Introspective Elements — Tan Ping’s ‘Follow My Line’
Walking into the Kresge gallery at the ASU Art Museum, the visitor is confronted with several charcoal drawings installed on pedestals at various heights. The pedestals are placed sporadically throughout the floor and lack a sense of guidance, venturing from the conventional means of displaying artwork. Toward the back of the room, we can enter a space created to show a documentary of Chinese artist Tan Ping’s process in making the drawings as well as an interview with the artist. The screech of the charcoal against the paper may be a bit much, but it is here that you can begin to understand the artist’s intention in the odd but interesting display of his exhibition, Tan Ping: Follow My Line.
Many art galleries and museums have a structured way of exhibiting their pieces. The artwork is framed, hung on a wall and placed in a specific spot that coincides with the visitor’s path through the space. If a piece is placed on a pedestal, there is a certain amount of distance created between the object and viewer using a covering or extra space around the piece. Tan Ping breaks this standard by displaying his work on a flat and uncovered surface. This sort of decision is not only to break the typical methods of exhibition; it also relates to traditional Chinese art presentation and engages the viewer in a much more dynamic way.
Chinese scrolls are laid down flat and unrolled to reveal the artwork within. Although Tan Ping’s charcoal drawings are far from scrolls, they do connect with this aspect of Chinese art by being viewed from above and from the same position that the artist had during its creation. Another traditional aspect of Tan Ping’s charcoal drawings comes in the way that we can see the variation of pressure and direction of each line. These traits are important in the production of Chinese art and calligraphy.
“The end of an exhibition is to communicate with the audience.” Tan Ping’s display helps viewers to not only view his drawings from various angles, but also from the same perspective that it was created. The pedestals in the room are specifically measured to match the height at which they were created. This helps to adjust the visitor to the artist’s viewpoint in order to analyze and understand each piece. While looking at paintings or drawings hung on a wall may be a standard, Tan Ping’s horizontal display invites the viewer to cross the distance created between the art and the viewer. The pedestals used in the exhibition are uncovered and measured to fit the sizes of the drawings perfectly, leaving nothing to distance the viewer from the drawings.
With these stimulating and introspective elements put into the ideas of this exhibition, trying to subscribe them to standard museum and gallery set-ups might take away a significant amount of meaning attributed to the show. Tan Ping had a substantial amount of input into exactly how the show was set up. He indicated measurements of each pedestal down to the millimeters length of each drawing, decided the exact colors of the pedestals, and planned out the arrangement of the pieces. His involvement in the layout of the exhibition was extensive and left almost no detail unexplained. The preparator did have some freedom in deciding how to adjust the lighting and nudging the pedestals to comply with ADA standards, but little aside from these minor details.
Apart from the layout of the exhibition, the pieces are quite abstract. Each drawing is different but without titles or any particular switch or change in medium or color, the drawings can blend together. Overall, I wasn’t able to focus on the drawings themselves but more on how the exhibition invited the viewer to see things from the artist’s perspective. The two documentaries were my favorite parts of the exhibition because they explain the artist’s intention. After watching one, it becomes more apparent what you are really looking at and why.
In many exhibitions, visitors arrive ready to gaze at paintings and drawings and learn about art. Follow My Line adjusts the visitor’s experience to engage the artwork that they view with his precision in presentation and depth in meaning. I think that this exhibition surprised me with its arrangement, but who wants to walk into an art gallery and see something that they would expect?
— Hannah Weston, Public Relations and Marketing Intern
Tan Ping: Follow My Line is on view through May 16, 2015 in the Kresge Gallery at the ASU Art Museum. This exhibition is generously supported by Tan Ping Studio, the Helme Prinzen Endowment and Pifo New Art Gallery.
All photos by Hannah Weston.
Entry filed under: ASU Art Museum, Exhibition. Tags: Arizona State University, Arizona State University Art Museum, art, artist, artists, ASU, ASU Art Museum, Charcoal, Chinese, Drawings, exhibition, Kresge Gallery, museum, Tan Ping, Works-on-paper.