Interview with Tang Nannan

Interviewer: Mianbu

Artist: Tang Nannan

Time: March 15th, 2014

M: Mianbu 

T: Tang Nannan

Topic: Missing the water


M: When did you start to be interested in water?



T: After I left the water. Since I demolished my studio in Xiamen, it occurred in my mind. I have to step back to see these.


M: Compared to other works that’s involved with water, your work’s atmosphere is different.


T: I think it’s a different process. At first I was wondering how these things float to the beach. When I was in Xiamen, I could see this every day. I love the feeling of throwing things to the sea such as books. I do not want to define myself as an advanced artist, just an ordinary person.


M: You were memorizing. So you were using memories to create?


T: Yes. I want to experience the process of floating. It was a cold winter. The feeling of human flesh in the ocean is pretty scary. My camera was also floating, so there was not one static image.


M: How did you think of those elements? Those books, planes and hands. You did it on purpose?


T: It’s from my childhood memories. My dad gave me the plane.


M: That’s just a toy.


T: But to me it was real.


M: The metaphor of the plane is shocking from the picture. It’s not only a toy, but also something that’s related to the present.


T: To those who create, they cannot predict what they can bring to others. But for me, I will start from myself. I don’t want people to stop at certain degrees of thinking.


M: Your work belongs to the conceptual category. But if you say it’s a conceptual work, it’s not so strong. It also has some sentimental elements.


T: Yeah. Sentimental.


M: Your work is quite visual and can be understood. There are emotions in it and they are really contagious. It is called sensibility in art history. It’s one of the most important parts in art, more important than words spoken.


T: When I was young I read things written by Martis. He said that artists’ tongue would be cut off. So I remembered it, any explanations will make people feel disgusted. So when you need to explain, it basically means your work failed. 


M: Yes.


T: I might need many years to finish it.


M: Yeah, memory is not something that will be finished. Life will continue and memory never ends.


M: Your work has an inner relationship with you. Living beside water is a process of self-fulfillment. Your work is filled with humanity. For Chinese people it’s intimate and warm. Though you may bring some profound ideas, don’t you want to make something fierce?


T: No I didn’t want to because it’s my personality. An individual should know his or her position and I love these things. Now I regard it as an environmental protection. Rather than trying to do something great, its better to start doing small things, those are the ones that can touch people’s heart. An artist’s job is to translate, to change your feelings into some simple words. If you make it complicated like life, it will lose its meaning.