“Exploring the unknown…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Pu Wei
Paul Zimmerman: Let’s start from the beginning. What’s your background?
Pu Wei: I am Pu Wei, an artist living in Kunming city, Yunnan Province, China. I am a self-taught painter. My university major is educational technology and I am an educational television editor by profession. I became interested in painting when I was three years old. It took me more than 20 years to complete my self-growth and master the skills of traditional Chinese painting expertly, thus forming a very personal aesthetic concept. Since I was a student, I have read a lot of books on Eastern philosophy and Chinese culture, and learned knowledge about the mind, spirit, and consciousness. In 2013, I used the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) mind method of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism in China to paint, and created a new artistic expression style of Chinese painting – The color of surupa, which comes from the name of Surupakaya Tathagata, means extraordinary fantastic colors. The color of surupa is a new type of Chinese painting rooted in Eastern philosophy and Chinese cultural system, which pushes the art of Chinese mental imagery to a higher dimension and level. In April 2018, I participated in the New York Artexpo for the first time. Since then, I began my international artistic career. In August 2018, I participated in the Summer Fine Art Exhibition London, UK. My work “Between Heaven and Earth” was selected as the poster for the exhibition, which was exposed in the London art medias, and was reported by China Xinhua News Agency (CNC WORLD) and China Education TV (CETV). In December 2018, I participated in the Paris Salon des beaux arts, France, and my work “Golden Land” was exhibited in the Carrousel of the Louvre Museum. In the following years, I participated in many international art exhibitions in Strasbourg, New York, San Diego, Miami, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and other places and won many important international art awards. Many people liked my works, They regard my works as their spiritual totems and soul placement and collect them.
PZ: Nature seems to be a major inspiration for you. Why is it important?
PW: Chinese traditional culture advocates the idea of “harmony between man and nature”, which is the ideal state of harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and also the artistic spirit of thousands of years of Chinese painting. The universe, nature and life are intrinsically linked and obey common universal laws. For example: Light, Peace, Harmony, Warmth, Calm, Joy, Relaxation, Happiness, Purity, Freedom, etc. These feelings are frequencies, they are vibrations, all of these are “love” energies. As long as we resonate with the universe frequency and live in harmony with nature, we will gain powerful universe energy. I use the Great Perfection mind method to enter meditation, which opens the door to connect with the universe. I feel the higher frequency lights and colors and the profound natural states, which are the energy of “love” from the universe. I believe that in addition to the sights of the physical world that our eyes can see, there is also the natural state of higher dimensions of invisible space that is perceived with the soul. The mental imagery let me understand that there is still a boundless art field waiting for artists to develop and explore. By connecting with nature, I got rid of the shackles of the real material world and gained true freedom of the soul. This is a very perfect kind of life experience, and I feel extremely joyful and happy. I would love to convey these universe love energies to the audience through my paintings. Visible or invisible natural space is full of vitality and is the source of all energy, so my paintings express natural states and scenes, natural energy and information, natural feelings and appearances, I use natural power and energy allows nature to present its essence, thus realizing my own aesthetic ideal. I present my mental imagery of a certain time and space in random changes, allowing the natural state to appear naturally. These images can correspond to visible real scenes, or invisible void scenes. The audience can define and feel by themselves. I want to give the audience room to imagine freely. This is a very important aesthetic ideal of mine, which is to let me create in a natural state and let the audience think in a natural state. That is to say, while I gain spiritual freedom in the process of painting, I also let the audience gain freedom of thought when watching. By expressing nature, let us return to the essence of human nature and enter the free realm of art.
PZ: How would you define yourself as an artist?
