduation creation class of the Mural Painting Department to us?
Tang Hui: The Mural Painting Department has always attached great importance to the graduation creation courses, and our undergraduate and postgraduate students have always achieved good results in CAFA’s previous graduation creation exhibitions thanks to the early start of the graduation creation process when developing the course arrangement. When the students enter the department, we use the graduation creation to mobilize the students' enthusiasm for learning. The courses such as color courses, line-composition courses and material courses are all extensions of creation and also lay the foundation for the graduation creation in advance.
It can be said that the pandemic has disrupted our established plan and the creative energy accumulated by the students in the last three years is difficult to release. First of all, students are required to complete their own creations at home, where there is a lack of communication, interaction and mutual encouragement among students. The second is the change of the creative environment, which makes some relatively large-scale works difficult to achieve. Moreover, the uncertainty of online exhibitions affects the creative mood of the students. After all, there is still a distance between virtual space and reality. The sense of loss covers the creative process and the psychological counseling task taken on by the instructor is even heavier.
Tang Hui, "Fence 1", acrylic on linen, 70x60cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Fence 2", acrylic on linen, 70x60cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Pine Tree 1", acrylic on linen, 50x40cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Pine Cones", acrylic on linen, 50x40cm, 2020
CAFA ART INFO: Due to the pandemic, the academy is closed until further notice. Tutors and students have to shift to an online teaching model. How does this affect your graduation creation teaching?
Tang Hui: I think the online mode is very suitable for creative teaching. In the process of creative teaching, communication between tutors and students is a very important part. The tutor can also promote his or her own ability in the process of organizing courseware and preparing the complete teaching slides. I also began to re-recognize the tutors’ abilities in creating courses during the supervision process. It is a very good experience.
Professor Tang Hui was guiding students for their graduation creation online.
Last month, Wu Xiaohai, a tutor from the Mural Painting Department, organized a creative course targeting sixty students. At the beginning of the course, we were worried about the quality of the course. However, the result was that the effect of the course was unexpectedly good. The tutor had clear ideas on the course arrangement, which features rich images and materials. Students were active in the class and the completion of homework was also very good. After the course, tutor Wu repeatedly emphasized to me that the course effect was very good. This was something he had not expected beforehand and he saw the shining talent of many students, which he had not felt before.
The teaching methods of online courses in the Mural Painting Department are divided into two categories. One is the Tencent Meeting that features tutor Wu’s course and the other is the WeChat article publishing of Tutor Li Yang. Tutor Li Yang has put more emphasis on text sorting during the teaching process. This type of teaching is not a live broadcast, but a step-by-step form emphasizing both images and texts.
Tutor Wu Xiaohai was teaching through Tecent Meeting
In terms of creative courses, I think that the online version is worth continuing to use in the future and I feel that the distance between tutors and students is getting closer. This form is beneficial to both teachers and students.
Tutor Li Yang was supervising students through WeChat.
CAFA ART INFO: The pandemic has changed the teaching mode of tutors, so what impact would it have on students' actual creations?
Tang Hui: Because of the pandemic, most students chose the digital method to create works, which is faster and more convenient. The professional characteristics of the Mural Painting Department are more about design, so many of our students are good at computer design and drawing, which has been a common trend in recent years. The development of art has shown us endless possibilities. In teaching, we are constantly enlightening students' imagination and expanding their possibilities. Based on the comprehensive characteristics of mural painting in teaching, we will practice with an open-minded mentality to develop the teaching to become more diverse, just as tutors in the Mural Painting Department have shown in their creations.
During the pandemic, student Wang Yuqi made online digital creation at home.
During the pandemic, student Dong Yanxi was practicing online digitalization at home.
CAFA ART INFO: It is the first time that CAFA has announced the “Virtual Art Museum of CAFA” to replace the traditional offline degree show. How does it affect students’ graduate creations? How is their mental health? Are they anxious?
Tang Hui: There are always regrets. From my memory, CAFA has been unable to organize the graduation show due to special circumstances twice. As a student of CAFA, it’s really frustrating not to have a graduation exhibition as there is only one university experience during our lifetime. I can definitely understand their feelings. Can we make up for their regret in the future? Now it seems that it is difficult to achieve from a technical perspective. We can only leave them to graduate from the academy in this way.
The media era is changing the way we see things. A few years ago, museum curators and collectors may ask for written materials to facilitate understanding of the artist’s work, but now they tend to ask for emails and websites, WeChat Official Account or PDF file, etc., all of which illustrate changes in viewing methods. Of course, we should accept such changes, calling it a "virtual art museum" is not an unacceptable new form, perhaps this way will bring students more ease when stepping into society. We are guiding students like this in our current teaching.
The exhibition needs a sense of ceremony, which I think is the biggest pity and what it lacks. For young people, there is still a long way to go, what kind of mentality do they use to face dramatic changes in the world? Maybe this is just the beginning and perhaps things are not improving every day, it is so important to hone a strong heart. The future of the world is theirs.
