Capsule Shanghai is honoured to present artist Kong Lingnan's first solo exhibition at the gallery: Shepherding Fish, showing new paintings and drawings from the last two years. This series of work is largely inspired by descriptions of different stages of elemental transmutation found in alchemy, as well as Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's analysis of the human psyche's internal integrative processes, metaphorically based upon alchemy. In her paintings, Kong Lingnan transforms a silent vision of the outside world into an introspective practice that brings the ego and the unconscious together. The exhibition is on view at Capsule Shanghai from 26 February–2 April 2022.
Only when the water is deep enough can she see Him. He is deeper than the abyss of chaos and His dark scales cast myriad illusions on the water, bewildering her while seducing her with His splendour. With every sway of His fins the scenery changes, pushing her to the brink of dazzlement. It didn't take her long to realise that He is her reflection in the water. As He hid in the coral temple, He used her voice to ask: 'Is it capricious to long for beauty as harmonious as a mathematical formula?' She used His voice to respond, 'You will experience many different colours.'
She is a fish as bright as a shining light. She can also imagine that she is an eye on the shore, keeping a close watch on His and her movements on the surface of the abyss. If she doesn't set Him free, He will trap her all the more; He constantly wants to summon her, yet He can only wait for her. In the mysterious and watery depths in which He dwells, limitlessly expanding thoughts flood forth, yet she shall not cast light upon Him—she must instead depend upon Him to cast away the physical body's hermetic seal and escape the captivity of matter. 'Will the entanglement of mutually repellant things ultimately tend to perfection?' The water isn't willing to keep quiet and won't connect the two banks either.
The water flowed into the flask; her fish sometimes shrunk into a dot, bursting out lengthy tentacles in chaos. Sometimes it dissolved into a thread, revealing its arteries and veins within a state of incompletion. As soon as she was able to distinguish one from another within the heated prima materia, her eyes were all the more exempt from following such steps. Calcination: both the upper and lower eyelashes are flames. Fermentation: the liquid from the pit of the eyeballs spits forth halos. Lengthy waiting is necessary between two blinks of an eye. One layer of colour dries and another layer is added on top—sometimes like a hard and shiny mineral surface, and sometimes like smooth fat. The painter observes these slow transformations and must complete a similar process within the Self until colours are no longer in conflict, until water embraces fire and mercury embraces sulphur. Only once the stars are in the right phases can she and He form a perfect circumference, entering into the Earth's rotation.
She could make out the river's two banks within the bright smoke that poured out of the flask: this conjunction was but a repeated loss. The Philosopher's Stone appeared like a rainbow in the network of waters; closer than a bubble yet farther than a star, it is deep and fleeting like the experience of awakening, making the labyrinth of her soul tirelessly unfold lively sceneries. In the volcano's throat, in the Holestone, she always encountered the circumference's reappearance, and yet sometimes it only revealed fragments of arcs. Amongst faintly rolling hills, within fogged-in stars' sharp edges, when she opened the window of the island inn to stare at the ocean, the arcs were also His dark head-to-toe scales.
She remembered that the card that she turned over in the inn, Two of Cups: the relationship between the two parties progresses, yet you must read it within a broader tarot spread. Long, long ago, from a place far beyond the heavens, she watched the correspondences of the light above and the light below: she saw the futile struggles of living things and under her foot was illusiveness of stability. And not long thereafter, she was completely aware that she wanted to master alchemy within her own body. Her voice and His voice echoed within the circle, describing the steps the Great Work must achieve: blackening, whitening and then finally reddening as if a paintbrush had scraped through the firmament—and you will see her glimmering on the edge.
Text: Shen Boliang
Translated by: Adam Dehmohseni
Press release courtesy Capsule Shanghai.
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