When I was eighteen, I suffered from a mental disorder for half a year, and it was during this time that I discovered art. My philosophy also began to take form during this period of time. I had read extensively into the fields of philosophy and science (especially quantum physics), Plato's cave enlightens the imagination to unknown spaces, Descartes’ demon destroys previous structures of philosophy to rebuild a new system and Wittgenstein's mirror of the game captures the essence of philosophy through language. The centuries-long debate surrounding the nature of matter as either a particle or a wave, and its reflection on the real world has perpetuated through the theories of Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger and others. As well as the fragility of knowledge itself, all the above helped me re-understand the world. In university, I spent three years creating my own philosophy, I used ‘imagination’ as the basis of my philosophy, through the form of Dialogues (The Dialogues of Mr. Walter and Mr. Galson, a total of seven articles, included in my book ‘Drifting: an artist's madness, sex, art and philosophy’), involving questions concerning existence in reality, the possibility of god, the truth in history, the vanity of inspiration, time, and fate. All of the aforementioned are presented in my artworks. I believe an artist above all things should be a thinker, and to a certain extent, examine the dissionance of their thoughts through their own art.
My early artworks refer to surrealism. The mystery and fantasy of surrealism is what led me into the realm of art. Surrealism is a means of elaborating dreams. It can break reality and bring reality back to a fantasy realm, distorted and merged with forms of the inner desires, struggles and pursuits of an artist. To me, the charm of surrealism lies in that it can fully show the inner world of an artist. But as time passed, I was no longer content with surrealist expressions, because if I wanted my art to leave a mark on history, I had to create something that had never been done before.
Since 2018, I have been rethinking my artworks. Using my educational background of mathematics in my practice, my current artworks incorporate the form of code as a major element of my art style. In fact, my early artworks also had an element of coding, but only in recent years have I gradually formed a theory of my own.
I was self-taught in painting while I majored in mathematics in university. The element of mathematics may seem to have no relation to art, but for me, mathematics is the basic explanation of how things work in the universe. Art, on the other hand, is a manifestation of unique human emotions and souls, the former being the cornerstone of reason, and the latter the ultimate sublimation of emotion. Both are important forms of human understanding and expression of the world. What kind of collision can be brought about by combining the two together? Integration or contradiction? I merge mathematics and art based on my own understanding of both fields and the reflection of the past torture and encouragement from these two. I hope to bring viewers to new thoughts about math and art.
To me, painting is like a colorful shell, and theory is its soul. After two years of summarizing my own ideas of art, the time comes to solidify the first draft of my Codism Manifesto.
Codism in art refers to the recompilation of common language systems into new images or symbol systems by means of mathematics, linguistics, etc. and incorporating them into works of art. The compiled cryptosystem can be symbols, lines, geometric figures, color changes, cubes arrangement, etc. It is a rigorous system with regular rules instead of random, it hides the original information to be expressed in the form of codes. This cryptosystem needs to fuse with the created artwork. They are complementary and not independent of each other. It is precisely because of a variety of patterns that different cryptosystems can show, that it can be embedded into artworks and become an inseparable part of it.
Ⅲ Meaning and purpose
1. Symbolic meaning
In the art of painting, you can often see the traces of symbolization, and use certain images or symbols to harness a concept or meaning. For example, people think of religion or death when they see the cross. There is also a certain symbolic meaning in my art. In addition to the specific objects in the painting, my code has become a part of the symbol. So far, I have created over ten code systems and integrated them into the artworks. Sometimes a painting is just one code system, and sometimes multiple codes are superimposed. The shape of each set of codes is different (some are lines, some are geometric, some are round deformations, some are symbols similar to hieroglyphics, etc.), because in different paintings, I will choose according to the theme of the painting, and it is because of the different forms of these codes, they have different symbolic meanings to the picture. Since these codes are formed through mathematical processing, and mathematics is the basis of all scientific and technological progress today, the presentation of these codes on canvas represents technology and science. The code itself is a hidden method, sometimes symbolizing secrets or unacceptable ideas or even a reflection of the virtual world.
I could have presented numbers or mathematical formulas directly on the canvas, and even extracted a part of my Apm theorem to add to my paintings, but I think said approach is too blunt. Trying to combine mathematics and art by selecting some random symbolic elements of mathematics and forcing it into the picture would be reckless and rather dull-witted. The works created in this way seem to me to have no meaning of mathematics but a shallow representation, let alone apply any mathematical knowledge. Throughout my works I have to capture the essence of mathematics through my own coded system, because only in this way can I be more organically connected with the subject I need to express and integrate with the picture.
The symbolic meaning of artworks is based on the artist and the audience having a common cultural knowledge background. But in pure mathematics, in a series of theorems and proofs, no symbolic elements can be found. The world of mathematics is so pure that it only has logic and reasoning. And when this cryptographic code with mathematics is introduced into art, it is to a certain extent a betrayal of symbolism, and this is also one of the processes that will gradually appear in my works.