CAFA ART INFO: Please introduce the overall situation of graduates this year to us.
Tang Hui: I have two postgraduate students graduating this year. In terms of undergraduate level, there are ten BA graduates from Studio Three of the Mural Painting Department.
The creative focus of these two postgraduate students is different. Dong Yanxi’s creation includes more popular cultural symbols, so her work is suitable for online dissemination and presentation. Dong is good at digitalizing images and she presents the video featuring her creative process in the exhibition. During her working process, an art museum from Shanghai has invited her to present afterwards.
Dong Yanxi, "Shining Island in Space" series, digital painting, variable size, 2020
Dong Yanxi, "Shining Island in Space" series, painting on wood, 120x180cm, 2020
Bao Jihua’s works in oil painting are relatively traditional. During the pandemic, the creative environment limitation has restricted the size of his work. His works include many unique traces of painting texture, so it is best to appreciate the original pieces. Obviously, the online presentation affects the viewing quality of his work. It is adverse for creators who do not take images as the mainline.
Bao Jihua, "Environment Creation" series, oil on canvas, 120×100cm, 2020
Bao Jihua, "Environment Creation" series, oil on canvas, 60×60cm, 2020Bao Jihua, "Environment Creation" series, oil on canvas, 60×60cm, 2020
Among undergraduate students, I would especially mention Wang Yuqi. During her study, her work largely featured paintings. Until one day she sent me a video work which touched me a lot. The feeling of this period and life experience are presented in the form of animation. There is a lot of work behind the video, which is also a special choice for her in such a special period.
Poster of Wang Yuqi's animated video "Jump Into The Sea", 2020
Screenshots of Wang Yuqi's animated video "Jump Into The Sea", 2020
I have roughly browsed all the graduate works of the Mural Painting Department this year, all graduates have successfully completed their creations. These are basically the same as the plan we saw when we set up the graduation subjects and the teaching inspection. It is obvious that the pandemic has not affected the quality of the graduation creation. The only regret is that we have not changed the way of presenting the works for the virtual exhibition hall. For example, we can display some of the works in larger sizes or the unique styles of murals in the virtual art museum, but currently, we are still limited to the exhibition view. Of course, the possibility of virtual displays is a topic we need to discuss in the future.
CAFA ART INFO: A mural painting is always commissioned for a specific wall. Both the theme and form need to fit the spacial environment, which can be said to be tailored for the space. In this case, is the creation of graduates from the Mural Painting Department also affected by space? In this graduation exhibition, how do the students’ creation respond to space?
Tang Hui: In previous graduation exhibitions, every graduate had three to four-meter-long exhibition space to complete, which is not fair to students from our department as our major is born to create large-scale works. The development of contemporary visual art increasingly revolves around the theme of space. For mural painting creation that focuses on design, it has a very close relationship with the spacial environment. During the teaching process, the Mural Painting Department has a variety of spacial creation experiments in recent years, and students are also adapting the creation method of virtual space. It should be said that we are skilled at the creation of virtual space, especially when we face customers in the future, we must utilize a virtual demonstration to achieve creation.
We have organized several meetings to discuss the virtual exhibition hall within our department, and we have attempted to arrange graduates’ work in the virtual space. The only thing that I feel regret about is that we did not fully prepare for the new display method. It is obvious that we did not bring the superior nature of mural painting into full play. Instead, we continued to use the traditional thought to confront the spacial change. In my perspective, there is some lagging behind in the process of dealing with changes.
CAFA ART INFO: This year, CAFA announced a “virtual exhibition hall” for the first time. How do you see the future of this new form of graduation display?
Tang Hui: Immersed in the era of we-media, we need to positively adapt ourselves to changes related to computer networks. Perhaps we will look back at this year’s virtual art museum in a year and we may feel that the technology is rough and the structure is simple. However, this is a step we must take. Only with one step at a time can this new thing be done well.
Nowadays, we are inseparable with screens. There are lots of LED screens and many choices of lightening methods behind the screen. Of course, the calculation speed of the color chip that manages the screen determines the color temperature and clarity when we watch. For the company which undertakes the production process of the virtual art museum of CAFA, it must take into account the resolution and operation speed of most screens in the market. In this case, they would choose to abandon the best rendering effect to ensure care of most of the audience.
I always think that the simplest presentation method may be the best choice, so I appreciate the traditional display method rather than the 3D virtual way. In the traditional presentation, the audience can focus more on the work itself. At present, the artist files we browse on mobile phones are like this, more like looking at catalogs and books.
We can get the experience and social feedback from the first attempt this year and we will become better. I think we can take two steps into the future, First of all, completing the virtual display. Then we can establish a data server at CAFA to permanently present students’ works online which can allow every student to have a retrospective of his or her works.
Group photos with students and their works in the virtual exhibition hall
Pictures are photoshoped by the students.
CAFA ART INFO: We have discussed many topics related to students. Can you share us with your own status during this time?
