Jiang Zhenggen Recent Photo
Title: Mottled Moss – Abstract Paintings of Jiang Zhenggen
Duration: 6th – 20th Dec, 2014
Opening: 4pm, 6th Dec, 2014
Venue: KOCA Art Space • South Bund (Room 312, Bldg #2, the Cool Docks, No.505 South Zhongshan Road, Shanghai)
Curator: Giancarlo Ermotti
Organized by: ArtThat | KOCA Art Space
Mottled Moss and Meditation
Chinese abstract art in the past decade has witnessed the emergence of several meditation-based artists. They put an emphasis on spiritualism, experience, process and silent meditation. They probe into the resonance of nothingness and the purity of soul through sequences and plurals, opening up a brand new realm in abstract art via a language that is completely different from western abstraction.
After some ten years of meditation and practice in solitude, Jiang Zhenggen has gradually formed his own abstract language: mottled moss sequence. It is neither cold nor hot abstraction. Compared with cold abstraction, it’s hot. And compared with hot abstraction, it’s cold. Such is the foundation for the soil of culture: the doctrine of the mean, restraint, discretion, persistence and determination – characters of eastern philosophy. Sitting in front of Jiang Zhenggen’s works, viewers could feel a sense of tranquility and contemplation that would remind them of temples. A kind of mysteriously flickering beam and a budding energy of life could be sensed in the sequence of mottled moss he presents. And this could only take place when the rhythm of man and nature synchronize.
Used as Jiang Zhenggen’s source code, mottled moss originates from the dot stroke featured in traditional Chinese landscape painting. As the strength behind such strokes varies, the imagery of mountain ranges emerges. In Jiang Zhenggen’s work, the sequences and overlapping of dots also create the effect of changing colors and sense of emptiness. The color difference and transparency imbue the sequences with the lighting effect unique to mottled moss. Different from the dazzling luminous effect seen in Op Art, it’s softer, cozier and more sophisticated. The fact that it’s discrete, engaging and intriguing is the result of nuances in brushstrokes and marked color contrast. The mottled moss effect featured in the brushstrokes radiates the artistic vigor of calligraphy, imbuing the whole image with a sense of vividness and fluidity. In other words, this way the work seems to be able to breathe. In the material sense, “nothingness” is nihility. In the abstract sense, “being” is also nihility.
Curator: Giancarlo Ermotti
Jiang Zhenggen started his exploration in the realm of abstraction after he experimented with ink art. Such experience turned out to be of great importance: first, his shift showed he was not satisfied with the limited expression of ink art, and second, with his previous experience with the ink culture, he is able to reveal the charisma of the artistic language combining tradition with fashion. In other words, he wants to explore “the purity and the sense of time of abstract language by laying emphasis on the expression of ‘luminous effect’.” (Interview with Jiang Zhenggen, National Arts, 2010.12)
If a comparison is to be made between mottled moss lighting effect and Op Art lighting effect, we’d realize that there’re significant cultural differences in abstract language.
Lighting effect in Op Art is mathematical, logical, mechanical, rational, cold and dazzling.
Lighting effect of mottled moss is psychological, sensual, hand-created, sophisticated, flexible and flickering.
Israel Artist Ofer Lellouche at studio
As a matter of fact, what gives rise to the differences in formal language is the process rather than the result. Culture, first of all, nurtures men’s behavior. “Everyday I seem to repeat a simple practice on the canvas. I use writing brushes to draw lines, one after another. From this seemingly simple practice, I experience the joy of repetition and the meaning of artistic repetition. It gives me inner peace and tranquility, inspiring me to feel the nature of art’s life . In the meantime, such a simple and tranquil practice helps one to feel the existence of life in a somewhat Zen-inspired way, unfolding a broader psychological space for me to explore.” (Interview with Jiang Zhenggen, National Arts, 2010.12)
The practice to experience the “tranquility” of the world in a relaxing and yet concentrated manner is not dissimilar to the state of selflessness advocated by Zen meditation. When the painting brush draws something under the control of concentration, it’s time to experience the energy of nihility. Mottled moss sequence turns to become the vestige of time, reflecting the beat of absorption and rhythm of life. In Jiang Zhenggen’s work, traces of practice and meditation are easy to spot. It has taken him ten years to fulfill the transition from the initial sluggish brushstrokes to the elegantly flexible, magnificent and fluid rhythm embodied in the form of mottled moss. When the mottled moss turns into lines and planes, a sympathetic rhythm and a natural symphony of light and colors will come into being. And the meaning of hand painting comes to the fore. That’s the spiritual impact that neither digital art nor hard-edge art could ever achieve.
A friend from the West once said to me: “Why Chinese art may constantly be summarized in one concept, such as Tao, emptiness, or harmony between man and nature, etc.?… In some contemporary artworks, really nothing new can be perceived, but they are still described in a highly philosophical and abstruse way!” What he said makes a certain sense, but I have to say: “You haven’t found the right works to look at!”
2nd draft completed in February 2014, at Hoovin Garden
Ping Jie is currently researcher and curator of REC Foundation and curator of Shanghai Himalayas Museum.
Swiss Collectors at studio