PW: I am an original and purely natural art creator. My artistic ideas and methods come from the most primitive consciousness and inspiration from dreams. I obtained the knowledge of the Great Perfection Dharma through dreams. Dharma transmission in dreams is one of the inheritance ways of the Great Perfection Dharma of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a very orthodox and unquestionable way, which shows a clear origin and clean roots. I am the first painter to apply the Great Perfection mind method to contemporary art. My mental imagery is the image of a higher dimensional void realm with extraordinary information and energy. Many facts have proved that people feel the shock of their thoughts through my works and start a dialogue with their hearts; People who have experience in mind training read my work and think that they have met it in the subconscious before; Monks can quickly enter a state of meditation by viewing my works; People with headaches see my paintings, and the pain is immediately relieved; Irritable people see my paintings, and their hearts are quickly calmed; Children with pure hearts cheered and cheered when they saw my paintings; People with a high level of spirit regarded my paintings as spiritual totems…, Of course, some people would be afraid and resist when they saw my paintings, these are normal phenomenon. Resonating with the energy frequency in the painting can give you a positive feeling. If you are not in harmony with the energy frequency in the painting, you will have a negative feeling. As an artist, I have developed a new creative method and path by using the unique oriental traditional ink painting medium, fundamentally bringing about profound changes in techniques and forms, and creating a new expression style of Chinese painting. It is a new type of Chinese painting born out of oriental art thought and Chinese cultural system. My works are pure spiritual artistic expressions, belonging to the metaphysical category of spiritual supremacy, and are an artistic medium and channel to help people improve their spiritual level and realize noble soul.
PZ: Has your practice changed over time?
PW: Yes, my technique is capricious, it changes with my mental imagery, the only constant is the mind method of Great Perfection. The Great Perfection is a very advanced system of meditation on the deepest, subtlest, foundational levels of mind. “Mind” refers to the unbroken mental activity of cognitively engaging with objects, described from another point of view as the mental activity of giving rise to appearances (mental holograms). Regarding the Great Perfection mind method, it is difficult to explain accurately in words. It is a very subtle method of projection and manifestation of mental images. I have built a theoretical model to describe this mind method, which is not its essence, just a superficial metaphor:This is a holographic, three-dimensional circular space representing an infinite, borderless universe. The center of the circle is my heart. When I empty my heart, my whole being merges with the universe, and my heart resonates with the universe at the same frequency. At this time, this circular space becomes my consciousness space. The place near the center of the circle belongs to the visible area, and the farthest place is the invisible infinite space. The concentric circles that expand step by step represent the consciousness dimension from “like image” to “unlike image”. There is a line extending from the visible area to the invisible space like a radar line. The longer the radius of this line, the larger the space covered, The more information and energy it contains. “Unlike image” has a much higher level of consciousness than “like image”, contains more complex information, and carries more energy, so we cannot use a certain information to name an “unlike image”. For example, abstract paintings are difficult to name. If the consciousness dimension is further escalated, we can continue to enter the invisible void space, where “without shape” has appeared. This is the highest aesthetic state revealed by Chinese Taoism – the great form is without shape. This circular space is filled with rainbow light, which is the top-level energy light of the Great Perfection of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, and is invisible light. When I use the Great Perfection mind method, I am in the energy field of the rainbow light. As my consciousness increases, from the visible area to the invisible space, my empty heart, like a mirror, reflects the void image of a higher dimension, this is the projection of mental imagery. According to this model, the dimension of consciousness must be upgraded so that we can perceive areas from the visible to the invisible. When my conscious dimension reaches the invisible space, techniques are no longer a problem at this level, nor are they important, I can use all possible techniques and express all possible images. Every once in a while, the content of my paintings will have large fluctuations and jumps, I don’t want to repeat and copy myself, I keep changing all the time. Because only in the process of change I can obtain the joy of creation, and this process of change has stimulated my great curiosity and interest in exploration. It made me experience the freedom and liberation of soul in impermanence.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?
