A Cosmos up the Sleeve — A Preliminary Survey of Cong Yun Feng’s New Works
Heaven and earth exit because of nature, and everything exists between heaven and earth. Nature encompasses everything,and is thus given the name of heaven and earth. The space between heaven and earth is where all things exist naturally. Yang refers to the ascending, and yin the descending. Earth has geographical forms, and heaven present scelestial composition. Evaporation forms the rain, and dissipation thewind. Heat leads to fire, and condensation freezes into ice. Solid forms arerocks, celestial images arestars. The beginning of the day is morning, and the darkening of it night. The outflow of water forms rivers, and the backflow creates deep pools. Flat landsare called plains, and high-rising lands mountains… Nature is one, and all things follow the permanent rule of nature. Enclosure creates the invisible, and exposure makes the visible. The thriving and declining of qi (air) only produces changes rather than damages. –RuanJi
Inan early stage, the development of Eastern aesthetics has already incorporated human being’s curiosity and exploration of the infinitenature and the relationship between humanity and the cosmic creation. In particular, since Wei and Jin dynasties, intellectuals commonly believed that the qi (air) between heaven and earth was the primary element that formed everything in the world as well as the dominant agent that caused the changes in all things and propelled human being’s spirit, which consequentlyled to the creation of art and literature. Such aesthetic thinking has influenced later artistic and cultural works and critical theories evenuntil today.
As a Chinese contemporary artist born in the 1990s and returned to his homeland after studying abroad, Cong Yun Feng clearly has sufficient knowledge and graspof this aesthetic tradition, and strives to surpass existing understandings of media and their limits. On the one hand, he combines traditional ink art withthe digital signals of 0 and1 to strategically create repeated layers that delineate the traditional ink motif of monumental landscape. On the other hand,he employs the Western classical painting technique of tempera to create aunique contemporary cultural tapestry woven with the splendid Middle Easterntotemic patterns and the common images found in traditional Chinesebird-and-flower paintings, rendering the two interacting and inter-referencing.
In a way, the ingenious use of both creative approaches, which seem utterly different, reminds people of the German contemporary artist, Gerhard Richter. The artist employs a large number of multifaceted works – or the seeming opposition between abstract painting and photorealistic painting –to introducea dialectics between painting and photography that is now rendered more complicated in this era while demonstrating his efforts in unveiling anotherkind of “truth.” Similarly, Cong’s pursuit does not only lie inthe intriguing visual effect realized by his painting. His goal is to discuss how the aesthetic experience is constructed and what causes its changes in this digital era, all of which is reminiscent of an archaeological excavation.
Good Heaven and Earth - Cong Yun Feng Solo Exhibition reveals a juxtaposition of dissimilar works, ingeniously creating an interesting scene of visual illusion. As viewers read into Cong’s worksthat are inspired by and responses to the fundamental concept of I-Ching, which dictates that Qian (heaven) and Kun (earth) create everything in the cosmos, they are simultaneously immersed in a world filled with images and layers, and consequently prompted to think about what reality really is inthis digital age when anything can be possible as well as virtual.
For instance, one of the larger tempera work featured in this exhibition, entitled Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Sunrise, draws inspiration from the work of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who states in the work, “God is dead, and the Superman (übermensch) is born.” As a matter of fact,the Superman does not refer to the hero that saves the world, as the general public might have imagined, but refers to a concept closer to attaining Buddhahood in Eastern philosophy—the awakening of one’s inner awareness that enables one’s mind to transcend the confinement of the secular world and to grow and improve. Correspondingly, although the title has the word “sunrise,” the image reveals a twilight moment when it is still difficult to differentiate sky and earth, employing the expansive, embracing night to beck on at the upcoming sun, and more importantly, to encourage there discovery of the fading humanistic spirit in this digital age.