2. Words and communication
Before becoming an artist, most of my work was in writing. When I started to paint, I always thought about the difference and connection between painting and writing.
Reading a paragraph of words requires clear and organized thinking and time in order to understand the meaning in the text. In contrast, processing a painting can be scattered or even instantaneous. Reading text is like a narrow stream flowing, and it is single and coherent in time. It can only be understood by reading one word after another, as this is the brain's way of clearly organizing and making a single-channel sequence. But viewing a painting is like standing on the edge of a radiant lake, and the result is immediate sensory pleasure or other instant experience. The former is the perception of understanding, while the latter is a sensory experience. Words are constrained by time, yet it is the most ideal tool for expressing thoughts, because words (or language) itself is the basic way of thinking. The painting is an instant impact, and its viewing is not constrained by time. (Of course, to understand some certain paintings still requires time, but that would be a different subject.)
My code embeds the narrative and comprehension elements of text into the painting, which makes my work, not only have the immediate sensibility as the painting itself, but also implies step-by-step understanding. The existence of the code does not necessarily suggest that the audience needs to understand the story or meaning behind it, but work as a representative of the comprehension and revelation that can be obtained by reading.
My code system brings a time-like depth of procedural understanding to the painting in addition to the visual characteristics of the painting itself.
When a piece of art is presented, it is a non-verbal communication between artist and audience. It does not have a concise expression of information like verbal communication, and the information of the work may be transmitted unconsciously by the artist to the viewer. Since this nonverbal communication between the artist and viewer is unclear, not all audiences can receive the message.
The most direct way to convey information is to through language. At this functional level, art is unable to match. And there is no need to compare, because an artist, to a certain extent, is hiding information rather than to exposing it, especially in contemporary art, the information that the artist wants to express through various forms of presentation lets the viewer explores its meaning like a maze, layer by layer. Perhaps one of the charms of contemporary art stems from this. Organizing and hiding a message is to give it a sense of mystery to arouse the viewer’s interest, and allow the viewer to experience the pleasure it brings little by little when solving the mystery of the message. Therefore, in addition to visual enjoyment and stimulation, for the viewer, art also has a bit of pleasure in the decryption process, although this information itself may be rather bland. As Oscar Wilde once said, "the commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it." At some point, art is a fantasy lie with psychedelic color, and it is through this lie can the viewer more fully experience the preciousness of the truth lying behind.
My artworks that conceal the information in the form of codes symbolize the process of constructing this lie of art.
3. The Mirror of Math
Mathematics is a law that exists in all things in the universe. It exists at the beginning of everything, and will exist until the end of time. It is a pure world that can be independent of the physical world. It is not swayed by any biological or physical events, but at the same time it is the basis of the law of everything physical. Mathematics can exist beyond time, and is the only thing that never changes. In the modern society, it is also the basis of today's technological progress and represents the glory of our times.
In my work, as the elements of mathematics have been embedded, the eternal side of mathematics is introduced. In the form of cryptography, the data and information in science and technology is given a contemporary aspect, representing the development of the modern world and the possibilities of the future. This is also expressed in some of my paintings. They depict not only a current state of time, but also a trend or possibility into the future. Nowadays, humans have created all the glory in technology, but perhaps in the near future, with the development of AI, technology would have promoted the evolution of humanity itself or even more radical changes, as the intelligent life form that existed at that time, what would they think about the origin and pursuit of the human beings that existed and their own?
For me, the creation of the codes is an attachment to the conservation laws of all things in the universe. When I see various lines or different shapes in a picture, it is like seeing a series of random numbers. I always want to find the pattern in this chaos that explains it and gives it a sense of meaning in a regular form of order. And in our lives, aren’t they similar? Both spiritual and material pursuits give us a meaning in life, and maintain its continuation through inherent laws such as a stable social system, morals, etc.
In addition to the code with the sense of order in my artworks, it is also accompanied by elements of randomness, and this reflects the events or emotions in our lives that are unpredictable or controlled.
So in a way, my work is not only like a cryptographic map with hidden information, but also a microcosm of life and a world in the form of symbols.
Therefore, when I use the math to create different code systems for my art creation, I am attempting to construct a completely new world in its purest form, a mathematical form mirrored by the physical world that we live in. In this new world, there is no trace of tangible living things. Instead, exist abstract expressions of feeling and reason, and the merging and struggles between them. Within these artworks, the use of code symbolizes the constant laws of our physical world and the various inherent methods of comprehending our reality.
Codism is the product of the collision between math and art. It has a very characteristic symbolic meaning in the performance of art, and organically integrates related elements such as written word and communication, math and logic, data and information and various other concepts into art. The emergence of codism will hopefully add a different movement in art history.
First draft: 2019.12.31