PW: When I start painting, I can immediately enter meditation, the top energy light of the Great Perfection – rainbow light fills my consciousness space, which constitutes my consciousness energy field, changes the physical properties of the matter around me, causing the mind to appear Inductive phenomena and supernatural miracles. my heart is like a container full of water, which contains all past experiences and skills, all life’s troubles, emotions, desires, chores, etc. Before I start painting, I have to empty all of this water so that my heart is like a cleaned mirror. At this time, I returned to the state of a newborn baby, soft, pure, and clean. Gradually, various light spots, colored lights, rainbow lights, illusory lights and shadows and images appeared in my mind. These things are very high energy frequencies or waves that will come into the picture with my creations. At this moment, I entered a state of emptiness, and a relatively blurry image began to appear in my mind. This is the first mental imagery projection. Then, I randomly splash ink and color on the rice paper. Under the action of water flow, inks and colors are randomly combined, mixed, superimposed, penetrated, and produce gradients. They move freely, take shape automatically, and present ever-changing, natural and mysterious images on rice paper. This process of converting mental imagery into paper images is the second projection of mental imagery. Throughout the process, I am the conductor of the concert, using my consciousness to guide water, ink, color, light and shadow to play a symphony on rice paper, and in some places, I will use brushes to do some manual intervention and guidance. Each element of the medium is free to play with its own playful flair, and my consciousness interacts with them. On rice paper, scenes that I didn’t expect will automatically appear, similar to the natural state of the universe, nature and life, including some extremely esoteric images. When the carnival of the concert was coming to an end, I used a brush to do the final processing to enhance some details to make the picture look more artistic, refined and more perfect. After some mental imagery pictures are completed, they can continue to be expanded. I will add some humanistic elements, such as symbols of spiritual totems, images with cultural meanings, tantric Mantras Sanskrit, natural scenery and objects so on. It can be said that half of my mental imagery paintings are completed by supernatural life spirituality. These automatically appearing, rich and complex images, I think are some esoteric structures that carry energies and information that we don’t know about. The mental imagery picture can be used as the background image to continue to expand, to increase the artist’s subjective creative concept and humanistic connotation, and the final work is a perfect combination of natural energy and conscious energy.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when your start a new piece?
PW: My mental imagery is a random, occasional, momentary emergence. When I started drawing, I couldn’t figure out what it was. My painting is a process of exploring the unknown, and I won’t see the result until the end. The painting medium I use is very thin, absorbent and permeable Chinese painting rice paper. The fluidity of water makes the rendering of ink and color in an uncontrollable state. The image on the paper is constantly changing, and it will automatically appear natural wonderful shape. In this process, human intervention should be reduced as much as possible, artificial traces should be diluted. These images, which are composed of vague, scattered, shapeless, contourless, various color points, shadows, shades, light and dark elements, have approached the void scene of higher dimensions. This is the highest aesthetic ideal of Chinese Taoism that I pursue—the Great form Is without shape. My paintings are images that appear naturally on rice paper. With the blending of water flow and colors, and the superposition of various colors, wonderful and changing images will appear on the rice paper. After the painting is finished, I will correspond to the natural scenery according to the presented image, and give it an easy-to-understand proposition. In addition, I will also add some humanistic connotations to clarify the theme. Actually, I am reluctant to name it, because once it is named, the consciousness dimension of the painting will immediately drop, so naming is not necessary. I want to give the freedom of naming to the audience. I cannot underestimate the artistic observation and appreciation of the audience. The audience often sees more connotations than me. When they read my paintings, they usually go beyond my original intentions. Many different conclusions and interpretations they would draw from seeing a painting. I think that if a painting can carry more people’s cognitive information, it means that the painting has stronger energy and higher dimension. So that I judge the quality of my work based on the capacity of the information, a work with dozens of interpretations is definitely better than a work with only one answer.
PZ: What is your favorite part of art making?
