|Artist brief Artist statement Interview Picture Video Book|
Tao - Non Tao
This exhibition is consists of two series of works; Heavenly Ask and Tai Chi Impression. Heavenly Ask was developed from my project Site 2801 exhibited in Crocker Art Museum in 2012. It contains over one hundred Terra Cotta soldiers from two thousands years ago, 4 modern soldiers, three nuclear bombs with three babies inside, and added new elements of white curtain and white rose petals. The elements together formulated into a future archeological scene that calls for our ponderous on our civilization and development.
Tai Chi impression is based on my last exhibition Tai Chi in ink at Sac State Gallery in September 2013, with another part of my ink paintings I did in Tai Chi Mountain China 2013. This series express the Humans°« needs and ideal under the natural circumstance, and Humans°« living in balance and harmonious relationship with our nature. Combining two series Heavenly Ask and Tai Chi impression in one exhibition, I constructed a satirical comedy overarching time and space in order to arouse awareness of our Human Beings°« love to our nature. As an artist with Chinese background, I hope we as Human Beings could ponder on our development and advancement using a primitive philosophy. Universe is born from limitless and is boundless, balance of Yin and Yang, birth and death of all living beings are the natural law. The traditional Chinese ink and Tai Chi is the proper way in depicting the Human Civilization and the world changes from primitive soft nature to a grasping greedily strong power.
We work with being, but non-being is what we use. No one is suppressing another.Gong Yuebin
October 17, 2013.
Tai Chi Impression
Combining Tai Chi and ink in one exhibition, I constructed a satirical comedy overarching time and space in order to arouse awareness of our Human Beings°« love of nature. As an artist with a Chinese background, I hope we as Human Beings could ponder on our development and advancement using a primitive philosophy. Universe is born from the limitless and is boundless; the balance of Yin and Yang, the birth and death of all living beings, are the natural law. The traditional Chinese ink technique and Tai Chi are the proper ways to depict the tragedy of Human Civilization and the world°«s changes from a primitive soft nature to a grasping strong power. We work with being, but non-being is what we use. No one is suppressing another.Gong Yuebin
Along the Yellow River
I was born along theYellow River, and I had a dream to travel from its source someday. The dream was not realized until I left China after living there for 40 years. But I made happened while I am living in Sacramento.
My childhood malnutrition set me a weak physical foundation and my addictive work habits destroyed my health. Without exception, I have suffered from a physical disorder and the vicious circle reformed again as it was a curse after I did the four projects, Life's Crossroad, Black Hole, Nations, and Site 2801. Especially, when the exhibition of my project Site 2801 at Crocker Art Museum was done, my health condition declined to the point that my doctor warned me must stop all the heavy and hard work. For my own health, I decided to travel to challenge my physical body and my art future.
My trip started from Beijing first to Tibet, and last four months passing eight provinces along the Yellow River with whole distance of 5400 kilometers. During the whole trip, I indulged in mother nature and brought myself to deeper thinking. Any modern technology, such as camera, computer, or cell phone were kept far away from me. My drawings became all instant, fresh, and nature; What's the true meaning of the Yellow River as to Chinese? What's the diverse value of Chinese art culture as to the world?
Finally, I found it in my last stop, Tai Chi (Wu Dang) mountain. The Yin and Yang in Tai Chi represent the relationship between Chinese and Yellow River. At same time, it applies to the relationship between the nature and human being. Tai Chi is the perfect example of living and keeping harmony with our planet. Tai Chi is using the nature energy through body and earth. The smoothness, softness, and continuousness are the spirit of the Tai Chi. Tai Chi is not only keeping our body system in balance but also calm our anxious nerve as well.
I hope my understanding and my art language derived from the Tai Chi could leave my audience a dose of wisdom.
Gong Yuebin in March 2013
A moment of the history
Finally, I can do one thing to realize my childhood dream to express
my understanding of life through my artwork.
Among my earliest memories was the hill behind my family
house. On the top of the small hill, I could look over a few other
villages nearby. When night fell, I could see the faint city lights
far away. Whenever it rained, big chunks of soil eroded away so fast
as if the hill was disappearing right in front of my eyes. Other
children would run home. But I always charged up to the top of the
hill and covered the soil with my small body like a brave man,
protecting it from the driving rain. When the rain stopped, I would
look at the soil that had been washed away and cry hard.
The sixteen peach trees in my backyard were my little childhood buddies that gave me comfort and warmth. One day, some people forced their way in and cut down all the peach trees. They said they needed fire wood to make bricks. I cried my heart out an entire day. My mother was so worried that she promised to plant sixteen new peach trees the next spring. When the spring came, we did plant sixteen new peach trees. I made small fences around them and painted great colors on them. I watched the baby peach trees grow and saw them smile. Then I realized that I had grown up and they had turned into children.
