Xⁿ Talk | Tal R


[…] But it’s important to have art that deals with reality in less abstracted and utilitarian terms, and deals with daily-ness, and history, with a modicum of unsentimental, non-confessional sincerity, that isn’t glacially distant from its audience. Something more like a poem or a novel than an essay or a tretise…

——New Persian Letters (for Tal R) / Gary Indiana

| Tal R, Copenhagen

Tal在工作室, Tal at his studio

Xⁿ: I heard that you lived in Shanghai for a couple of years.

Tal R: Yes, from about 1989 to 1993. The things I learned back then still inspire me to paint today. At that time, I went to a calligrapher’s place to learn calligraphy in the morning. He could tell if there was any “Yi” (意, i.e. intention, idea) in each horizontal line I wrote. He said that I should use “yi” to motivate my moves. In the afternoon, I usually went to learn Kungfu. What surprised me was that the Kungfu master said the same thing to me. In western culture, the artistic language and the Kungfu language are two completely different systems, but they are the same in China. The philosophy behind them is consistent.

Adieu Interessant, 2005-2008

Xⁿ: Can we draw a parallel between “Yi” and the word “sincerity” that is often used in the discussion of European art?

Tal R: yes, but more than that. It can be described as a force that drives you to search for a suitable form. You can also say that it is the “idea”.

For example, if you go to a friend's wedding, there are often two kinds of speakers at weddings. The first type of orator prepares their speech draft well, suited and booted, stands on the stage and gives a beautiful and emotional speech with his draft in hand. The second type of orator might be the bride’s uncle or father. He is way too drunk, or even grease and oil stains from food on his shirt. Then, suddenly, he stands up, tries to say something, and maybe even knocks over the wine glass when he stands up. However, no matter how inarticulate he is, people always quiet down and listen to him. Because he has some solid words to say from the bottom of his heart, and everyone can feel that.

The Pipe, 2008

Xⁿ: You made a lot of works in various forms, from painting to collage, to installation, to sculpture. It is very difficult to conclude what you do in a few words.

Tal R: Yes, indeed, I do a lot of things, and most often, they are the things I should NOT do. I need to do them precisely because they might be wrong. Sometimes it happens to work, then it carries on. Sometimes it fails completely. This is even better. This means I can learn more from it. More specifically, compare to mediocre works, the bad ones are much closer to the extraordinary.

Keep making mistakes and keep re-doing are how an artist teaches him/herself.

When I studied in college, everyone rejected painting and thought that painters were stupid and that painting was a stupid thing to do. This atmosphere, on the contrary, made painting more possible, so I painted. Therefore, I painted. Until around 2000, painting suddenly became popular, and I thought, “that is too bad”. What once been deemed as stupid really became stupid.

Garbage Man

Xⁿ: Are there many collages in your work?

Tal R: I do more work in other mediums than I do collage, but I like collage. I feel like my creative capacity comes from making collage. While making collage, I break and even shatter myself to release more possibilities.

For many western artists, collage should be the most basic way of working. On top of that, it should be the most common way of thinking. It is neither painting, nor sculpture. It is a totally free and unrestricted method. Based on the making of collage, artists can develop the work into painting and sculpture.

Blind Date Almanak, 2013 – 2015

Xⁿ: How did painting essentially change before collage and after collage?

Tal R: Painting is like editing on a canvas. You add something and then take out something, back and forth. Although you can modify it, making painting is still a linear process and an irreversible way of working. Making sculptures is the same.

However, collage is different. Collage is absolute freedom. You just gather some junk, cut a picture out of it, move it on the canvas, take a photo, and cut another shape out of it… This means that the artist works in a multidimensional space, as if moving in a matrix of rotation.

The artist walks from an absolutely free space to a relatively limited space, such as painting. It's great! If you only make collages, you can easily get lost in such a boundless free world.

Rumdi Rumdi Rumdi, 1989 - 2013

Xⁿ: In this exhibition, we are going to exhibit your collage work. “Rumdi Rumdi Rumdi”. This collage spans the period from 1989 to 2013. How did this collage come into shape?

Tal R: I used to draw and sketch quite a lot before making A formal piece. Then I browsed my manuscripts and selected images I wanted to continue working on. After all these years, I have stocked many manuscripts. 20 years later, my “yi” still encourages me to move forward. The past has now become a burden, so I decided to turn them into a collage.

I categorised my manuscripts, with the less important ones, the ones that didn't need to be seen in their entirety, at the bottom. And the most important ones were put on the top. They stacked up like sticky notes. Therefore, even if audiences can’t flip over the top ones, they can enjoy the layers below and the hidden images and lines, through which they can speculate and imagine.

Collage: The Card Players, Shanghai, 2017

Xⁿ: Did you have any unexpected findings in the whole process?

Tal R: In order to find new forms, I need to empty myself. I eliminated some possibilities and left some experiments behind. Meanwhile, a new possibility engenders in this process.

I was also browsing and identifying a huge number of images. It was done subconsciously. I saw them, digested them, and then I forgot them.

Rekindling the threads of 20 years, I'm making choices again, and making art is really about making choices. When you are browsing images fast and intensively, your brain gets bored with some forms. And boredom is very good, it's the signal that means you need to absorb more new things. The more images you have stored in your brain, the more freely you can process them, just like learning a new language.

