Pace Hong Kong presents the group exhibition Where Can the Dust Alight from October 1 to November 12, with a public opening reception from 6:00pm to 8:00pm on September 30. The exhibition, which features artists Hong Hao, Liu Jianhua, Song Dong, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Zhang Huan, explores the influence of Zen thought on visual and conceptual linguistic systems in contemporary art.

Through the works of these five artists, the exhibition reveals the profound influence of Eastern religious philosophical ideas on the artist’s conceptual explorations. The rise of the avant-garde art movement in the 1950s and 60s led to a gradual decoupling of creative thinking from technique in favor of conceptual explorations. The Eastern religion of Buddhism, with its rich introspective philosophy and unique conceptual methods, provided the Western art world with many inspirations and challenges. In Asia, the cradle of Buddhist thought, the Zen thought deeply rooted in the culture would inevitably clash with the avant-garde artistic concepts from the West to create richly complex artworks. The exhibition Where Can the Dust Alight sets out from the works of different Asian artists to explore how Asian contemporary art is coming to new understandings of Zen thought and art forms, which are not only expressed in creative forms, but, more importantly, in new definitions of the meditative experience and the transformation of the role of the self in art.


Where Can the Dust Alight is a Buddhist saying that embodies highly thinking on “emptiness” and “nothingness,” core philosophical ideas in Zen Buddhism. In this exhibition, the works of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Zhang Huan and Song Dong present the influences of Zen thought on the visual language of contemporary art.

Sea of Buddha, conceived in 1988 and completed in 1995, is a series of works presenting the scene of the one thousand Avalokiteshvara statues at Sanjūsangen-dō, a temple in Kytoto constructed in 1266. Through visual repetition, Sugimoto draws from the religious and historical concepts behind the creation of Buddhist sculpture. Zhang Huan’s ash painting Mark No. 3 presents passages from the Bible and “The Star-Spangled Banner” in braille. Emphasizing surface, the work continues his use of incense ash from Buddhist temples as a medium while demonstrating a departure from the figurative themes of his earlier ash paintings. Zhang’s use of a Buddhist material draws parallels between Buddhist texts and those of the Bible, presenting themes of human nature, truth and kindness that can be read as universal. By rendering religious passages in a tactile writing system using an inherently fragile material, Zhang is relating materiality to the methodology of prayer and illusions of belief.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sea of Buddha 001, 002, 003(Detail), 1995; gelatin silver prints, 119.4cmx149.2cm three prints each

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sea of Buddha 001, 002, 003(Detail), 1995; gelatin silver prints, 119.4cmx149.2cm three prints each

Mandala finds its inspiration in Buddhist Mandala rituals, in which monks painstakingly draw designs in crushed gems only to sweep them away and return them to a state of emptiness. Song Dong chose to make his Mandala, spiritual symbols of Nirvana, in sauces and spices—these are not foods in and of themselves, but play a supporting role in bringing a dish together. Behind these circles, sharp knives stab into the image from the back, resembling unsightly scaffolding holding up the plane. Each circle is intentionally left with a small piece missing, making the works incomplete while also evoking the beginning of the sweeping process that obliterates the sand mandalas. With a seemingly light touch, the artist has created a metaphor for the subtle connections between art and life.

Liu Jianhua, Untitled 2012, 2012; porcelain installation, 40.5x40.5cmx4.2cm each

Liu Jianhua, Untitled 2012, 2012; porcelain installation, 40.5×40.5cmx4.2cm each

Hong Hao and Liu Jianhua’s works are more conceptual presentations. In Hong Hao’s new work Edged No.2, the artist collects dust in a natural state each day, presenting thoughts on vision through the emergence of forms in the dust. Liu Jianhua’s Untitled 2012 series combines cloudy blue porcelain plates and cobalt glaze, utilizing subtle, intentional differences and contrasts to allude to the possibility of objective evaluation and recognition of things built on the foundation of everyday observation and accumulation. Here, the observation and cognition from everyday life have been deftly transformed into philosophical thinking and metaphor. Fallen Leaves, another porcelain work by Liu Jianhua featured in this exhibition, probes the forms of randomness.

About the exhibition

Dates: 2016.10.01 – 11.12

Venue: Pace Hong Kong

Address: 15C Entertainment Building, 30 Queens Road Central

Courtesy of the artists and Pace Hong Kong, for further information please visit

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