"In Oblivion" Zheng Yisheng Art Exhibition
City: Beijing
Curator: Rebecca Ren
Duration: 2010-04-07 ~ 2010-04-07
Venue: 4th Floor of the Westin Beijing Hotel, No.1 Xinyuan Nan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Participating Artist(s): Zheng Yisheng

Zheng Yisheng: A Glance at the Passing of the World

By Lei, Chak Man

Looking at Zheng Yisheng’s work, one cannot help but to be reminded of a particular character of Italian modernity, of the futurist Giacomo Balla and Umberto Boccioni. If asked to think of a work that carries resemblance or possible historical lineage to Zheng’s elongated sculptures, the most immediate that comes to mind (aside from the obvious choices of works by Alberto Giacometti and the Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp) is Boccioni’s epoch-defining bronze sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). This sculpture depicts a moving “synthetic” figure cast in flame-like geometric forms, striding forward with a seemingly robust supply of muscular energy. In fact, the similarity between Boccioni and Zheng does not exist only on a stylistic ground; in a very uncanny way, one can see another affinity between the two artists—that is, the considerations of time and speed as embodied in works of art.

Boccioni’s forward-striding figure and Zheng’s elongated bronze “buildings,” such as The Construction (建筑 2006-09), Meridian Gate (午门 2006-09), Front Gate (前门 2006-09), and Archery Tower (箭楼 2006-09), are portrayals of a retinal moment frozen in time. Zheng has once described his interest in the concept of time in his work as coming from his use of photography. At times, he would ride along in a vehicle to take snapshots of moving sceneries. The simple gesture of opening and closing the camera shutter with the push of a button is to suggest that a site-specific, situated moment is captured and translated into another format of presentation through chemo-mechanical means. For Zheng, this “translation” continues when the developed images are used again as templates for the production of architectural objects with fictitious perspectives and surreal dimensions. In one sense, these architectural forms are made “authentically inauthentic”—as digital photographic data, the information is transmitted into an actual spatial object that can be touched and measured. These architectural forms are cast in solid bronze that occupy, once again, the dimension of physical space through the means of stretching, pulling, extending, and lengthening. It is almost as if Zheng is interested in turning a transient moment into something that can last through time.

No doubt Boccioni was influenced by the use of photography, especially by how the use of a camera and the stitching together of synthetic negative film frames can capture what the naked eye cannot see (here, we are reminded of the galloping question solved by Eadweard Muybridge). But it is a drastically different situation for Zheng, for his fascination with photography rests primarily on the retinal gaze of the image and of the surface, and how they (i.e. the imperial monuments)—as moments of the everyday—become exaggerated and turned expressive. It is as if all that he sees, like a photograph taken at night with shaken hands, are just the passing moments of a world in the gestural guise of a Richteresque blur, a solid moment frozen in bronze of a graffiti made with a fluid sketch of light.


[Editor] Elemy Liu