ShanghART Gallery 香格纳画廊
Home | Exhibitions | Artists | Research | Press | Shop | Space

Glass Experimentation Notes 2023-2024

Author: Liang Shaoji Translator: Xiao Shui 2024

Experimentation is the driver of creation.

Artists explore new materials not merely to delve into new artistic forms and languages but to curiously gaze at the world, experience everything, and discover its potential—new possibilities within meditation and creation. When it is no longer a 'thing,' transforming into an 'instrument' and then elevating to the realm of 'Tao,' self-liberation is achieved.

Light is the phantasmagoria of life, time, existence, history, society, Nirvana, and the coexistence of fusion and melt. In the journey of understanding the 'Way of Light,' the silk light and the glass light meet.

Glass is the vessel of light.
Light shapes into a photosensitive instrument—a meter for measuring the universe of heaven, earth, man, and gods. It flows infinitely, and permeates the vast cosmos, omnipresent, omnipotent.

'Weaving' is one of my instruments for touching the world. The primitive, rooted nature of folk weaving and the three principles of 'soft sculpture' advocated by my mentor Maryn Varbanov—'material, space, and concept'—opened up my artistic perspective, nurturing my 'artistic latitude.' In 1986, when creating the wall hanging 'The Art of War,' I envisioned battle formations as a form of weaving. In 1989, inspired by the birth of Dolly the sheep, I conducted sericulture experiments, focusing on the 'living weaving' of organic fibres. Today, in the glass experiment of 'Phantasmagoria,' I view the opposition and coexistence of water and fire as the weaving of natural elements and the traces of light. Broadly speaking, I believe the essence of weaving refers to a kind of interactive relationship, an order and arrangement, a framework of mutual influence, and a perpetual cycle of movement. Light, like the fairies dancing on a weaving table, vibrates, flutters, and intertwines, in a trance.

The skin is the externalization of internal life. If silkworm cocoon sheets are the skin of life, then glass can be considered the 'skin of the city.'

Transforming inorganic into organic, turning the non-craft into craft, this transformation fundamentally stems from the artist's self-awareness—an awakening to the Buddha-nature inherent in all things.

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben said, the 'darkness' is 'the light that has tried to approach us but has not arrived yet.'—To see the tiny is to know the vast.

Glass is neither liquid nor solid, nor is it gaseous; it belongs to the fourth state, indicating its mysterious nature—I call it 'phantasmagoria.' Melting water and fire, opposing and generating, produce a myriad of forms. Both illusion and reality, from illusion to reality, from illusion springs light, and from light emerges illusion.

Silk and glass sing different poems from distant horizons. Silk light, like the brightness in the depths of the wilderness—home; glass light, like meteors streaking across the sky—future. Between heaven and earth, they join hands to paint a brilliant 'circular (meta) universe.'

The last hexagram in the 'I Ching,' the sixty-fourth hexagram, is called '未济' ('Before Completion'). '未济' with 'Kan' below and 'Li' above—Li representing fire and Kan representing water—it metaphorically speaks of the failure to cross the river, illustrating the principle of 'succession of events cannot come to an end.'

'Displaced Pillars of Heaven' is derived from the desire to see the world through a magical mirror, guiding me into the space of 'silicon.' However, creating a crystal sphere with a diameter of 8 meters is almost impossible, considering the casting equipment and annealing process required. Just as I hesitated, an exquisite phrase came to mind—'water mirror.' Water is transparent and clear like glass, yet it holds a sacred quality, appreciated in Eastern aesthetics. Moreover, the glassmaking process undergoes a liquid state, thus water and glass can form a union, achieving heterogeneous isomorphism... Therefore, I decided to construct a massive pool in the exhibition hall, immersing the pillars into the pool. The curved walls of the circular pool formed a giant convex lens. Due to light refraction, the pillars in the water became displaced, deformed, toppled, fractured, and hovered. The metal remnants of the pillars’ base resemble claws, evoking thoughts of the mythical creatures in ancient Chinese legend 'Classic of Mountains and Seas' ('Shan Hai Jing') that carry the blue sky on their backs and the story of Mount Buzhou. Thus, the ground-floor exhibition hall is immersed in the illusion of a water mirror, where the heavens meet the earth, and ripples dance upon the water's surface. It exudes a surreal, metaphysical ambiance, a vast sense of life where the organic and the inorganic harmonize in symphonic resonance.

