Benjamin Landford, Windswept Bonsai, 2021, Inkjet and acrylic on raw linen, 16 x 24 in. © Benjamin Landford, Courtesy of the artist
Text by Claire Ping
Copy Editor: Ben Blavat
“Yet, Only voice echoed (但聞人語響)” is one of the most iconic lines written by the Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei. Capturing in merely twenty characters the rich sensory environment of a mountain forest, where no human presence is felt aside from the sound of faint voices, the poem from which it is extracted exemplifies classical Chinese literary aesthetics. Inspired by the use of subtle imagery to evoke the senses and construct a picture in the readers’ mind without lengthy descriptions, the exhibition at Fu Qiumeng Fine Art brings together six artists whose works of non-narrative photography similarly transcend conventional forms and genres to convey the non-verbal.
Ronghui Chen’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei responds directly to the poem. The title is taken from a 1987 publication by the American writer and translator Eliot Weinberger, who traces the translation of Wang’s poetry across linguistic boundaries. Chen’s black-and-white photographs depict a forest scene that seems to recall the poem, though it appears more dark and unruly than the tranquil haven which one might have visualized based on the text. The series places photography in conversation with familiar Chinese aesthetics, using the medium to recreate the artistic conception of poetry, while manifesting Chen’s own reflection on cultural diversity.
Up: Michael Cherney, Bounded By Mountains H3, Autumn 2006-Winter 2007, Archival Pigment Ink Print on Xuan Paper, closed dimensions 10.2 in x 7.5 in (accordion-fold album; 11 leaves), fully opened lengths vary from 134.6 in to 269.2 in. © Michael Cherney, Courtesy of the artist; Down: Detail from Bounded By Mountains H3 © Courtesy of the artist
Michael Cherney (Qiu Mai) also engages with the long tradition of art and aesthetics in China. Two works from his Bounded by Mountains series appear in the exhibition. For each of these, Cherney enlarges one slice of a 35mm frame of film, which is subsequently divided into individual pages, printed on xuan paper, and mounted to create an accordion-fold album. The format simulates the non-fixed perspective often found in classical Chinese painting, exploring possibilities for its reinvention through photography.
Shen Wei, Bindi, 2014, Acrylic on Archival Pigment Print, 11 x14 in. © Shen Wei, Courtesy of the artist
In his Invisible Atlas series, Shen Wei combines photographic images and elements of minimalist drawing to visualize qi — the vital energy permeating all matters in the universe according to traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine. Using a visual language that is noticeably contemporary, at times reminiscent of scientific diagrams, Shen attempts to lure viewers into a poetic, surrealist, and multidimensional world based on his understanding of classical systems of thought.
Lois Conner, NY20512 Microsoft, New York City, From Shooting Fifth Avenue, 2020, Archival pigment ink print on 100% cotton fiber Hahnemuhle with 2” border, 14 x 36 in. © Lois Conner, Courtesy of the artist
Su Jiehao, Empty Seats, 2016, Archival Pigment Print, 60 x 80 in. © Su Jiehao, Courtesy of the artist
Jiehao Su created Valais: Daily Views during a three-month residency in Switzerland. Relying on intuitive perceptions, he attempts to captivate a subjective experience through the spatial-temporal medium of photography. Elsewhere in the exhibition, two images from Lois Conner’s photographic journey in New York over the past year seek to investigate how society has come to the present historical junction. Finally, with their hallucinating effect, Benjamin Langford’s “flowers” — soft sculptures made from macro pictures installed on the walls of the gallery’s courtyard — bring viewers in a full circle back to nature.
Benjamin Landford, Daffodil, 2021, Weatherproof vinyl, cotton straps, 102 x 108 in. ©Benjamin Landford, Courtesy of the artist
Curated by Cathy Fan, the Chief Editor of Artnet China, “Yet, Only Voice Echoed” is a poetic journey of translation between text and image, ancient and contemporary, as well as East and West, while challenging and complicating these simplistic divisions in the process. It will be on view through Aug. 21.
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