From home to calligraphy – 陈燕飞:书法与家居的相生浸染 – English

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Invest not to buy a house in Shanghai, but to create a home of better taste, “improving quality of life”, these are Chen Yanfei’s values. He rents a place in a tall 23-story building in Jing’an District, practices calligraphy every day, and designed his own home decoration brand, “Pu Su.”

Chen Yanfei and I have known each other for ten years. Ten years ago we got together and worked for the “21st Century Business Herald”. At that time, we had just graduated. We did not know much. I was a reporter, he was an arts editor. It was the last wave of the media tide, everyone had surprising opportunities. After half a year, I became the Beijing manager for the 21 Century magazine, and managed seven correspondents older than myself. And he, since he was an outstanding calligrapher, was chosen to support the expansion of 21st Century advertising. It’s hard to imagine that the very difficult calligraphy of the “One becomes two, two becomes three, and three becomes the universe, came from the hand of a 23 year old.

Then we have the way to Shanghai, and since then it has not officially left the city. Media situation has been unpredictable, I left in the middle of the media for seven years. And he from the 21st century, the “Gold Life”, went to the “Bund” and finally to “ELLE DECORATION home gallery ‘design director.

In those years, he began to collect old furniture, from south to north close to a lot of bulky chairs tables and chairs. We movin each other when he was also a book case long parked at my house for a year. For those of us cause Shangju vagrant youth, the collection seems to be one and we are not in tune with luxury-loving. But he insisted the way for so many years.

Until one day I went to his rented rise in Jing’an Area to visit a house his collection, only seen his collection. That room looks ordinary house, which he converted into a Chinese home atmosphere completely Zhaizi. There are a few couch, tea calligraphy, as well as his numerous collections.

Investment to buy a house is not in Shanghai, the funds invested in creating a better taste of home, “make life richer quality” This is Chen Yanfei values.

Six months ago, Chen Yanfei and friends joint venture created their own original home brand “Pu factor” in an alley Changshu Road. The name comes from the “Zhuangzi” the sentence: “simple, monensin America and the world.” He proposed a “contemporary literati art home” concept. He offers a new explanation for the “literati” this definition.

He himself, from an intellectual background, also set foot in the business world. Although all aspects of the business began to take care of his needs, he most wanted to remain the dominant product designer soul. For a 33-year-olds, this is all just in time.

Q: When did you start to study Calligraphy?

A: I learned it a long time ago, since I was sensible. At first, my father leaded me to learn calligraphy so I didn’t have a teacher. I just bought some writing brush, some ink, and some paper. As time elapsed, I got fascinated in Calligraphy.

Q: Is your father well educated?

A: Both my parents are doctors. They are not very good at arts. They just like arts. My father’s books have a great influence on me. Even though he studied medical, he had collected a large number of books.

Q: Your family lived in Dongwan?

A: We lived in Guangdong Heyuan. We are traditional Guangdong citizens. When I was in grade five or six, we moved to Dongwan.

Q: Have you ever thought to be a doctor when you grow up?

A: No, I am interested in medical.

Q: Do your parents hope you to study art?

A: No, they know that I am a person that likes to make decisions by myself—I even don’t want them to buy clothes for me. Including going to university, what universities, what major, myself decide all these factors. They supported me as well.

Q: Do you have to prepare the professional test before you have the exam in GuangZhou Art College?

A: Yes, I have to go to Guangzhou mouths earlier to receive the training. I even have to find the dorms by myself.

Q: How do you make your decision to become an art student? Many people think that be an art student is very complicated, and it requires a large amounts of money. Some people even consider that the art students are poor at study.

A: When I was in grade 12, I discovered that several classmates wanted to be an art student. They prepared for this test since grade 10. I think it’s a good idea, and then I visited their drawing rooms. As a result, I think that my drawings are as great as theirs. I bought some books and studied by myself. After going to the training class in Guangzhou Art College, I broaden my outlook because there’re so many talented students there.

Q: How is the Yield Rate of Guangzhou Art College?

