The Liberation from the Process of Operation, a Limit May be Transcended：An Interview with Wu Chuan-Lun on His 3D Graphics Series
by Kuan-yu CHEN
Wu Chuan-Lun considers his 3D graphics series as construction wastes in a state of being nothing, despite they are produced by a tool possessing “constructiveness.” Intriguingly, this series concerns the exploration of painting, sculpture, and image, and addresses an old question lasted for long about the traditional media of creation. This question encompasses the speculation about issues of 3D and 2D, time and space, and the representation and non-reproducibility of the artist’s mind map and the scenes of the external world.
Q: When did you start creating this 3D graphics series? Is it developed into any other series or topic? Could you please introduce this series first?
Wu: This 3D graphics series are drawn from two mixed backgrounds. The first is the producing techniques. I gained experience in operating 3D graphic software from the creation of “Specimen Museum” series. Afterward, I ask myself whether there is still any possibility that 3D graphics can offer with regard to my own creation. I know that many people use 3D software because it can simulate the figures of finished products in advance. Perhaps 3D graphic software is most commonly applied to the design of architectural blueprints and industrial product models, and maybe this is the most important role that 3D graphic software plays. However, as far as I am concerned, I hope that 3D software, as a tool for creation, is able to “play its own role” or “bring itself into play” in my 3D graphics series. This is an idea derived from the technical aspect.
The other background is the attitude of creation. Most of my previous works are completed with the help of external enlightenment rather than merely generated from their own internal characters. In other words, I have to borrow the images from the external world such as sketching or photographing the works exhibited at museums. I attempt to reverse and then cultivate the relationship between the internal characteristics and the external world as the origin of my creation. This is an important catalyst for me to embark on this series.
Q: By taking 3D software as a tool for creation, whether it is an experimental process of creation or a transformation of techniques, I am curious about the specific subject and context in this 3D graphic series.
Wu: The issue of “subject” has bothered me for a long time. The most obvious indication is that I am not good at entitling my works. This 3D graphic series are temporarily entitled “Debris.” It refers to “rubble,” namely the construction wastes. 3D software is often applied to the simulation of real objects, but my works are in a state of being nothing. They are just like construction wastes, even though they are produced by a tool possessing “constructiveness.”
Of course, my subsequent works are given different titles. For example, several of them are entitled as “Tool.” Their strip shapes imply the strip contour of tools used by human. Accordingly, the strip 3D graphics constitute a series themselves, which implies the tools that are in a usable state. The third sub-series return to the investigation into basic geometric figures such as circles, rectangles, and triangles. In this sub-series, I turn back to “play” with the pure geometric elements.
Q: It occurs to me a tradition about abstract painting when listening to your explanation. Put it simply, it refers to “paint whatever your mind imagines” and the legacy of “automaticity” in artistic creation. I cannot help but to speculate and feel curious about the process of your creation. Do the forms, figures, and images in your works pop out randomly or already exist in your mind when you apply 3D software to creating? Is there any difference between constituting 3D graphics in front of the computer screen and doing abstract painting in front of the canvas?
Wu: Actually, those 3D graphics are not the things my mind imagines. When I discussed this series with Prof. Chen Jian-Bei, I mentioned that many people used to understand my works from the perspective of abstract paining. However, I am not familiar with the tradition of abstract arts, and therefore I will not claim that my works belong to abstract painting. In addition, I do not think the process of creating this series embodies the concept of abstraction that much. When Prof. Chen Jian-Bei tried to lead me to understand this series in the direction of abstraction and idealism, I keep denying “idealism” because I am pretty sure that there is no lyrical eruption or stories like falling into a net in this series. Therefore, I probably run into a dead end about the abstraction and idealism you just mentioned. To employ a farfetched metaphor, I am holding a dialogue with these 3D figures.
Q: Based on what you just said, do you mean that there is no any image of the finished work in your mind when you are creating?
Wu: No, there is not. But I do create from a specific starting point. For example, I know that I will draw a square in this work, and a circle in that one. Nevertheless, I do not expect what the finished works will look like.
Q: Observing the development of your creation from a holistic perspective, do you synchronize the creation of this 3D graphics series with that of other series?
Wu: Actually, the creation of different series is separated into different periods. The creation of this series started from the end of 2011 and firstly published in my solo exhibition at the Nanhai Gallery in April 2012. In fact, I create this series for fun and take the works as the cover of my portfolio.
I create my works intermittently, and always reflect on my previous works after a while. For example, I am now making the sculpture that I have created earlier and creating 3D graphics with a different approach. So far, I am trying to make the texture of 3D graphics close to that of painting or trickle painting and feeling of pigment quantity. Nevertheless, this approach is not yet mature.
Q: Could you tell us what software do you use to create the series?
Wu: Zbrush. It is the software with high degree of freedom. Many people think that the creation of my works requires advanced techniques and therefore I am showing off. This is a big misunderstanding. What the 3D industry pursues is completely different from that of my works. For the 3D industry, my works are almost equal to junk.
Q: Do you mean that the 3D industry pursues the construction of models, while you pursue a state of “being nothing” between perfect construction of models and a state of waste? Or do you want to represent something “impossible,” namely a kind of “impossible” image?
Wu: The development of 3D images is amazing. The 3D industry demands persuasiveness and details from its products. Even for the appearance of cartoon figures, the motions of their bodies and limbs have to be consistent with physical logics and causal relationship. It just looks like the kind of reality that the field of painting was pursuing in the past, and then the concept of abstraction emerged. Now the situation of the 3D industry is quite similar to that of painting. With regard to “impossible” images, maybe I am somewhat pursuing them. The paradox is that these “impossible” images may not be impossible anymore if I can imagine them in my mind. Therefore, I am always expecting surprise during the process of creation.
