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The Masterful Kraft of Dukun

Recently moved out of my Time Square studio and moved everything into my basement! There are snakes and spiders, but we are all cool. The snakes eat the mice, which scare my wife more than the snakes, and the spiders eat the biting flies.

Tick tock, everything flips back to 2002. I packed my bag and left to live in the west of China, Chengdu, a place known for its food, distance from Beijing and its spicy characteristics. A 1-year life experiment turned into a 15 1/2 year adventure. One thing that makes it fascinating is the multiculturalism and again, its distance from Beijing.


Back in the day, just after WWII, China was having some internal issues coming off of a history of colonial style abuse from outsiders. The emperor mentality was dwindling and the country, like many at the time, was making a modern evolution into either communist or nationalist governance. There were a plethora of leaders that rose to the top, but the populism of Mao's revolution, as small as it was when it started, snowballed into one of the largest revolutions history had ever known. Nationalism was a response to the feudal mentalities of the day and though the alternative wasn't much more than a formal re-decoration of authority, the idea of the power of the nation being back into the hands of the people -to a degree- was monumental. The nation's riches would become state assets and the revitalization of the economy would take many wild turns before becoming the monstrous capital giant China is today. I'm not sure what most people think of when they think of China, but I see a profoundly historical entity often confused with its self-reflective nature. This is not to say the US is any different. That country's delusions could be another blog altogether. But China is a mixture of farmers hand-tilling soil with a self-made bamboo hoe and billionaires driving McLarens and Lamborghinis. There are a whole lot of people between those extremes and I’ve had the luck of being able to see it all. But one question that remains on people's minds is, "does China have the creative power to take the lead?" In short I say, yes. They've been the world's leaders before and they are very well aware of how to regain that status. It might not be upon the western schedule or methodologies, but the philosophical integrity of the nation cuts deep. There is a lot going on under the covers, and its creative zeal is one of daring proportions. So, when some people think of Foxconn and Huawei, I see the silent giants that walk among the masses, the artists, the teachers, the linguistic artisans and the careful hands that seek out a manifold construct of work. And one of my absolutely favorite artists today is Du Kun. When you see his paintings you know precisely that the ‘unbelievable’ still exists. And while the West bickers over race and gender-specific semantics, people like Du Kun grab the torch and march forward creating a visionary horizon postured only to tower over time itself.

Hurizha Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: In order to understand you, we need to know more about your history. Where did you grow up and did your parents also grow up there? where they are from?

DK: I grew up in Suining City, Sichuan Province. My parents grew up in a small town near Suining. JCL: What influence did your parents have on your artistic development?

DK: My father is a primary school art teacher, so my childhood toys are brushes, paint and paper. The father is good at meticulous paintings. This is a very delicate style of traditional Chinese ink painting. He is very self-disciplined, diligent, self-learning, and has a wide range of hobbies ... These characteristics have left some traces on me.

Zang Hongfei Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: Many of your paintings have temples in them, mountains and trees. What motivates this connection between artists, nature and the dark elements of some of your earlier paintings?

DK: My hometown is a mountainous terrain. I like to climb mountains since I was a child. There are several ancient temples and Taoist temples in Suining City, Guangde Temple, Lingquan Temple, Gaofeng Mountain and Baofan Temple ....The second day after the Spring Festival every year, Residents of the city will go to these temples to burn incense and worship Buddha to pray for peace. These mountain views and monasteries have appeared in my paintings. As for the dark elements in the early oil paintings, I think it comes from my own aesthetic concept. I have resistance to the subject matter that most people accept, such as the theme of showing sunshine, warmth and happiness, and going to the future. There are too many such works. Someone needs to express a different point of view. JCL: Do you feel that as you get older your paintings are more tame/conservative/careful?

DK: The early works are almost all products of the subconscious. The improvisation is very large, and there are often some surprises. I like Dali and Zdzisław. Beksiński , but at the time my oil painting technique was not mature enough and the imitation marks were heavy. As I grow older, my definition of good works is constantly changing. I am not very mature now, but I have my own style and direction. JCL: Many of the references to temples make me think of the pre-Confucius time period. Does Laozi and/or the “ dao ” inspire your work and why do you think that is so? Do you think that china has become so material-oriented that you find the need to draw yourself to more of the essence of humanity?

