“Only the way accumulates space. Space is the fasting of the heart.” —Zhuangzi
“What is form that is emptiness, what is emptiness that is form.” —Heart Sutra
Pearl Lam Galleries is proud to present Space and Nothingness, a group exhibition by Beijing-based performance and conceptual artist Cang Xin (b. 1967), and landscape painter Pan Jian (b. 1975). The show examines the impact of Eastern philosophy and ink painting tradition on their recent practices, focusing on the meditative qualities of space and emptiness.
Chinese ink painting privileges space like no other artistic tradition. White space is regarded as a void or nothingness, it is composed by the painter’s marks for the viewer’s meditative contemplation. In fact space in itself, the form of nothing, is considered the hallmark of aesthetic elevation. Space is the negative of gesture or human action; it is what has been left behind after the work of restless agitation. Cang and Pan’s contemporary interpretation of traditional painting translates this into the third dimension. Their work takes on the status of “space-nothing”, the negative form of their physical and gestural marks upon the world. While ink painting restricts the articulation of space on paper, the work of these two artists explores the meditative properties of space in the real world.
Pan Jian describes the choice of colour in his paintings as a product of his emotional experience. In the series of works presented in this exhibition his use of somber colours strain the eye and demand close scrutiny, replaying Pan’s physical and mental struggles in visual terms, and claiming the canvases as an instrument of his reality. Only fragments of the sky are visible, a visual relief to the subtle tones of black. The fragments begin to undulate, realising themselves as a form that is pure nothing, a meaningless shadow that is articulated through negation. Blackness starts to expand and engulf the mind, enfolding the viewer in the vertigo of the vacuous that is simultaneously empty and full.
In Cang Xin’s Exotic Flowers and Rare Herbs series, the artist creates strange and fantastic wooden sculptures of defamiliarised trees, flowers, and other natural organisms. Bits of organic material, frequently blackened into the colour of charcoal, accumulate into a strange mass. Like Pan’s dark strokes, Cang’s works evoke a sense of restlessness, seemingly without a goal, merely settling upon the revelation of form that comes out of the accumulation of nothing. The dirty, material world of reality is relieved by Cang’s sculptures: little fragments of sky.
In conjunction with the exhibition opening, Pearl Lam Galleries is organising ‘Cang Xin in conversation with Yin Ker’. The artist will discuss his practice, as well as his place in the international art scene. Themes of discussion will include shamanism, shunyata (void), experimental procedures, and internationalism.