For a curator from Europe looking at the paintings of Duan Jianyu means always questioning the possibility of understanding. These paintings all carry, per se, a certain enigma with them. But that’s one side, the other one is that they are communicating with the spectators in different aspects. They pose questions about how much meaning can be transferred between images of different cultures, even in a world of global imagery as today’s. If today’s Chinese painting has a very special position within the world’s visual cultures, the paintings of Duan Jianyu show this even more strongly and in the experience of high visual ambivalence. Today’s Chinese painting can be found between very different realms of painting and visual culture: the old Chinese traditions, different appropriations of western and modern traditions, a new eastern paradigm. Broken mirrors of visuality determine this work and contribute to further enigmas. By looking at these paintings, the curator is reminded of the poems of his compatriot Paul Celan, highly enigmatic in themselves. A poet who succeeded in transcending a highly specific experience and personal situation into a universal gesture of poetics. Thus becoming a paradigmatic figure. Therefore an experiment shall be performed to read one enigma by the other. To understand one set of images and metaphors in the context of the other
Nine works from 2014 to the present by artist Duan Jianyu, selected by curator after long time research, constitute the artist’s solo exhibition “Automatic Writing-Automatic Understanding” to be presented at the New Century Art Foundation’s Shanghai space, Pond Society. In addition to highlighting the appeals of Duan Jianyu’s paintings, the curator, with the perspective of a European scholar, keenly captures the similarities between Duan’s paintings and the poetry of the German poet Paul Celan, that is, the lyrical transformation between language and reality derived from the individual’s situation, which opens a new channel for us to understand the artist’s practice.