Planar Tunnel
In 2023, the 'Planar Tunnel' trilogy was created. Firstly, delicate silk cocoon circular pieces were displayed next to the 'garment of plain silk gauze' (excavated relics from the Mawangdui Han Tombs) at the Hunan Museum. Subsequently, it made its appearance across the Pacific at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. At the year's end, I crafted the ultra-thin shards of high-tech manufactured phone screens into circular cast glass crystals. Its surface bears two fragmented imprints: human skin and photolithographic networks.

Ice Bed
During the pandemic, the profound experiences of mortality have deepened my understanding of the character of glass—cold, fragile, and enchanting. The 'bed' created with silk is filled with a tender sense of nature and humanity, a testament to existence. The 'silk traces' within the glass-made ice bed represent virtual lives—trails of silicon's molten movement. Are they remnants of the ancient Ice Age or pointers toward the future or present?

The deep recesses of the exhibition hall were once the old workshop for manufacturing artificial gems and transistors. In front of the ruins, memories of my youth surged... Thus, adapting to the situation, I conceived this work. I cast a pile of deformed furnaces, collapsed furnace walls, and furnace gods using religiously colored glass...

Magical Metropolis
The old Shanghai charm of Paris of the Orient, where champagne and fine wine drip into roses.

Black Forest
Ascending the stairs to the second floor, people couldn't help but be amazed by the 'Black Forest'—black glass arranged in a tree-like pattern on the exhibition hall pillars. The towering buildings of the urban forest and the continuous glass curtain walls have destroyed the city's ecological environment, causing serious light pollution and devouring sunlight. The flowing patterns on the walls resemble mist, akin to an unfathomable black abyss. As people's retinas gradually adjust to the environment, seeking an escape route, they discover across from them, on the cross symbol, an '8' composed of optical fibres, flickering with green light. This '8' symbolizes infinite reincarnation, a microscopic marvel of the silkworm's spinning motion, echoing the ground-floor exhibition hall's 'Divine Hollow' (silkworm silk gland) and extending into the space of 'Rearview'...

This is the silent scene of car crashes, resembling a solemn ceremony of volcanoes and glaciers. Amidst the blackened ruins, lingers a faint trace of the vibrant urban night sky. A burning luxury car, a vehicle swerving around bends, a speeding car crashing through walls, and a reckless motorcycle speeding away... collide with each other. Rearview mirrors hang high on pillars, walls, and scatter on the ground, all bearing witness to the horrific scene that just occurred. The charred metal bodies of the cars are adorned with glass ice pillars and a gel-like substance resembling silkworm gland secretions. Intersecting glass fractures are like torn webs, enveloping the vehicles... In fact, these broken glass ice pillars are a reflection of the present reality. Reflecting on human civilization, I feel deeply concerned. Rapid urbanization, and obsession with the virtual world, have constructed a mirage. Countless historical facts of speeding and overloading have made the Earth unbearable. The terrifying rumors of doomsday, the fate of life and death rest on a single thought. The large-scale installation 'Rearview,' utilizing glass and metal as comprehensive media, stands as a cautionary tale. To encourage deeper contemplation, I withdrew the original plan's glass-cracking sounds and collision recordings.

'Annealing' has always been seen as an indispensable step in the glass production process—a technique to eliminate residual thermal stress within glass by heating, insulating, slow cooling, and rapid cooling, stabilizing internal structures and increasing mechanical strength, otherwise, it may explode and shatter. However, the creation of 'Rearview' goes against this grain. Based on profound insights and meditation on the 'annealing' process, through persistent and daring experiments, I converted 'counter-craft' into a legitimate reason for both the theme of art and the formation of the art. I directly poured molten glass onto metal plates, stacking, dripping, pulling, and stretching. The traces of two materials exploding and burning to destruction inscribe a thought-provoking allegory: through the process of glass annealing, I've come to comprehend the essential path for humanity to dispel illusions and establish a harmonious gravitational field.

A towering, rust-covered FAW Jiefang truck cab looms amidst the withered grass outside the exhibition hall. It stands as a witness to China's journey through storm and sunshine in its construction endeavors. Its windows and seats are piled and draped with shattered glass, resembling a pitfall inlaid with glass. Construction and destruction, tranquility and distress, brilliance and ecological crisis coexist... At dusk, the inner wall of the abandoned cab gradually reveals a masterpiece of Chinese landscape painting—'Travelers Among Mountains and Streams.' I call it 'Dream Landscape.' Day after day, we yearn for the return of the natural gods of the Chinese people.

Related Artists:


© Copyright ShanghART Gallery 1996-2024

沪公网安备 31010402001234号