段英梅 · Yingmei Duan

Kommentar zu “Performance-Painting”

Sarah Pfingsten

Double Dialogue: Paint the unpaintable

Performance-Painting, a Research-Project

I see an open countryside on a canvas with many yellow and naked small male figures. Their legs disappear in the gras. The green and yellow colour spreads out a refreshing atmosphere and reminds one of spring. Between these yellow male figures is a tiny girl in a red dress. She holds a magnifying glas in her hand and is strolling through the field, in search of something. It seems to be a warm spring day, birds are flying around. The tiny girl is walking indispensable and unresting through the forest of yellow figures. At first sight these figures look all the same, but there seems to be something else that is primarily invisible for the viewer. Like a scientist she is searching through every centimetre of the field.

This picture shows an interpretation of a performance from the artist herself. The work "Friend" originated in the year 2003. We can see Yingmei Duan in a red summer dress with white sneakers, big glasses and a magnifying glass in her hand. She is walking through a bare room, seemingly empty. She walks carefully in very small steps, so she doesn’t miss a thing. After a while appears a naked man, who is being explored with the magnifying glass. The research of human being is an essential aspect in Yingmeis artwork. The artist is researching new ways of expression and representation. In her recent project she connects two different media Performance and Painting. She interpretates Performances from other artists with the tools of Painting. The process of Painting is going to be a performative act. In this connection originated a series of pictures, in which Yingmei is working out the presentability of affecting art.

Before she started to work in the field of the synthesis of different media, she studied Painting in China several years. When she went to Germany, she started to concentrate on Performance. She graduated from the School of Art Braunschweig in 2006; she did her Diploma and Meisterschüler with Marina Abramovic, Birgit Hein und Christoph Schlingensief. Since then the exploration of these two media is the centre of her work. Another step foreward in her process of working is the collaboration with art- scientists.

In this project about 30 performance artists and certain works, which have been chosen by Yingmei Duan, allocated these art- works for the project. She knows most of them personally and saw many of the performances live. These works have been interpretated on the level of Painting in about a month and fulfilled the white canvas with life. The choice of the performances covers the whole range of important subjects. Here I can only mention a few of the results (I will work out more later).

I asign Teching Hsieh and Mingzhu to existential artists. The first one is known by his one-year performances; he spent a whole year outside, a year connected with another person or he put a card in an attendance recorder every hour, as in factories. These powerful works have been interpretated by Yingmei and resulted in very strong pictures. The interpretation of the performance, where the artist had been outside for a year, shows a dark and weighty coloured row of houses in the background and single dark- blue figures in the front. It seems, as if the same person is in different places at one time. Every place seems suitable, except of them where people are save. Another picture from this series shows a lonely person on a hovered ground, surrounded by circles with watch hands; every clock shows another time. Obviously this is the interpretation of the performance with the attendance recorder. We can see the incredibility of this action in the melancholy and lonelyness of the person in the centre of the picture. The white background underlines the contrast and also the effect.

In his performance "District without name" (2003) Zhu Ming walked as long as he met another person through a forest in China (Guizhou). He always kept on walking in one direction beside a big river. In his baggage he had only the most important untilities. Unescorted and being out on a limb he transformed into a part of the nature. In Yingmei’s picture one can see black bunches of trees evenly distributed on two canvases. The ground between the trees is painted in grey, green and blue. From down to the left up to the very right corner is drawn a blue path on which is a dark-red person walking. You don’t see this person at first sight, because of the way of painting. He is walking lonesome through an ocean of trees.

Another interesting work is from Oliver Blomeier "work equals force times distance" (2003). He drove by bike to Milano and took pictures of the food he ate. The installation in the exhibition consisted of a bike with an assembled slide projector. The visitors could only view the pictours by riding the bike. As a result of the painting process one can see a person, who is holding a bowl, filled with food in a contemplative way. The head is downcast and the eyes are closed. The big head is put on the body without neck and underlines the expression and gratefulness for food. In the background one can see a night sky with some stars, which shows a connection to nature and this way the circle to the performance is again closed.

As a result of the preoccupation with a performance from Christoph Schlingensief one can see another very interesting picture. In the Theatre- Installation "Area 7”"(2006) rooms are built up around the Animatograph. Dirty toilettes and old hotel rooms; going further subjects like Religion, Politics and other society developments are mentioned. This installation teems with provocative elements, which are supported by performances from Schlingensief himself and other artists. On a triptych of canvas one can see Yingmei's result. It is coloured very dark. In the front it seems like water or even an ocean and behind this the viewer notices people. On the third picture in the upper right corner are three persons, looking curious and nasty. They are observing the situation. Dark lines and blear forms cloud the picture. Between abstraction and figuratively painting we can see several heads and bodys. The provocative level of the installation is not only shown by elements reminding of nightmares, but also through the full effect of the triptych.

Yingmei Duan elaborated these works and all the others. She dealt with this subject very intensely. At the beginning of the working process it was necessary to understand every performance and the intention, otherwise she couldn’t achieve such a remarkable result. Certain questions were kept in mind during this project, here is a selection of them: Is every performance "paint- able"? What kind of things can you picture figuratively? Where is the border to abstract painting?

There are two works from Yingmei on the cusp of concrete and abstract painting. The first one is the painting about the performance from Verena Kyselka in collaboration with the performance group Exterra XX, established in the year 1988; and the other one from Johannes Lothar Schröder. Last mentioned, took place in 2006 at the 2. Performance Festival in Salzau (arranged by Alexandra Gneissl). The "Relic- Lounge" consisted of assembled architecture elements from pieces of working notes. The "Relic- Lounge" is build from umbrellas, in which had been laid out as a fragmented skeleton of a human body” (Johannes Lothar Schröder), here people can find a space for discussion. The architecture elements are arranged in a way to leave space for the mind. The picture created by Yingmei shows many scraps of a text, e.g. main focus, notes, performer, discussion, architecture, installation etc. Many question marks are also drawn in between. In the upper part is a figure holding a magnifying glass and searching. It is standing on a podium, under which bearing figures are. We know these caryatides from the Greek architecture. On the right side is a cupboard with bones. The ground is white, the lettering and figures are black and dark green. There is no real front or background and the figures are like drawn elements. This is another reason, why this representation and the performance are a good match. Research was the basis for the performance, as well as in the pictured interpretation.

In this context I mentioned also the performance from Verena Kyselka. Here the artist is playing the violin in collaboration with the surroundings, things like sounds, voices, movement and the architecture of the room. Another part of this performance was action- painting, where she combined sound and painting. The result of Yingmei's working process shows a white canvas with several drawn lines coloured differently. At first sight it looks like a picture drawn by children, but if you think a little bit, it becomes apparent that it must have been painted or drawn this way. The performance is handling with the representation of an abstract act itself. Here I can see a border between abstract and concrete painting.

All the results are very astounding. With a very strong and deep method of painting she worked out these achievements. Before she started working, she drew some outlines so that she could better find her way of expression. Furthermore the dialogue about the performances was another very important part of this project. The communication with the other artists and art- scientists came to the fore. Sometimes she chose a naive way of painting, but it emerged as a smart method to accomplish a particular effect, as desired.