Those days, people and their lives were enslaved by ruthless
politics. I remember that there was a stage show one day. When the
kids of the village leaders played on the stage, I hid in a corner
doing sketches. All of a sudden, one of the village leaders came to
me and seized my sketch book, throwing it on the ground. He snarled
at me with hatred, Take a look of yourself in your urine, how dared
you want to draw, a bustard of political dissidents! At that time,
I was only twelve years old. In those old days, hunger, worry, and
humiliation accompanied me. As human beings, my family and I, as
well as others in similar situation, completely lost our dignity and
security, surviving under unbearable pressure and stress even for
animals. On the other hand, some people were put on the pedestal
with unlimited power to destroy others in most inhumane ways. It
seemed that no one think of their behavior and consequence with
clear conscience. Human lives became disposable tools and grease for
the political machine. During such times, for children like me, what
we could and want to do was either rebel and get killed or silently
remember everything with big open eyes and hope for the future.
After I left the village for college and my family
returned to city life, my childhood memory faded gradually. Only in
my dreams, I often went back to my peach orchid and climbed on my
little hill, my childhood life stage. Decades later, I have emerged
from a child struggling for life to an artist enjoying life. Time
has swept away the dust of old memory, the only remaining was my
childhood dream. I often question when life would be freed from
devastating rule and destruction and when life would be able to
return to its nature.
Several thousand years of human history show ruthlessness of
human beings, not only towards its own species but also toward all
forms of life on this planet. The cruelness and remorselessness of
human being have become the irony of human civilization. Reflecting
on the tragedy in history, we learn that violent wars or merciless
rulers eventually are condemned. However, the trauma and loss could
never been remedied. Even today, lives in many countries and areas
are at the edge of being destroyed. Stop all forms of wars. Demand
justice for life. These voices are the cry of six billion people in
the world. I believe that someday humans will apologize for the
lives that have been cut short. The killers will be destroyed by
their own weapon. Love and hate is coexisted. Life and death is
It is easy to express well wishes. It is hard to defeat evil
and crime. If I could, I must use my life to scream, for waking up
the rest of us and for the countless lives already perished. I
believe this is the reason that I keep my memories alive and use art
to realize my childhood dream. Desiring for life was my childhood
dream; exclaiming for life is my art pursuing.
In my first art installation in Sacramento, Life’s Crossroad, I borrowed elements from the natural world and displayed them in an objective documentary style to illustrate relationships in human survival and in the sustainability of natural resources.
In Site 2801, I present an artistic installation representing life's transformation through millennia of human history through the eyes of a future archeologist. My perspectives are critical and satirical. This project hopes to explore crucial questions regarding life, suffering and death. The installation hopes to take the viewer through a journey that crosses time and emotion; and to engage in moral deliberation.
Site 2801 will be constructed with the utilization of 200 replicas of the famous 2000 years-old terracotta warriors excavated from the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, who may then have held the greatest military power in the world. These funerary effigies are divided into four formations, with several warriors among each group holding above their heads a dilapidated nuclear missiles, representing our most advanced modern weapon. Ensconced in these deteriorating weapons of mass destruction will be new born babies, symbol of our world’s future. The viewer/visitor/audience, of course, will be today's concerned individuals, who willingly participate in this visual drama.
White floral petals and a maze of white curtains walls illuminated by ghostly florescent lighting will surround and fill Site 2801. In this macabre setting our historical drama will take place, through enactments of moral contradiction and human tragedies: how we must destroy life to preserve life.
The maze of white curtain walls represents the mysterious and confusing state of human existence. Visitors travel through six feet wide passages draped by 16-feet high white semi-transparent curtained walls. Both sides of the path of the maze are lined with new babies, nuclear bombs, and terracotta warriors – each in its assigned role in this morbid drama.
Visitors walk through the maze passing the exhibit elements and meet the eyes of the new-born babies lying in the blood-stained and corroded nuclear missile casings, the smiling and powerful-looking terracotta soldiers, the moving shadows of people on the other side of the curtains, and the facial expressions of the audience next to them. The participants and the art work interact and form an experiential bond. They engage in a somber reflection on humankind's questionable past, present, and future. One is forced to ponder - What difference is there between justice and cruelty; between righteousness and evil; between barbarism and civilization? What is the rationality of destroying life in the name of saving life?
The dead are history, and what is lost cannot be regained. Only the visitors of this exhibition are alive in the present. Our thoughts and actions will determine the fate of our future. Our mission is to make the right choices. Otherwise, years of tragedies will continue until what was predicted by Einstein becomes reality: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Site 2801 is my effort to provoke viewers to think about war and deliberate their options, for I believe there is still time to make changes.
