The exhibitons and seminars of abstract paintings held in recent years seem to herald the flourishing of abstract art in China, which, as many signs indicate is about to happen sooner or later. Though abstract art, the last symbol of western modernism, no longer enjoys the glory it had in the 1950s and 60s, it remains an indispensable element in today¡äs art as a classic example of modernist art. Its features of elite culture, whoch are due to its formal aesthetics, do not mean that it takes the isolation from the masses as its principle. On the contrary, the abstract art that is the prodict of a specific period invariably reflects its progress.

Undoubtedly, Europe ist the origin and cradle of abstract art which was consistent in its steadfast style throughout the thwentieth century. Though it lost its avan-garde position to conceptual art installation and multimedia art after the 1960s, abstract art remains at ease in its superiority as the mainstay of contemporary art. As emphasized by Derrida, the champion of postmordernism, language not only organizes thoughts, but it also imprints its mark on them. In other words, our inferential perception and judgement of reality are determined by a transsubjective field of language, whose construction is subject to the influence of the incessant yet not entirely successful efforts to exclude and isolate based on metaphysical reason.

Essentialy, the formal aesthetics of abstract art is not the nineteenth-century “art for art’s sake”. The reason for this is not only contenxtually related to art history, bur it also reflects the cultural aspect of ideological changes. In a nutshell, art for art¡äs sake represented the independence of intellectual around the end of the nineteenth century, while abstract art was the avant-garde art revolting against traditional modernism that appeared in the beginning of the twentieth century. That is to say, the formal aestheticas of abstract art is a way of expressing thoughts that was meant to create an ideological stir through a linguistic revolution.

An understanding of abstract art’s backround in Europe will shed light on the faith in abstract painting of Sebastian Heiner, who was born in the 1960s in the post-war years in Germany. His generation¡äs perception of German history was obviously not wrapped in the memory of the war’s cruelty.

Instead the love of philosophy, literature and music made them seek their spiritual home while regaining their confidence. Abstract painting seemed to set Sebastian free. That freedom is not, as we might think, the metaphysical, poetic and dreamful fillings of the artist’s imagination about the external world. Brushstrokes and colors are like the keys of a piano. It is safer to say that Sebastian mainly used the bass keys before the four years when he enjoyed basking in the sunlight of a foreign land. Then, the artist devoted more efforts to expressing his feelings about China with keys of brighter tones and to creating a high-pitched chaotic structure with pure colors. The chaos and structure in painting, in which lies the secret of artist’s grasp of abstract expression, release energy that transcends the individual’s experience and requrie reason to balance the borderless chaos. With his skills at control Sebastian adjusted the tension between chaos and reason, enabling painting to depict a supernatural world through the expression of individual style. Can abstraction explain everything? The answer could only be found in the language system seems to call that into question. In fact, the attraction of abstract art lies in showing the dialectical balance between the two.
The viewer’s entry results in a rediscovery of oneself in an individualized world, and the artist provides the masses with a well-illuminated condition.

Given what I have written above, is it necessary to discuss Sebastian¡äs art in terms of cultural exchange between the East and West? Living in Berlin for twenty years makes me object the idea, for I have known from experience that the understanding of a foreign culture is difficult for both sides, and that the eventual result can be gained by nobody bur artists who trudge down the endless road by relying on his foreigner will not find Beijing, but abstract painting may reshape the oriental spirit in a new way, and an adventurous envoy from the West will bring hos own sincerity to that possibility.

Zhu Jinshi
October, 2007, Beijing