PW: Each of my mental imagery painting is an image captured in a specific time and space, which is random, accidental, uncertain, non- repeatable and irreproducible. It is the perfect product in that specific time and space. I think every painting of this kind is my only one and my favorite. Of course, with every painting, those natural images and unexpected color combinations are my favorite parts, let me say these miracles: A miracle is that all kinds of miraculous images automatically appear, countless images can be seen, and the subtle details are too rich. My mental imagery has the characteristics of holography, and I have different feelings when viewed from different directions. I usually rotate the direction to observe my works carefully. I will feel lost in time and space, and the illusion of interlaced time and space will appear. For example, sometimes various scenes in nature such as oceans, sky, clouds, trees, human faces, caves, and the universe appear, and sometimes magical structures appear, such as words, spells, symbols, Vajrasattva faces, shadows of elves , the head of a dragon etc., and the dense, layered textures and details are shocking and unexpected. The appearance of these images is not pre-set by me, but appears automatically with the change of color and water flow during the dynamic process. I think it is a miracle of telepathy. Another miracle is the color combination of geometric multiples formed naturally, these are not the effects that I can reconcile and achieve manually. The light and color I perceive come from projections of mental imagery, not reflected light of objects observed through my eyes. At any time, I can draw on cloudy days, sunny days, bright light, dark light, and even under the changing color lights of the stage, because the light and color projected by my mental imagery are definite and unchanged, and will not be disturbed by the external environment. According to the light and color projected from my mental imagery, I blend the corresponding colors, and let the various colors and inks blend naturally on the paper to produce a superimposed effect. Chinese painting pigments are transparent colors. After the colors are superimposed layer by layer, they will mix, penetrate and change with each other to produce various chromaticities, gradations, hues, shade and shadow, and automatically generate geometric multiples of color combinations. Therefore, in my paintings, it can be seen that the composition of light and color is extremely rich and deep, whether it is cool color or warm color, it can achieve harmony in the end. This is the result of the reconciliation of natural forces, definitely not the depth of expression that I can achieve with human power.
PZ: What is the role of art in our society?
PW: In my opinion, art is very closely related to our lives. Art can expand our thinking space, enrich our imagination, stimulate creativity, and improve people’s ability to understand and transform nature. Art can help us realize the good interaction and communication between people, nature and society, and build a harmonious and beautiful human civilized society. Art is a kind of spiritual culture and a phenomenon of human culture. Human beings become more civilized and progressive because of their culture, and their spiritual realm becomes more perfect and noble because of their love of art. Art enhances human civilization quality and cultural accomplishment, thus effectively promoting the progress of social culture and the development of civilized customs sublimation; Art records and reproduces the occurrence and development process of human culture and thought. By connecting art with culture, society, economy, politics, science, nature, life and other fields, people can understand the achievements of multiculturalism and human civilization, and improve The spiritual quality and moral level of human beings will ultimately promote social change and social progress.
PZ: What are you working on now?
PW: I love painting very much, and now I maintain a vigorous state of creation, painting is a means of mind training for me. I usually spend a lot of time learning about the knowledge of consciousness, spirit, and mind, and studying the theories of Buddhism and Taoism in traditional Chinese culture, use Eastern philosophy to think about the meaning of life. I observe the relationship between man and society, man and nature, and man and man, discover the good and evil of human nature, and make my own independent thinking and judgment. My works focus on mind improvement in the spiritual realm, rather than reproduction and criticism of social phenomena. I believe that human society has two sides—justice and evil. I refuse to pollute my mind with negative energy such as ugliness, evil, depravity, filth, hatred, greed, etc. When I paint, I must empty my mind, fill my mind with positive energy, and sublimate my soul, so I keep away from the impetuousness of reality, abandon social garbage and enter an ideal kingdom beyond the real society, which is the paradise for my soul purification and the ladder to my soul salvation. Now I will often participate in international art events, participate in international exhibitions, publish works, summarize my artistic thoughts and methods, and conduct some academic analysis and discussion. I hope that more people will know my new painting style, feel the energy of love from the universe and nature, and gain the power of soul sublimation.
PZ: How do you know when the painting is finished?
PW: My painting process starts with feeling and ends with feeling. The beginning of my painting is a vague mental imagery, without clear goals and specific details, it is completely a free and open running scene. With the emergence of various shapes, I constantly follow the changes, strive to find the balance and coordination of light and color, judge and adjust from the aspects of light and dark contrast, color harmony, structural stability, psychological comfort, etc., guide and highlight the key content. Near the end, the peak moment of testing an artist’s sensibility and intuition came. I was very excited. As everything became more and more perfect and more refined, a new work that made my heart beat faster and my blood boiled was appearing, I was instantly filled with a feeling of immense joy, all my passion and enthusiasm were released, it was a wonderful feeling, I knew that my work should be over, I felt relaxed and immersed in great happiness. I regard every painting creation as a process of my mind training, and also as a course to purify my soul. The Great Perfection is a very high-level mind training method. Every time I complete a piece of work, my mind will be baptized and shocked, and my soul will be upgraded and purified. Let everything return to its natural nature. This is my ” The Great Perfection ” artistic journey.