Q: The so-called 3D images are produced within the computer screen. Then you print out them into 2D graphics and put them within the crystal frames. What is the relationship between the hanging-up works and the computer screen?
Wu: Previously, people questioned me about the way that I printout them and hang them up. In other words, they wanted to know why I present the graphics in a traditional way of displaying pictures rather than directly through screens. My response is that “the works appear much more beautiful in this way.” I try not to think about the question of media interfaces. Maybe it is not a question at all for me in a certain aspect. Yet, perhaps I can try to discuss the question with my experience in creating the “Specimen Museum” series. People may feel the stereo sense of the graphics in the computer screen is more reasonable. Therefore, they will try to distinguish 2D from 3D when I printout the works and put them in the real world. Stimulating people’s desire for distinguishment is a reflection point that this series seeks to address.
Of course, some people recommend me to make 3D sculpture. I know that these 3D sculptures will tilt when they are directly printout from 3D images. The tricky thing is that 3D can only be 3D in a 2D environment. When an object becomes stereoscopic, no one will regard it as 3D but as a stereoscopic object or a sculpture.
Q: The presentation of 3D images through computer screens contains many environmental clues about time and data construction, including the concept of massing formulated by dynamic computing through incessant examination from multiple angles in the computer screen. Consequently, the above-mentioned clues of 3D characteristics will be eliminated if you printout 3D images into 2D graphics. In other words, the advantages and characteristics of presenting 3D images in computer screens disappear when the 3D images are presented in a 2D environment. What is your opinion about this point?
Wu: It will become a dilemma with the future development of this series. So far, I can only think of maintaining the images in a state of freeze-frame. It is much more similar to taking pictures from a specific angle within the 3D environment. I also think about turning the images into dynamic ones and thereby include the temporal factor you mentioned. In fact, there are hints of temporality in all of my 3D graphics. I enjoy very much creating works of trickle painting that convey a sense of time. However, I am kind of refusing the obvious existence of the sense of time.
Q: I am very interested in the way you decide the borderline of the graphics in your works. How do you decide the appearance of these graphics from 3D to 2D? In other words, how do you decide the borderline of circles, triangles, and rectangles?
Wu: The model in the 3D environment is a block of massing. I arbitrarily draw the borderline at a specific angle, and then decide the shape and the structure of the massing. The decision is out of my own aesthetic judgment.
Q: How many pieces of works are there in this series? Will you continue to create works with such a technique? Do you have any favorite artist or work?
Wu: There are 19 files in my computer. They imply 19 projects. However, not all of them are completed. In my opinion, 8 or 9 pieces are completed, and 6 of the completed pieces are printout into 2D graphics. I will continue to work on the uncompleted pieces as far as possible. There are still many paradoxes to be solved.
My favorite 3D graphic artist is Eelco Brand. I thought about a group exhibition of 3D graphic artists in Taiwan, such as Zhong He-Xian, Chen Yi-Jie, Lin Xin-Yi, and Guo Hui-Chan. Although not all of their 3D works are my cup of tea, I continuously ponder on the difference between their works and mine. Yet, I do not find any similarity between their approaches and that I want to adopt. In fact, I am still groping for my own approach.
Q: Relatively speaking, the way the artists you just mentioned use 3D software in an instrumental way, right?
Wu: Yes, that’s how I feel about their works. In my opinion, the works of Zhong He-Xian tends to satisfy his own imagination. The works of Agi Chen Yi-Chieh indicate that she considers 3D characteristics much more. The works of Eelco Brand clearly demonstrates 3D characteristics and 3D thinking.
Q: In your opinion, is there any direct or indirect connection between this 3D graphic series and the other series of your works?
Wu: Recently, I am thinking about the characteristics of my different series. I tend to be attracted by decadent, incomplete, or imperfect things. I am interested in creating the “Specimen Museum” series because of the incompleteness of those works. These animal toys that I adopt in that series are defective products. In fact, my 3D graphic works are also a kind of 3D junk, just like ruins. These works tend to reflect personal emotions. The connection between my different series is primarily based on such an imagination.
Q: In fact, from my first sight of your works to the interview right now, I have been interested in the reflection on the relationship between the feature of painting and the development after 3D images. Previously, painting reached its limit through numerous experiments. Is 3D software, as a new tool, going to follow the path of paining? What is your opinion about 3D software? Is it possible that it has no limit?
Wu: I am a little bit afraid of talking about painting. It is a paradox in this regard. I majored in painting in the university, but I did not paint on the canvas anymore since the graduate school. It seems to me that every artist has to confront with painting someday. This series may give people the impression of painting. However, it is very sculptural during the creation process. The way of creation possesses the feature of sculpture but looks like painting. In fact, they are images. The relationship here is very intriguing.
The development of 3D technology should have reached an ultimate state. From the aspect of movie, there is no scene that 3D software cannot create as long as human beings can imagine it. The question now is what human beings can imagine in their minds rather than what computers can do. Of course, many people are still pursuing the aim of enabling computers to generate images closer to that of the real world. It looks like the situation of paining in which people pursued reality at that time until the emergence of photography. In the field of visual communication, it seems that there is no any better and much more powerful medium than 3D software so far. Nevertheless, stereo scanning and 3D printing may hold great potential for further development.
In addition, a kind of reaction may emerge. In recent years, 3D software is getting more popular and its price is getting cheaper or even free of charge. The interface of operation is designed as much more intuitive for people to use it. This kind of software is called “Easy 3D” abroad. In the future, creators will be liberated from the operational process and may thereby transcend a certain kind of limit when the use 3D software becomes par for the course. I regard myself as one among those creators.