2014 December | NOT TODAY – The dealings with artists are built upon trust

Interview: Gallerist – Metra Lin

What sort of experiences urged you to work as a gallery manager?

When younger, I worked for a Japanese publishing house that specialized in illustration books, collaborating with artists from Latin America, China, South East Asia, Japan, Middle East etc. The director attempted to introduce fine art into the field of illustration. However, due to a vast chasm between the two fields of fine art and illustration at the time, the business was forced to a halt for operational difficulties. But it was also due to this job that I made the acquaintance of artist Cen Long, whose illustration works “The Old Charcoal Seller” had been awarded in Japan. The director regarded him with great esteem and asked that I solicit his works. Actually, at the time I did not know that he did oil paintings as well. Han Art Space was established five years ago and an official collaboration with Cen commenced. Since then, our arduous business operations have found many collectors for his works.

You define your work as art management, could you speak of the directions you operate towards?

Apart from Cen, I also manage a number of artists from Japan and Ukraine. A common characteristic amongst their work is a noncommercially devotion to both the unaffected human qualities and the return to simplicity. Such works make seemingly difficult sales, are not in line with current market trends, and do not possess any particular market value. Then again I, quite frankly, have no business model and insist that I only recommend artists that I think outstanding. I only promote artworks with aesthetics and emotional value that exist universally. Prior to setting foot in this field, I was not familiar with the art market; I began solely because I had faith in the artists I managed. In the past I have been called naive, and fair enough, in the beginning I did not know who to sell to; but we first attempted collaborations with department stores and foundations, and rented out our space to hold small exhibitions. After accumulating funds by using the resources of others to amass even more funds, we began to take part in art fairs. This year I have organized the first show in a museum in Beijing. I do not read magazines or those that speak of art as an investment because I am not influenced by these market-oriented trends. I would take a pure angle on recommending artworks and find an appreciative owner for an artwork. Therefore, collectors will be able to interact with the artwork in their daily life and to treasure the beautiful moments. My aim is relatively pure.

It sounds like you have struck deep friendships with the artists.

This might be because it is with sensitivity that I interact with others. And I might as well have an artist character in mind so I usually get along very well with artists. As time goes by, the interactions with artist become similar to that with family. In the past, due to work, I had frequent encounters with Cen. We would sometimes talk about his experiences and, as a result, became familiar with each other. His work is very appealing to me. Due to the time of his background of growth, his work is full of emotional experiences that few young artists today could achieve. His works are set within the backdrop of a specific era. Many originate from his life experiences in Northwestern China when he was young. Cen’s works are imbued with rich characteristics of the North. People depicted in his paintings are in close proximity to the sun and earth — those closest to heaven and earth live under the harshest of conditions. In his paintings I often see their sanguine attitude and the perseverant nature with which they battle hardship. The people of the North are, for him, captivating matrices of creation. Using the example of Japanese artist Yasuko Hayashi, I sometimes invite her to Taiwan to do outdoor sketching; both being girls, we travel together in Japan and have more opportunities of getting along.

The dealings with artists are built upon trust — I believe in and love their works and give them my full support. I always tell artists that their creations should only conform to their rules, and that there is no need to place their visions in the market.

How do you introduce works to collectors?

When introducing, I always sincerely share my understanding of the artwork and I will talk about the character of the artist and his/her thoughts. By successfully introducing the emotional side of the work to the public, there have been many first-time collectors who were attracted to our artists. I held Yasuko Hayashi’s exhibition in a department store and encountered a couple from another city who kept a wall vacant for seven years at home: they had never purchased a piece of artwork and could not find one to suit them. I introduced the work to them, and although they could not come to a decision at the time, it took only the time of a meal for them to decide to collect it. Then, when we were at an art fair in a different city, the couple visited again and purchased the work of a Ukrainian artist. There are quite a few cases similar to that. I enjoy findings an appreciative owner for a simple and graceful work. Perhaps upon listening to my introduction they sprout a profound connection to the work and feel the joys brought by art; but of course, the quality of the work itself is quite crucial. The collectors I have encountered seek not to invest, and that is why further interactions cannot be sustained if the work itself is of poor quality. Till now, we always have long-term relationships with our collectors.

Lastly, could you speak of your personal relationship with art?

My life was once lived in emptiness. I felt lost, like nothing could spark me for a really long time until I met with some pure-minded artists from South America. Many years ago at a book fair in Brazil, I met artists from Brazil and Columbia. That day was a fine day. The sky was clear blue. When walking down the streets with them, we would chat about the colors of the sky and the dogs or chickens we had encountered on the road. Life suddenly became fascinating. I was so happy and I abruptly realized how elegantly unrestrained it is to live life with such zest. Then I met Cen, the first Chinese I ever met. I have experienced the most treasurable essence of truth, goodness and beauty by looking at his illustrations and paintings — my encounter with them made me decide to work with artists for the rest of my life. However, I would only want to service simplistic and charming art. That’s because I would like to encourage more people to feel the happiness as the way I do and to reach a sense of unconstrained freedom in soul, by working with this kind of artwork that brings people the original simple purity.