A: In that year, about 300 people applied for one major, but the college only admitted 20 students. The competition was quite fierce.

Q: Which major were you in when you were in college?

A: Flat design. That was called decoration designed before. It covered flat, multimedia, illustration and so on. When I was in grade 2, I applied for a transition to indoor design, but I failed. I always think that I am more interested in dimensions than in flat.

Q: Where do your students usually go to work when they graduate?

A: Normally advertisement companies. These companies hire a lot of people directly. Some students went to television stations. I am interested in media instead of advertisements because I think media is a more overall form of expressing ideas. The core of advertisement is commercial, but media contains more. Step into media is a great choice for me.

Q: You design the commercial magazines in the beginning, then the magazines about daily life, in the end the professional furniture magazines. How do you think of media road?

A: In 2007, I went to work in  Jia Ju Lang. I thought that this magazine attracts me a lot so I went to furniture, this familiar field, again. In 2006, I bought a house for my parents in GuangZhou. I designed a group of furniture by myself and asked an old worker in XiTang to produce that for me. This group of furniture can be considered as my first masterpiece. Working in Jia Ju Lang is  predestined, I am sure I am going to work in this area.

Q: How do you study the skills of designing and drawing furniture?

A: These are some basic skills that studied in college. I did some indoor design for some people. When I started my work in Jia Ju Lang, I broadened my field of vision. I only saw some traditional furniture in the past, but now I know furniture around the world. Every year, I have the chance to visit the furniture exhibitions abroad, to see the grand designer’s masterpieces. I communicated with them and knew their stories. Their skills, their designing ideas all influenced me a lot. All these enabled me to have a more comprehensive understanding on furniture.

Q: How is the style of PuSu furniture formed?

A: As I learned many ideas about furniture around the world, I developed new views on traditional furniture. I went to many cities, including Qingdao, Beijing, Guangzhou, Suzhou to study how their culture and geologic environment influence their furniture. I also read many books. Having purified the styles in Eastern and western, I make my furniture as nowadays. I emphasize on the function and the beauty of furniture.

Q: How do you get your inspiration?

A: I like lines very much is because I like calligraphy. The sense of line is similar as the Ming Furniture. For example, the chairs have round handrail is like the round lines in calligraphy.

Q: So calligraphy affects your design? But I think that your calligraphy works are always square-shaped, not lined.

A: I want calligraphy to have some senses of stereoscopic but the traditional calligraphy is always plain. I want to works to stand and criss-cross. As a result, furniture design influenced my calligraphy as well.

Q: Previously, you mentioned that geography affects the furniture, is your artworks (furniture) more suitable for the South.

A: Yes it is, the style of the furniture in Lingnan is thicker and heavy which is more suitable for the scenery there.  The scenery in the north is drier therefore the style of the furniture is bolder. Because of the environment in the South, the people over there have developed a deep fond of gardens, stone sculptures, and furniture.

Q: You started the idea of an “educated furniture”, how should we interpret this?

A: Educated mean an educated person (olden time) that is the equivalent of middle class person. In my opinion, I think the olden society can be classified into 3 classes. The 1st one is on the top, which is the emperor, then in the middle is the officials and land lords (educated people), at the bottom is the peasant (farmers). I think the officials and landlords contributed the most to the society during the olden time.

Q: You talked about the middle class, the educated people, but your artworks is used most by the upper class. The middle class people is now in “snail living”. In the situation they ar living in can they have your artwork in their houses?

A: This is indeed a very conflicted problem and I am trying to avoid this problem by trying to design furniture which most middle class and afford. This is why I used birch, a rather cheaper wood, but I assure you that it is still stop quality furniture. If I have used redwood, the price would have doubled and tripled.

Q: The olden times style of furniture, is now luxurious today. Do you think that in a Shanghainese house with 2 bedrooms with 1 living room can have the same style?

A: I have thought about this problem and I think we can achieve it. Most people live in a house of 100m2 but the size of the house will not affect the person’s living quality. In Japan and in Taiwan, they have a more limited housing space than China’s yet their house have style and have a strict requirement.