In my first project, Life's Crossroad, I borrowed relics from a forest fire, and used their remains to evoke analogies with our own human conditions. I wanted the viewer to bear witness, and to ponder shared values related to life and death.
In Site 2801, my second project, the viewer becomes a future archaeologist, and confronts an absurd and satirical juxtaposition of past and future. Terracotta soldiers from China’s First Emperor of the 3rd century BC are discovered in a site with nuclear missiles and modern combat troops. Portrayed in this bleak display are my sentiments on the evolution of 3000 years of human civilization and empire building. Hope fortunately appears in the form of newborn infants, lying within the missiles.
My third project, Black Hole, explores what I perceive to be a phenomenon of our human existence – a vortex that sucks away our humanity and rationality, and throws our world into imbalance and disharmony. I would like to invoke the wisdom of both Aristotle and Laozi and their thoughts on human preservation and sustainability. The viewers of this installation and I can agree that constancy and change are both necessary processes that occur in our lives. I hope to push my own boundaries and search for new visual expression. I hope to create an emotional and thoughtful link between my ideas, my work and the audience.
The structural elements of Black Hole consist of 100 suspended white gauze curtains, each measuring 16 feet high and 6 feet wide. They are hung in formation to allow a central clearing that measures 20 feet in diameter. In the middle of this opening is a 12 foot wide pool of red liquid. In the center of the pool is a sleeping naked infant. In the perimeter of the pool are four giant red search beams, tilted 45 degrees upwards to intersect the center of the pool and reflecting off the sheer white gauze curtains.
The infant at the center of the pool of liquid is the symbolic center of Black Hole. In both civilizations East and West, water is the essence of life – exalted by both the ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers Thales and Laozi respectively. The clear and yielding nature of water should inspire us heaven-wards. The infant represents innocence and hopes of the future. Human ideals should prevail through charity, peace, justice and goodness; and stewardship should mandate cleanliness/purity of our environment in order to nurture life. Instead, our greed, aggression and boundless desires for endless consumption and expansion have laid waste to our once pristine natural world. This is the Black Hole that we ourselves created. Its vortex acts as a giant magnet, into which no resistance is offered in human rationality, natural laws or that of human life. This Black Hole seems to have enslaved our humanity and gained control of our sorry destiny.
Our Black Hole is a giant meat grinder, tearing apart the physical bodies and spiritual souls of countless innocent victims, leaving behind ruination and devastation. Especially frightening is the prospect indicated through a survey of popular toys and games, where most of them involved violent actions against others. The value of such a system of childhood exposure cannot lead to the “path of enlightenment” but only to wanton future destruction. This is the reason I chose to place the infant as focus, since we literally are the guardians of our children and our future.
The environ of Black Hole involves entry into a labyrinth of tall suspended veils of white curtains - representing the original purity, goodness, justice, and peace of human aspirations. The internal passages consist of angular turns, dead-ends and walk-throughs. The viewer travels forward quietly into the installation, he hears murmuring whispers from other travelers. As he approached the largely hidden pool, his body is struck by the red beams of the lights, ricocheting red shadows and reflections, turning the surrounding white curtains an ominous blood-like glow! Confronted with the infant surround by a bloody Black Hole, a viewer cannot help but wonder – How did a child leave the loving arms of its mother and ended up forlornly here?
The viewer becomes part of the artwork after the travel-through; he is now symbolically a victim of the Black Hole. He has borne witness to its allure and distortions. After this experience, I urge the viewers to reflect on the original nature of our human kind, and to ponder on our world circumstances. Is it possible to restore reasonable order and world balance? Can we return to the Daoist principle of “Man is grounded (on the laws) on Earth, Earth is grounded in Heaven, Heaven is grounded on the Dao, and the Dao is grounded on Self-Actualization?” Should we not take heed of the wise words attributed to Aristotle: “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god”, or “Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all”?
Gong Yuebin wrote in Gong Studio in Sacramento California March 30, 2011
|NATIONS: Homage to Driftwoods|
I owe much gratitude to the driftwoods I collected off the Pacific Northwest coast. Their weathered bodies were like scattered white bones among the shore debris; their eyes staring with flickering life. Their pleas for attention touched my heart. As I embrace their decomposed and unique bodies - each shaped by the churning and erosion of sun, wind, waves and sand - I marvel at their endurance of harsh conditions. While their frail remains appear now to lack weight and substance, they reveal toughness in character in the adversities of time and change. Each piece conveys a vital history of its past - home of origin, background and upbringing, heritage, life encounters, and ultimately – death and demise. They were all, at one time, citizens of Nations. I am compelled to breathe life back into them through my art. This installation is my homage to them; may they find a renewed sense of order and belonging.
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