The Space Station presents Zheng Jiang’s individual exhibition Dust in the Sunlight from Jan. 14th to Feb. 14th, 2015. This is his third exhibition. The exhibition’s Chinese name is Dust on the roof beam. In the Compendium of Materia Medica, there is a kind of medicine named Dust on the roof beam which was used in some aboriginal tribe and which refers to the dust deposited on the beam of the roof, so thick that it hangs like a thread. It can also be called “Oolong tail” or “smoke pearl”. It tastes spicy, bitter, and cold in nature; people in the past burnt it and collected the ember to use as medicine for curing nausea, and nightmare. The interrelated slide in the simple mixture of light and color in the exhibition is just like the imagination the ancient people had towards the feeble dust on the roof beam which can eliminate defects and illness. This idea is concretized in the painting.
The exhibition consists of two parts: the 2014 Crabapple Glass series which continue to use Zheng’s tempera painting on canvas. “Memory” seems to be what he has long been interested in, but in the past two years, he has kept “doing subtraction” on his canvas, making it more succinct and abstract, while the process and method of dealing with it has shown much more profound meaning. What Zheng intends to probe into is that “when story or narrative being stripped off, will memory continue to exist? And in what way?” Maybe what he has felt is light. On the ground of the show room, he uses camphor powder, a kind of white crystal particles which gradually volatilize in room temperature, to form the patterns of crabapple glass, which again hints the inner clue of this exhibition, that is, about the relationship between time, memory, light and dust. The second part of the work may be the second answer that Zheng has towards memory – the Dust series. Zheng uses colored pencil to depict, day after day, on the canvas, the color that dusts refract in lights. He said that he got inspired when he saw, at his old house in his hometown, a beam of sunlight penetrated through the rift of the tiles, and some dust flickered in the sunlight. It is by an exception beyond the remained memory and the mixing of color and experience that turns the abstract to material. At this moment, dust and light have become the incarnation of memory.
Zheng Jiang, through his work, intends exactly to explore the characteristic of this transient and nonmaterial nature of light. What interests him is how these illusory and indistinct feelings transform into concrete existence, how to use painting to represent those transient experience. Just like a white passageway incidentally and suddenly opened, activating the simplest and most complete natural and physical conditions of vision. The illusion of expansion and the level of nothingness, are just like ivory-white mist. Do you see a thing? Is it hard? Does it have any edges?
This is just like the memory of light, which is an infinite, uncertain, and vague illumination or projection. When Zheng tries to depict this special target, he is facing two problems: first, in the shining of light, the color of all items are segmented; therefore, it is necessary to combine points of different, pure colors and touches to lively represent these segmented colors. Second, when seen through a piece of glass, there are both refraction of light and the separation of transparent glass, which virtualizes the item as well as changes its color. Suffice to say that the former is an exact light refraction, while the latter is a reflection after virtualization. To establish an organic relation between refracted light and memory, site, the subconscious, is a face to face game between virtuality and reality.
The development of painting until today has marched for numerous times out of the era of object representation. When Neo-Impressionism got inspired by American physicist Ogden Rood’s Modern Color Science in 1880, artists like Georges Seurat have attached equal importance to both the sensitivity of art and the rationality of science. This exploration of light and color has gone down from generation to generation. When people put several pure colors on a rotating color disk, the splendid and intense effect they bring to our eyes has far exceeded the expressive power of the mixed color strenuously blended by artists. This is to make the audience use their own eyes to catch the color effect of these mixed colors, which includes not only the direct feeling towards colorful lights, but also their purified perception towards the atmosphere. As the color and illuminance cannot be separated, they can only rely on their referential object to feel the changes, that is, to feel the interrelatedness in the changes occurred along with the constant moving of sights. Between partial physical stimulation and the feelings produced, there is no fixed or one-to-one relation. Each piece of color is subordinated to an inseparable and interrelated whole. Absoluteness arises from the vagueness between light and color, and a whole which requires mutal-submission is established on the standard of both parties.
The white camphor powder on the ground establishes an organic relation to the white light on the retina as well as memory, space and the subconscious. Through natural and physical translation, they open an experience that transcends the system of sense, and creates a visual experience that our eyes are incapable to experience. This isolated piece of crabapple glass window as a basic element unit of touch, sight and taste, is not only a surface on which a concrete self-emotional memory floats, but also a complicated representation of self-abstraction, approaching the eyes’ objective, natural as well as physical foundation, and returning and rearranging the uncertain whole in the field of experience.
Zheng is fascinated towards this plain depiction of the object light, which is just like what is said in Genesis of the Bible: God said: “Let there be light!”, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day.
About the exhibition
Venue: The Space Station
Courtesy of the artist and the Space Station, for further information please visit www.space-station-art.com.