The Navigator, 2012

Xⁿ: What counts as good art, in your opinion?

Tal R: Good art calms people down. It silences people, makes them muted. The content of the painting can be something as simple as a bouquet of flowers, a cloud or a mountain, but it has some qualities that cannot be replaced with words or texts.

For example, you painted a lobster, a blue one, and tell your friend on the phone that you painted a blue lobster, he might answer perfunctorily by commenting that it sounds nice. However, when he physically stands in front of the painting, something would suddenly silence him, lulling him into contemplation and gazing.

The Bend, 2016

Xⁿ: What’s your relationship with the past masters?

Tal R: When I was young, I felt like they were high mountains. They were really far and unreachable. Maybe all the young artists feel the same.

In fact, you should imagine that they are some people you can talk to by looking at their works. At least to me, Qi Baishi and Matisse were talking about the same thing. They both talked about the flatness and unique beauty. Looking at their works is like walking into the room where they are having a talk, you listen to their conversation, understand their points of view, and have your own opinion, and leave the room with your opinion.

I don't know much about Chinese art, but it was very inspiring to me. The Chinese masters paint mountains and trees without sketching, they simply found the one they wanted from the canon. But when they actually start to paint, they change it a little bit and make it their own mountain, their own tree, adding a little bit of contemporaneity. Western art, on the other hand, is anxiously searching for all kinds of new iconography.

Maybe I'm rambling a bit. Let's just pretend this is some kind of collage of ramblings.

Thrift store painting, 2013


Tal R

Born 1967 in Tel Aviv, Israel

Works and lives in Copenhagen, Denmark

Taught at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, and University of Art & Design Helsinki



——Gary Indiana 《波斯书信新篇(给Tal R)》

| Tal R,哥本哈根

这篇访谈采访于2017年年初。Tal R即将参加我们在上海策划的展览《拼贴:玩纸牌的人》,这篇访谈围绕着他的创作理念,以及拼贴对于他的意义。

Xⁿ: 我听说你曾经在上海生活了几年?

Tal R: 是的,大概89年到93年。我在那时学到的东西,至今仍然激发我绘画的灵感。当时我每天上午去书法家那里学写书法,他能够看出我每一次写出的横线里面,有没有“意”。他说要用“意”驱使动作。下午我通常去学武术,令我惊奇的是,武术的师父也对我说了同样的话。西方文化中,艺术语言和武术语言一定是两个完全不同的系统,而在中国不是,它们背后的哲学是一致的。

Xⁿ: “意”可以说是欧洲艺术所探讨的“诚挚”(Sincerity)吗?

Tal R: 是,但不仅仅如此,可以说是一种驱使你寻找恰当形式的力量。你也可以说它是 “想法”(idea)。


Xⁿ: 你做了很多作品,很多不同的类型,从绘画到拼贴,到装置,到雕塑。很难一言概括你到底做什么。

Tal R: 我做很多东西,最经常做的是我“不应该做”的。正因为可能是错误的,所以我要去试试。有时候恰好成功了,那么在这之后还有延续。有时候彻底失败了,那更加好,我可以从中学到更多。确切的说,相比“还可以”的作品,最糟糕的作品才最接近超凡的作品。



Xⁿ: 你做许多拼贴作品吗?

Tal R: 我做其他媒材的作品多过于做拼贴作品。但我很喜欢拼贴,我觉得我的许多创作能力都是从拼贴而来。在拼贴的过程中,我在打破甚至粉碎自己,然后释放更多可能性。


Xⁿ: 拼贴产生之前的绘画和在此之后的绘画有什么本质上的不同?

Tal R: 绘画就是在一张白布上,加上一些,减去一些,不断编辑。即便可以修改,但绘画仍然是一个单向发展,不可逆转的工作方式。不仅绘画,雕塑也是。



Xⁿ: 这次展览我们要展出你的作品《Rumdi, Rumdi, Rumdi》。这幅拼贴的创作时间从1989年横跨到2013年。这件拼贴作品是怎么来的?

Tal R: 从读书时候开始,在做正式的作品之前,我就习惯画许多手稿和涂鸦。然后浏览筛选可以继续下去的形象。这么多年之后,我累积了无数手稿。20年后,我的“意”仍然驱动我前行,这些过去成了负担。于是我决定把它们做成拼贴。


Xⁿ: 在这个过程中,你有什么意料之外的发现吗?

Tal R: 为了找到全新的形式,我需要清空自己。在这个过程中,我逐渐封闭一些可能性,把一些尝试抛在脑后,新的可能性也就随之产生。



Xⁿ: 你认为什么是好作品?

Tal R: 好的艺术让人安静下来,让人沉默,好像突然失语。一张画的内容可能非常简单,一瓶花,一朵云,一座山之类的。但它具备某些文字和语言无法替代的气质。


Xⁿ: 你怎么看待自己和前人的关系?

Tal R: 我年轻的时候觉得他们都像大山,特别远,难以企及。也许所有的年轻艺术家都这样。






Tal R

1967年生于Tel Aviv,以色列