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Transition: Zheng Lu Solo Exhibition Author:Huang Du


Artist Zheng Lu’s first solo exhibition at Beijing Parkview Green Exhibition Hall, titled Transition, presents the artist’s recent creative trajectory and latest developments in thinking. His works mainly begin with water, which serves as the core of his individual language of sculpture. The artist sees water as a medium that carries many layers of potential meaning. It is a “formless” material state, but it is one that is inextricably linked to the natural world and life, an indispensable resource for survival. Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that “everything is made of water.” Thus, water produces the states of all things.

 

Confucius said, “Men do not look into running water as a mirror, but into still water. It is only the still water that can arrest them all, and keep them.” (Zhuangzi - The seal of Virtue Complete) People cannot see themselves reflected in flowing water. It is only in still water that they can see themselves clearly, and only when they reach a fully tranquil state that they can cease all motion. If a person can calm the waves rippling through their heart, they can see their true nature and reach a state of true stillness. Only this transition can reveal the mirror. As long as a person is unable to find stillness within, they will never find clarity, and thus never obtain wisdom and enlightenment. If so, the flows of life will never belong to them. They will never truly become their own master.

 

The works in this solo exhibition revolve around the central conceptual axes of “water” and “stillness,” which the artist has transformed into his own individual visual language, realized in sculpture, installation and new media. This exhibition presents eight interrelated artworks: Still Water, Winter Solstice, 3000 Meters of Woe, Shiosai, Light Breeze at Dongting Lake, Unknown Circle, Rain Drum and All Quiet beyond the Heart, each work an exploration of the dialectics of stillness and motion, time and space, existence and change, and self and other as they relate to water, light and humanity.

 

Zheng Lu’s works comprise three threads: water, light and people. His Still Water, Shiosai, Unknown Circle and Rain Drum follow water themes, extending from the natural and physical properties of water to its social and cultural implications. Whether it is the clash of stainless steel and words, the visualization of rolling waves, the magnification of water in a static state, or the philosophical metaphors of still water, these works use visual language to convey the concepts of water with and without form. The old saying goes, “The water flows on like this, endlessly, day in and day out.” Water is often used to describe the existence and passage of time. Winter Solstice, Light Breeze at Dongting Lake and All Quiet beyond the Heart utilize the natural properties of sunlight and a relatively static reference to capture the state of light through measurements of the light and time in a space, thus revealing the natural existence of time and the shifting state of light. Meanwhile, the work 3000 Meters of Woe, which stands between water and light, seems to reflect the existential state of man within a complex, changing society, the shifts that result from a constant barrage of pressure. This process is filled with the contradictions between resistance and acceptance. The artist drew from an American film, Pleasantville (1998), in which it is only when people make changes that colors emerge. Projected onto reality, these are outcasts of the overlying order. Most people who support the overlying order are at first curious about this. As people with color increase, the fear of the unknown and the destruction of the order cause society to divide. A projection of history narrates the collapse of order—the violence of black-and-white people towards those with color, and the resistance of those with color. Of course, color is an affirmation of social progress, and the replacement of colors indicates shifts in the order of values, just as the moment movies went from black-and-white to color marked the end of the golden age of cinema. The 3000 meters of tangled multicolored steel wires that Zheng Lu used to fill the space are like threads of dissonance. They create a sense of pressure, tension and unease to form a seemingly surreal illusion that gives measure and description to the energy, states and differences of and between materials. Thus, Zheng Lu’s artwork doubtless reflects the conflict between resistance and acceptance in the face of contradictions between tradition and modernity, internal and external, old and new.