DK: Yes, I used many religious elements of ancient China, including Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and even the totem worship of Chinese minorities. I think that religious worship in the "Idol" and rock music in the "Idol" in different spiritual influence on people. Because I love rock music very much, I was in the student days, in order to save money to buy records and guitars, I would rather live in the basement for a month of instant noodles, which is full of religious feelings. Rock and religion have similar places. They all promote peace and love. They all have idols and believers. They all have rituals and abstract collective beliefs. This belief makes people feel spiritual satisfaction and happiness. " Pointing to more human nature " is the direction that good art works should have. The value of art existence is also here. From time to time, we ask strange and sharp questions, and there is no standard answer. JCL: How often do you think of psychology or psychoanalytics when you begin to produce a work?

DK: Art relies on human synaesthesia to convey ideas and produce effects, so psychological analysis and suggestive skills are indispensable in the creative process. For example, Freud's theory of consciousness level, various elements in the picture, composition, color, material, image, texture even include size, time, which are from their own subconscious, and which are from the former consciousness, these elements are What effect does the viewer's consciousness have? What effect is expected? How to deal with them will maximize the effect? The author needs to carefully consider these, which are very important.

Xu Jun Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: Some artists really like to make something and then leave it out there for people to engage. Do you ever feel the need to explain your paintings? Do you ever want to explain the meanings behind your paintings?

DK: I also agree with such an artist, who creates the work and places it there, and it naturally attracts the audience. I think that the works that need to be explained are flawed. Successful works don't need to be explained, and they can pass all the information to the audience. The same works bring different feelings to different audiences. This is a very interesting chemical reaction. The " official interpretation " will constrain the audience, so I don't like to explain my work, nor do I like to tell the audience how hard the creative process is. And not easy, because if the work does not produce results, the sweat and tears behind it are in vain. However, those works that have " interpretation " as one of their essential elements are excluded. JCL: Every time period has been difficult for artists, financially. Do you think the age of the internet and technological development has hindered your creative efforts? How has technology influenced your financial circumstances?

DK: I don't think it has anything to do with the times, the Internet age, or the era of artificial intelligence. For any open artist, any era is full of challenges and surprises, but for conservative artists, any era is narrow and difficult. Revolutionary technology again and again let people worry about whether unemployment, AI composer, AI painters born, they have even bid farewell to the imitation stage, we have the "work" and "personal style" or even "thinking."This reminds me of the strong influence of the advent of photography in the mid- 19th century on the painting. The classical realistic painters felt the threat, but the Impressionist was born. From then on, the painting pays more attention to emotions and expressions, which is the direction that the camera can't. But this time is different. For the challenge of artificial intelligence, any idea that is worried about being replaced by AI artists is futile. God-like AI will not be interested in doing art. Their competition with people is only a short stage, very Faster, they will transcend the human ability to do things that humans can't do. Even if they play art, they have nothing to do with us. Human artists continue to do art and continue to entertain themselves. JCL: When I look at your most recent works, I feel a great sense of hope and positive energy. And growing up, I always admired the "bleeding heart" of an artist. There is something about pain and inner conflict that is inspiring as a human being. Does your art mirror any of the turmoil within you as a person?

DK: I did not consider " hope and positive energy " when I created my recent avatar series . Your feelings may have been given to me in the early days of my very dark works. People are multi-faceted and in change, so the inner condition of the author will affect the presentation of the work. Not only that, but the work will also allow me to understand myself more deeply. I don't know much about the specific meaning of "bleeding heart" in the Western context. It is only literally interpreted as a sensitive and fragile heart . Is it a bit like the " glass heart " in Chinese ? Sensitivity is a must, always sensitive to everything around you, you can find other things that numbs can't find, even if the glass heart is, I prefer the humorous heart and the interesting soul, the more they are in the darker places Looks precious. For the "inner work reflects," I think this kind of art theory is obsolete, because the heart works reflect not difficult, the difficulty is thrown into social work you put in this big machine will not have the desired effect, and all this in The most important thing is that you are a person, not a work.

