No one in sight, in this empty mountain.
Yet, only voice echoed.
Slanting light coming back to the deep woods.
It shines upon the green moss, once again.
July 3 – August 21, 2021
65 East 80th Street, Ground Floor, New York, NY 10075
This summer, Fu Qiumeng Fine Art is thrilled to debut ‘但聞人語響：Yet, Only Voice Echoed,’ the gallery’s first group photography exhibition curated by Cathy Fan showcasing seven bodies of poetic work from six noteworthy artists as an extension of the research-oriented QM Project. This exhibition invites viewers to join a journey of poetic images through the poem Deer Enclosure 《鹿柴》written by the Tang Dynasty literatus Wang Wei 王维, to ponder over the imaginations in cross-cultural literary translation. Artists included are Michael Cherney(秋麦), Lois Conner(康兰丝), Shen Wei (沈玮), Su Jiehao (苏杰浩), Cheng Ronghui (陈荣辉), and Benjamin Langford.
The title of this exhibition, “但聞人語響：Yet, Only Voice Echoed,” was derived from the curator’s translation of Deer Enclosure above. The poem depicts a tranquil and peaceful scene of woods in an empty mountain near a deer enclosure in the late afternoon. A sensory imagery was created only within these 20 characters, providing the reader an artistic vision perception: no one was in sight on this empty mountain, but human voices were heard – what a fleeting moment in these lonely woods. This feeling that the poet elicits is subjective, perhaps even hallucinatory. It is through the use of senses in the poem that brings the picture alive and into our imagination, a true “painted poem.” If we boldly imagine Wang Wei visiting modern times and encountering photography, he would certainly use a camera to express the beautiful scenery about which he had written.
People worldwide have been interested in and appreciated the interpretation of this poem for more than 12 centuries, especially American writer and translator Eliot Weinberger. His 1987 publication, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracks the translation dating back from 1915 to today in various languages. The publication reveals how poetry is chosen and expressed in other languages and how textual information can be recreated when languages and cultures are translated. “Yet, Only Voice Echoed,” without human presence, the five Chinese characters leave slowly blooming traces of imagery, rhythm, emotions and even fragrances in the mind of the reader.
This poem and its corresponding publication of the classic study of translation serve as the inspiration for the exhibition and also inspires the artwork by artist Chen Ronghui (which can be found in the inner gallery space.）Poems often break away from ordinary norms and are to be found similar to non-narrative photography. “Omission and absence” is sometimes the poetic way of photography, a suggestive expression, just like the “absent figure” in the “empty mountain”. The lack of speech and text is the limitation of photography as a medium, but that produces the nonverbal interest when an image is being looked at, read and “translated.” We present a body of non-narrative photographic artwork. Unfolding the poetics by slicing the moment and freezing the space, these bodies of work either explore nature, historical figures/events/sites, or use photography itself to recall personal and collective memory. The artists in this exhibition also are willing to transcend conventional genres and formats in a variety of unconventional media, making materials an interesting vehicle for answering propositions and creative exploration.
Through a confluence of classical materials, formats and subject matter, Michael Cherney’s (秋麦) photography becomes a meditation on the long history of Chinese visual art. The two sutra-style albums from his Bounded by Mountains series that are included in this exhibition are strong examples of this confluence: a single slice of a 35mm frame of film is enlarged, broken down into individual pages, printed on to xuan paper, and then mounted to form an accordion-fold album. The resulting sequence of album leaves simulates the non-fixed perspective often found in classical Chinese painting. By focusing on the essence and energy of nature rather than fixed detail, his photography conveys timeless qualities of nature beyond the fleeting moment.
What artist Lois Conner is trying to reveal through photography in a deliberate, yet subtle way, is a sense of time passing. Her photographs describe her relationship to both the visible and the imagined, to fact and fiction. Throughout her photographic journey in New York, Conner’s photographs investigate and reflect on who we are, who we’ve become, and how we’ve reached this turbulent historical inflection point. The two photographs on the streets of New York are part of her investigation from this past year.
Jiehao Su’s “Valais: Daily Views” was created during a three-month artist residency in Valais, Switzerland, in 2016. The artist is attracted by the hybrid atmosphere formed by the natural details and cultural memories of the region. He relies on his intuitive perception to observe things and thus explore a subjective sense of place. At the same time, Su also explores how photography, as a modest spatial-temporal medium, can clearly and directly represent the beauty of things and evoke an emotional response to cultural situations.
Combining photographic images with minimalist drawing elements, Shen Wei’s Invisible Atlas brings viewers into a poetic, surrealist, and seductive, multidimensional world through his own understanding of the Chinese philosophy of “Qi.”
Chen Ronghui uses Meyer lemons that he saw in the supermarket in the United States to “restore” a forgotten fact that a hundred years ago a “plant hunter” crossed over China and the United States to tell a story of “distance” under the backdrop of globalization. Another work of Chen Ronghui presents 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei in the form of writing. He also uses photography to reconstruct the artistic conception of poetry and explores the possibility of photography with familiar Chinese aesthetics, which is also his reflection on cultural diversity.
Benjamin Langford’ss flowers are installed on the walls of the gallery’s courtyard, creating a hallucination for the viewer. He takes macro pictures of flowers and creates surreal, soft sculptures out of outdoor materials, making nature appear closer to people again in the form of instinct and touch.
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