Tang Hui: Adopting good protection and quarantining at home concludes my status recently.
I quite enjoyed this period of time as I can think about creative things every day. In the past, I always felt that there was not enough time for painting, but now it is different. I can slow down the rhythm and taste details carefully during my creative process
I have always had a desire to master vector graphics software. I have realized my dream through self-study in the past few months. Now I am skilled in using this painting tool. In the past, there was no such time to learn.
In the early stage of the pandemic, the group from the Mural Painting Department had to stop the project we were involved in. With the domestic pandemic gradually controlled, many things are gradually recovering. We are now communicating the plan through online meetings. Everything is going smoothly and I feel that there is no delay in the project.
"The vector illustration drawn by me to pay tribute to medical workers." (partial)
Tang Hui, "Vector Drawing-Buddha statue"
The rural beauty painting project conducted by the Mural Painting Department in Nandu Town, Liyang, Jiangsu Province was launched years ago and the specific implementation procedures are also underway. Tutors of our department have already gone to the site on 16th May. The Nandu government has also built a lacquerware workshop for us. The basic construction has been completed and it is worth looking forward to in the future.
In short, my personal life and work are still fulfilling, and I am looking forward to the normal order of the world.
Tang Hui, "Round Bamboo", acrylic on linen, 70x60cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Factory Chimney", acrylic on linen, 76x61cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Fruits and Vegetables", acrylic on linen, 91x76cm, 2020
Tang Hui, "Taihu Stone", acrylic on linen, 76x61cm, 2020
CAFA ART INFO: Do you remember your graduation exhibition? From then to now, can you share your feelings with us?
Tang Hui: I can only say that time has passed. It has been 29 years since my graduation exhibition in 1991, and the scenes of my graduation creation are still vivid. There were 11 students in our class. We were in the central garden of the Old CAFA located in No. 5, Xiaowei Hutong. Our classroom number was 265. The classroom was overcrowded with mountains of painting frames and works. The woodworking room next door came with a deafening sound of work every day and the light in the room was dim. However, everyone was pleased to get together. The wisteria trellis in the central garden outside the classroom was the place where we could rest and relax between classes, and also the place where we communicated with art history classmates next to us. The familiar white pine trees in the garden are the ones in the Huajiadi campus. Recalling that experience may be more important and more memorable than the final result, so I miss the campus time with students this year.
Tang Hui, "A Strike in Time and Space", sketch, 37x200cm, 1991
Tang Hui, "A Strike in Time and Space" (Partial), acrylic on board, 240x360cm, 1991
I graduated from the Mural Painting Department in 1991, students took a group photo in front of my work (from left: Tang Hui, Zhang Hui, Li Xiaowei, Zhang Xianfeng, Ma Juncheng)
CAFA has moved from Xiaowei Hutong to Wangjing, and we have a better environment for art as well as a more convenient lifestyle. It seems that the world is becoming better and better every day. However, the outbreak of the pandemic has changed many inherent understandings. We need to reexamine the future and to have more sense of a crisis.
CAFA ART INFO: Finally, please send wishes to all graduates this year.
Tang Hui: I want to say that on the day the students chose the Mural Painting Department, they chose more possibilities and more means of survival.
The teaching hardware of the Mural Painting Department has not been perfect in recent years. As tutors, we feel very sorry. Together with CAFA, we are working hard to improve the situation. I saw that the teachers of our department are using love to make up for our shortcomings and the students are also using their actions to change the future and contribute to the development of the Mural Painting Department.
The pandemic has separated us temporarily, but I believe we will meet again. Please let me hug you in the future!
About Artist Tang Hui
"This is a vector avatar I painted for myself during the pandemic."
Tang Hui was born in Wuhan, Hubei in 1968. He graduated from the Middle School Attached to the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1987. He graduated from the Mural Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1991 and has been teaching at CAFA till now. In 1997, he was selected to participate in the International Young Artist Visit and Residence Program organized by the Japan International Exchange Foundation and the Ibaraki Prefecture Government. He received his Ph.D. degree in 2019 and is currently a Professor, Dean of the Mural Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, a doctoral supervisor, and Deputy Director of the Mural Art Committee of the Chinese Artists Association.
His works have been collected by many art institutions such as the National Art Museum of China, the CAFA Art Museum, the Hong Kong University Art Museum, the Ibaraki Prefecture Government, the Kennedy Center, and the Hongkun Art Museum. His representative works include: “A Time and Space Strike” (made in 1991), “A Time and Space Strike-Continued” (made in 1996), “Red Aircraft” (made in 1996), “A Model Shop of a Chinese Family” (made in 1996), “Just a Greeting” (made in 1997), “Tangcheng Project” (made in 2002), “Monument Series” (made in 2009), as well as “Snow in Shinjuku”, “Protagonist Series”, “Beijing New Landmark in Beijing”, etc. His published monographs include “Tang Hui 1991-2008”, “Majestic Melancholy”, “Deer Painted by Tang Hui 2014-2016”.