Q: These furniture is more suitable for courtyards. People have a hard time connecting this furniture with apartment buildings.

A: Houses in the olden times are larger therefore their furnitures are larger. And when I designed these furniture, I have already considered the 100m2 space. Many people have tried it and it all felt right. Actually, the furniture has a connection with life. If you like drinking tea or writing calligraphy it all connects with the furniture seamlessly. I have one in my house.

Q: In a cultural view, don’t you think traditional Chinese furniture will bring a sense of seriousness and will make people want to follow rules?

A: Although traditional Chinese furniture does not have sofas but I think a good traditional Chinese furniture is really comfortable. I think the rules are only a formality, for example the “three minute sit”, it has nothing to do with the furniture itself. If you are so hard on the rules even with sofas, you will not enjoy it.

There is also a differene between Qing style house and Ming style house. Ming style houses emphasizes on the study room and the functions of the garden. The Qing style focuses on living room. In all, the Ming style houses is more relaxed interior designed wise. The Ming advocate the multiple use of the garden, many people during the Ming dynasty moved furnitures out into the garden.  This made the Ming houses more relaxed. On the other hand, Qing styled houses are stricter. This has to do on how they came to power, because they invaded so they have to maintain a sense of order.

Q: Was there a lot of bamboo beds during the Song dynasty?

A: Yes. During the Tang and the Song and even during WeiJin dynasty bamboo beds were widely used.  It gives people a sense of relaxation.  Because of this, there are the 7 wise guys in in the bamboo woods(WeiJin dynasty) who advocate freedom of thought and humanity. During that time period, housing was very casual and not confided by traditional rules.

璞素一角

Q: What do you think is the purpose of Revivalism?

A: I don’t think my work counts as Revivalism. I have only brought out the Chinese feelings about the things around us. From the olden times to the modern times, Chinese have always love wood. This has a lot to do with Confucianism and Taoism beliefs. Because of these beliefs, Chinese furniture are closer to nature and in aesthetics view, it is simpler. Compared to western style which is more colorful it has a different visual impact. The returning of Chinese furniture has a lot of things to do with out way of life. It is like how more and more people enjoys drinking tea, it is a form of “slow life”. In fast world that we live in, it is very important to design your house with the style of a “slow life”.

Q:你从一个媒体人、文化人转型到开店做生意,有没有碰到什么性格上的冲突?

A: This kind of events comes up almost every day. Not only do I communicate with customers, but also talk with the technology and material works in the factories. Lower the cost is always very difficult and unfamiliar to me. I haven’t met this kind of tasks in the past when I was working for my boss. It took me 1 year to register my company and brand. New challenges are coming forward, but I hope that I can focus on designing as soon as possible.

Q: How is the size of the factory? How about the expansion plan in the future?

A: At first, there were only about 10 people. The division of the work is quite detailed; a lot of procedures are required as well. I am thinking about expanding the size of factory recently. I have already expanded the size of my factory about 2 times. Now, we are also accepting some enterprise work and considering about other company’s joining.

Q: You don’t have a house in Shanghai. Do you feel regret about that?

A: Many people think that owning a house is very important, but I am not very desirable on houses. I think that making everyday life high-quality is the most important.

Q: Calligraphy, collection and furniture, how do you like these three things?

A: Calligraphy the most, then furniture, then collection. Calligraphy is the most important because it’s the core of my value system. It is the base of my living. I don’t have to live depend on calligraphy, but it gives me confidence. No matter how busy I am, I will practice calligraphy when I back home. It’s like a rest. I copy many artist’s masterpieces in order to learn more.

Q: Which style of calligraphy do you like best?

A: I liked Yan style when I was a little boy and I liked official script when I was in the university. Now, I like some simple and unsophisticated calligraphy, like lesser seal character, big seal character and some works carved on stone. Probably, the sense to the words will change with the increase of age.

P.S.: the black and white calligraphy logo for ‘China30s’ is also a secret gift from Chen Yanfei.

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Source : China 30s

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]