Joshua Love Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: I've never actually met you in person but we have collaborated. My experiences in China express to me the great need for independence in work that people create. In fact, I've seen many where fail because of their inability to share And work together. Do you like working with people or do you prefer to work in isolation?

DK: We met once in 2008 . There are many reasons for the band's dissolution. I don't know about other bands, but I know that my band is disbanded because I have to concentrate on painting, but everyone is still a good buddy. The advantage of working with others is that you can concentrate on the strengths of many people, work together, and accomplish things that cannot be done alone. The disadvantage is that you need to spend some energy on the relationship with your partners. Everyone must sacrifice a part of themselves and need a strong sense of responsibility. Because your mistakes will be combined with the collective; the individual combat is just the opposite, the advantage is freedom, there is no need to deal with interpersonal relationships, the standard of good or bad is determined by yourself, not to be tired of others, the disadvantage is that it requires strong self-control and limited personal ability. I think I am more suitable for the second stage at this stage.

Nick Cave Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: Your work, to me, is very cinematic and would absolutely love to see your work animated. Your attention to detail and color are so powerful and authentic. Have you ever considered being an art director of an animated production?

DK: Thank you for your compliment. I have been learning painting since I was a child. I have been studying basic skills and various techniques until I am in college. So I can paint very delicate and realistic. This is my strength. Quentin Tarantino 's sentence "story is king" has a big impact on me, because I can paint anything, so what I paint is what I care most about and the hardest. Teacher Qiu Zhijie once told me that " Liu Xiaodong painted this beer bottle or Liu Xiaodong, xxx painting this beer bottle is not him " , so I must draw a beer bottle next to see if I am still not me. I haven't thought about being a director yet. It's another learning. I'm not good at it. It's great if people do a good job all their lives.

Moxi Zishu Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: I see that you have had exhibitions recently in Japan and The United States. What is your connection to those cultures? Do you feel that your work rises above cultural barriers?

DK: When I traveled to Japan, I saw that they kept a lot of ancient Chinese traditions, and they were very confidently integrated with modern civilization. They were combined into a unique culture in Japan. They are ahead of us in some respects, so I also saw The past China and the future of China. As for the United States, the term Heiner River describes the United States as the most appropriate. Countries composed of immigrants from all over the world, where different cultures live in harmony, merge into new big cultures belonging to the United States, rather than conflicting each other and leading to each other. Dispel. Does my work transcend cultural barriers? I can't give the answer myself. It is up to the collectors to answer, because money never lie. JCL: Is the modern world going into the direction of a world without barriers?

DK: In theory, this is the case. The different cultures in the world are like the oil paints on my palette. I use the pen to constantly stir, and the various pigments begin to fuse and interweave together. Some of the low-density, small-sized colors The block will be eaten in bright blue or red, I will continue to stir, blue and yellow turn green, red and white turn pink, I continue to stir, one day will become a uniform gray. This process will be very long, and humanity may not be destroyed. The weakness of human nature is the biggest obstacle. It has led to the emergence of different ideologies and the conflict of civilizations.


Alpine Decline Oil Painting by Du Kun

JCL: You have been focused on the headshots of prominent artists throughout the world. Picasso had various periods of his painting career and Salvador Dali moved from film to sculpture to painting. For you and your creativity, is there a next step? What do you Think you'll be doing when you're 75yrs old?

DK: Yes, the rock star avatar is just my stage of work, I am already starting to create a new series, the new series currently has three directions, I will make a look to see which is more interesting. When I was 75 years old, I hope that my wife and I can have a healthy and strong body, often travel together, and then go home to paint during the day, play with friends at night, eat and drink, sleep naturally, and carefree. JCL: What are the 5 most influential elements/artists/authors in your life right now? DK: Salvador Dali, Nick Cave is my forever idol. The favorite artists at the current stage are Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, writer George Orwell.


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