Q & A with Tianli Zu and Edmund Capon

Q & A with Tianli Zu and Edmund Capon
Artists at the National Library
8 March 2016

On Thursday 10 March, join multimedia artist Tianli Zu and Chinese art scholar Edmund Capon as they discuss their appreciation of Chinese culture as experienced from two vastly different backgrounds. They will converse over 5 themes: Identity and definition, continuity, ideological and 'spiritual' threads, nature and landscape and the contemporary diaspora of artists around the world.

We were lucky enough to borrow time with Tianli and Edmund to ask a few questions about their recent projects and career influences.

Why do you make art? Why do you write?

Tianli: The reason I make is art is because there are things that are so important and ideas so deeply held that are impossible to express in other ways, but can only be suggested and hinted at symbolically through art in order to arouse a viewer’s own perception and experiences.

The reason I write is because I make art intuitively – thus, afterwards, I need to review the work to find out what the forms and patterns tried to reveal about my unconsciousness mind. The discovery often surprises and shocks me, however, it broadens my understanding towards humanity.

Edmund: That's the oddest question of all... ah the quest for immortality.

What artists are you following right now?

Tianli: I do not follow any artists. However, there are artists with whom I share the view of the inseparable relationship between life and the self, such as European modernist Hans Arp, contemporary artists Brice Marden, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama and traditional Chinese folk artists from the Shaanxi province. 

How would you describe your latest work?

Tianli: My projection series on the National Library of Australia is an experimental work in the sense that it extends Chinese tradition to the contemporary world. I sought to overcome the boundaries of traditional two-dimensional, non-durable papercuts by exploring the possibility of a three-dimensional, paperless and durable work. Such an attempt aims to preserve lost craftsmanship, by making it possible to prevent the disappearance and sustain the richness of this ancient culture.

While I create and manipulate moving images, I narrate stories that are seemingly ancient, yet timeless. Indeed, the folk tale-like story comments on current societal conflicts.

Edmund: eclectic…essays from Confucius to football. The hardest part of writing it is concentrating.

Tianli Zu, The Ox LanternChinese Zodiac Lantern Exhibition, Credit @jaym3s2 via instagram

What's the most useful piece of advice you've been given as an artist?

Tianli: Before becoming an artist, learn to be true to yourself.

Strangest piece of advice?

Edmund: never listen to advice… (but thats not true)

What do you love about libraries?

Edmund: they are the most civilised places on the planet…the natural sanctuaries of the civilised human being.

Xu Bing, A book from the sky  1987-91, Queensland Art Gallery

To see Tianli's projections, which are based on works in the #celestialempire exhibition, visit the National Library for #enlighten from 6pm on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 March. Tianli will be running shadow play puppet workshops for kids in the Ferguson Room from 6-9pm. More information on the Library's Enlighten program.