 

This is the first comprehensive of the artist’s recent works and creative trends in Beijing since his successful solo exhibition Shiosai at Taipei MOCA. The works Winter Solstice, Rain Drum, Light Breeze at Dongting Lake and All Quiet beyond the Heart were created specifically for the Parkview Green site. For Winter Solstice, the artist created an installation at the entrance to the exhibition hall. On winter solstice, the sun shines almost directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. This is the shortest day and longest night for the Northern Hemisphere. It is also the day of the shortest period of sunshine at the Parkview Green Exhibition Hall, as well as the day when the sun casts the longest shadows across the space. On this day, the artist used video to record the shifting sunlight in the exhibition space, and created silhouettes of the sunlight in golden color acrylic, which he suspended from the ceiling and attached to the walls to fix in time and space. By the time of the exhibition opening in April, the sun will have begun its march back to the Tropic of Cancer. The days will have begun to grow longer, the shadows shorter. Some of the sunlight cast into the exhibition space will overlap with the silhouettes from winter solstice, but most will have diverged, creating a visual, spatial and material juxtaposition of time. This is art that encapsulates multiple dimensions of vision, art that integrates concept, computation, material, time, space, processes, changes, customs and states. It should be viewed as a concept and form of “total art.” In another work, All Quiet beyond the Heart, Zheng Lu seems to be having “adventurous” imaginings. In this artwork, he channels natural light from the outside into the exhibition space using a column with mirrors on its inner surface, projecting the light onto a small bonsai plant. This creates an interesting relationship between inside and out. Light Breeze at Dongting Lake was inspired by Ma Yuan’s Water Album of paintings from the Song dynasty, which he has transformed into a dynamic video painting. In this work, solar activities captured with a telescope are projected onto a 6.4 meter disc of stainless steel, presenting a vividly shimmering spectacle. This new media expression can be interpreted in another way, as the colorful ripples cast by natural sunlight onto water.

 

It is worth noting that Zheng Lu’s installation work Rain Drum may be connected to rain, but it is a far departure from his original conception and approach. The artist’s idea is rooted in his impression of the dynamics of the exhibition space at Parkview Green. The medium of the artwork is the ETFE film that makes up the roof of Parkview Green. Using this material and the available space, he has covered the top of the entire exhibition hall, turning the space into a giant drum. This drum is then struck with steel balls in a rhythmic fashion akin to drops of rain. As the audience wanders through this installation, they can experience the sounds of a drum and the simulation of rainfall.

 

Unlike its presentation in Taipei, this exhibition presents Zheng Lu’s Shiosai in a manner that completely subverts visual convention. The title of this artwork comes from the novel of the same name by Japanese author Yukio Mishima. It is a cross section of an ocean wave. Like a fixed frame from an animation, the artwork presents the dramatic scene of a swelling and crashing ocean wave. That is the normal manner in which this artwork was presented at Zheng Lu’s Taipei MOCA solo exhibition. In this Beijing exhibition, the wave has been inverted to convey an entirely different visual language. The wave crashes down from the sky as its whitecaps hang downwards, giving the work certain abstract tones. In his modelling, rhythm and use of materials, Zheng Lu has captured the expressiveness of a transition from tranquility to restlessness, and minimalism to complexity, with great precision. He has created a new spectacle that provides the possibility of new ways of seeing, participating and thinking.

 

In his creations, Zheng Lu has always followed his own linguistic logic. In his continuing practice, he has constructed a personal artistic outlook and style. He folds materials, words, water, time, space and other concepts into his own self-sustaining conceptual framework to form a unique expressive method. He interprets the infinite forms of water from multiple angles, utilizing its ultimate softness and its potential connections to diverse states of life. Like a mirror, water implies self-reflection, self-knowledge and self-awareness, elevating them to the heights of morality in questions of how mankind faces the relationships between the natural environment, social development and individual existence.

 

Overall, Zheng Lu uses water or sunlight as a medium, utilizing the concept of “change” that is shared by time, water and light to further discuss the processes of material existence and change and the relationships therein, and thus delve into the connections between time, space, context, conditions, processes, states and self-nature. The result is the conveyance of their tranquil, empty, vast beauty in contemporary language, which bestows his works with powerful visual expression of the implications of history and reality, tradition and modernity, visible and invisible, poetry and vision, life and symbolism.

 

 

 

March 14, 2016, Wangjing, Beijing