Two Feet, One Life_Chen Nong Photography Exhibition Opening: 2018.03.31 / 16:00 - 18:00
Duration: 2018.03.31-05.11 / 10:00 - 18:00
Venue: OFOTO Gallery. 2F, Building 13, 50 Moganshan Rd., Shanghai
Inscription: “Bored with the floating light, I found eternity in darkness and obscure.”
— Black Ink
Two feet, One life
Essay: Chen Haiyan
It was after March, in the Spring of 2016, when he exhibited his first series of Silk Road, Chen Nong disappeared for almost two years. Then brushing away the dust he calmly turned back with the second and the third series. “Will there be sequel?” I pumped out. “Sure!” He answered.
Certainly, I will keep “taking care” of it, travel back to the old scenery in my mind. Like the Journey to the West of Monk Xuanzang, the Buddhism’s preach to the East and the fading images of the old silk road, he conducted the voyage with a stick and straw shoes. The appearance and disappearance worshiped by the ancient people provided metaphor for Chen Nong in his criticism and praises in his works. Both take each other as mirror.
In these two years, we still led an ordinary life. Art only came after occasional tea time, showing off and banquet, to decorate the vulgar soul. However, most of the time art is to cover the loneliness with different coating. Although life often seems to bear a van-glory, it is haunted by fear. Life is no more than a form of fiction and reality, sometimes joyful, sometimes sorrowful, sometimes angry, sometimes obsessive, or sometimes turns into an impulsive journey and then allows us to sit in the ruins of our glamorous life with dreams, views and pleasure. The same goes to the personage pictured in those magical works. They are silent and numb, making you feel like that they are a group of sleepwalkers. Floating and scattered past and rough present has intensified the disorderly anxiety. Time gradually heals wounds of spirit and physical body, while at the same time consumes something unclear. “In the past two years, what you were doing besides photographing?” I was up to no good. Then Chen Nong, with his familiar naive smile, answered；“Copying the Dunhuang murals, sticking them on my walls, making my home a grotto. What a joy, when drinking bear in it!”. “With copies?” I jeered. The iron bars of the mind can seal all the windows.
No doubt that the artist should have unusual “lovely” characteristics compared to ordinary people. This “loveliness” is fission of spirit honed by complex roughness, growing, in a spiral line, from down-to-earth life, gene of mind and the pursuit of the belief! It’s not what everyone could easily have. In 2015, Chen Nong fostered his creation in the Mogao Grottoes for six months and finished the series of Silk Road I. During the following years, he must go to Dunhuang to meditate and imitate in each cave for three days. He meant to immerse himself into vicissitudes of life, imitate the timeless totems from gods and chase the spiritual belief that can never be castrated. Like religion to mankind, art to history of Thought is always a pioneer consciousness. I see a glimmer leaking from his works, when reaching the border, light forms his world.
Obviously, compared to the series Silk Road I, Chen Nong has abandoned the old “play” what he is good at and did before. (I used the title of A PLAY IN A PLAY before), which could be a representation of the maximization of his photographic style. If the creation of the second series still shows his desires to direct in telling the story; then, Chen Nong's sense of drama allegory, sense of grand narrative and sense of group portraying all gradually fade consciously in the third series created in 2017. He even threw away the planned mature sketches (Chen Nong has the habit of drawing split shots), put aside the presupposed characters, the presupposition of scenes, and props making... such complex film production routines became less important and necessary to him, as well as the large format camera. He started to use the handy120 film camera; he was also fascinated by the expired film, the strength of scratches and perforations caused by the vicissitudes...... Chen Nong, who paid much attention to the form and ceremony of photography, entered a turning point in the new Silk Road series. I am therefore worried, but at the same time delighted. Because for the artist who has already possessed his style, the quality of his series works depends on the enhancement of personal characteristics. But duplication and repetition could weaken one’s personal style, or make imagination barren and stagnate. Thus, there must also lie some kind of danger. However, my anxieties are clearly superfluous. Series works certainly are another sutra of gaining, practicing and refining. While entering the barren old cities again and again, Chen Nong, with the exposure of time and imaginative images, tried to connect the past and present, history and reality. The names of the ancient Silk Road are still in the historic memories, but they are gradually desolating in the real space, as well as the faith of life.
Whether it is continuous allegorical in the second series, or more and more individually realistic in the third series, Chen Nong uses settings, numerous darkroom processes and pigmented photographs as his vocabulary to show us piece by piece the stills, the snapshots and representation. They look like an insistent question rather than old photographs, dreams and delineations! What I want to say is that a faithful contribution is better than any speech or conduct and it can never be abandoned. Because life is sometimes cruel. We still have permanent confusions, but we possess in this life only two bare feet.
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(Translate by Claire）