Water from Water immerses in two metaphysical narratives. The exhibition explores pictorial and sculptural vocabularies of surface aesthetic and paradox to create visual conditions that both engage and divert meaning. At its liberating core, the exhibition title refers to a definition of volume and density as an expression of frameworks towards multiple constructions; emphasizing nuances of an applied prowess which sets up a form in a constant flux and changing dynamics. There is also a focus on medium itself and its particular specificity in an oscillation between two-dimensional, three-dimensional and beyond-dimensional languages. Hence, the nature of water acts as a background for the exhibition, where its element is accentuated on the sculpturing elaboration of line, composition, and shape as well as being part of an essential tool of fluid in fulfilling the rigorous creation of image-based works.
Zheng Lu has come to prominence in recent years with his stainless steel sculptures that shimmer with a remarkable energy. They are seamless in finish and precise in their attention to detail, subjecting them to characterizations and shifts in references that make them at once familiar and abstract to the eye. The artist utilizes industrialized fabrication and strategies of textual schemes in the direct workings of his sculptural pieces. Unapologetic in his sensibility towards classical literature, poems and prose - Zheng Lu came from a literati family filled with deep traditional Chinese intellectual background - the artist works with a ready source of literary compositions and through methods of incisional imprints of selected texts onto appropriated subject matters, the sculptures possess a tactility and striking physicality that expose the process of their creation. Often situated directly on the gallery floor, protruding out of or leaning up against the wall, the delicate forms are deceptively casual in their placement.
Also significant in the artist’s recent practice is the attention paid to assembly and occupation of the exhibition space, their nature and relationships between transparent, reflection and opacity, so they can be witnessed and experienced. Sculptures offer Zheng Lu a medium that has the quality of being both elusive and effervescent while aggressively pervading an environment with its message. Such inclinations are present once again in this exhibition, as exemplified in a large-scale installation, specifically contrived by the artist for his solo exhibition.
Zheng Lu will also debut a new series of metallic panels alongside variations of his ongoing sculpture series, Water in Dripping. The artist appropriates a poem, 玩止水 (“Playing with Water”), composed by Pai Chu-I (Bai Juyi), a renowned poet of the Tang Dynasty as the basis of the textual component in this series. Water is an essential element whose significance is unquestionable in human experience. Embedded within the sculptural volume, there lies the chosen poem that speaks of a symbolic voyage of nature and mobility. Water in Dripping continues the use, the meaning and emotional value of text and visual whose static and dynamic existence and emptiness recur in most of his artworks.
Suspended in mid-air, Water in Dripping No. 10 inhabits the gallery in a state of perpetual swash-like gesticulation, composed of bulky formations and scattered pieces of tiny fragments as liquid drops, activating a ceaseless renewal that is organic, as if waves of poetry in motion. Just like the dense woods one can get lost in, the voluminous effect functions as an epic journey – both a physical adventure in the monumental structure and a spatial enclosure where visitors can roam freely underneath the installation and thereby heighten their perception of space and interact with it. This is a territory of tension where depth competes with the surface, a density is complemented by a sense of void, and the textual element is constantly challenged by a dominant exteriority. Zheng Lu takes us into a realm where the cultural, natural and formal narratives are being redefined and shifted - metaphoric and insistent in its emotional presence.
Throughout much of his career, Zheng Lu has been notable for his meticulously crafted sculptures. However, the artist’s new creative endeavors are marked by a distinctly different tone, derived from his exploration of the potential of the medium for image-based language.
The point of departure for this project, Image Polishing, is the compilation of pictures the artist regularly gathered and downloaded from an online forum named “Cao Liu Community”, known for its updated information and discourses on hard-hitting news across China. More often than before, the web of violence of our era, an awkward reminder of the present and the mass media that represented it inundate us. For the artist, how do we react to these pictures? What feeling arises amongst them?
The artist selects and seeks to paint chosen images on aluminum panels, an average of 6-7 stacked images successively produced on each board. Upon which, the panel is then polished with sandpaper and angle grinder every time an image is completed. In this arduous composition and repetition of timeless image of eternal histories, the work can be taken in as a convergence of various events, a closed cosmos of landscapes, voices and people. The artist explores the existence of multiple realities, the operation of human memory and time-space relationships, marking out metaphors of place and incident, based on resemblance as well as disappearance and transcendence. Throughout the process, Image Polishing, as the series is aptly titled, becomes a painterly experiment of circuitous protocols, laborious procedures, extending methods of representation and display.
Art seeks diverse ways of understanding reality. Image invokes meaning as a sense of the real. Where image and reality meet is where the imagination is unlocked. Image Polishing is a visual experience, but certainly a mental one too – a confrontation with the notion of the ‘invisible’ image as the backdrop to a society that writes and rewrites itself.
Press release courtesy Shanghai Gallery of Art.