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Forward of Everything Illuminates

Author: Mimi Chun Sep,2013

From the birth of ruined cityscapes to the infinite fluidity of existence, Jiang Pengyi has sought to illumine the essence of all things in his art. It is an essence that emerges in the suspension of external meaning; it is an intrinsic mirror of the subject that shines through the photographic lens.

The impact of rapid urbanization in China and the artist’s apprehension about the subject underline Jiang’s early works, All Back to Dust (2006 - 2007) and Unregistered City (2008 - 2010). While reality appears distorted through the digital manipulation of visuals – the skyscrapers sprouting amid ruins in the countryside, on the street, or in a broken bathtub – the distortion is essentially the viewer’s interpretation. The crumbling cityscapes are the reality of Jiang’s homeland and his inner reflection, and they are depicted in contrasting compositions and subtle lighting that unveil the nullity of human constructs. The concepts of civilization and progress, which inform the physical backdrop of Jiang’s early works, are shattered in these creations of demolition.

The manifestation of destruction is neither a nihilist streak nor a melancholy response to the outside world from the artist. Rather, it is a zenic understanding by which Jiang takes his audience beyond the erraticism of the material world. “[As in] the view of sacred text in Buddhism: the colossal and external objects are composed by numerous micro particles. In fact, they are all just piles of dust,” Jiang writes in his artist statement for All Back to Dust. The relationship between human activity and one’s physical settings is yet another construct, as the monuments of daily life are altered in the quietly theatrical series, The Private Goods Belonged To Somebody (2008 ).

Jiang’s photographic language makes a marked shift from the macro view of urban spaces and digital manipulation to an introspective, micro view of inanimate objects in his more recent works. Everything Illuminates (2011 - 2012) reveals the intrinsic light that exists in any found object. He takes his photographic exploration further in The Suspended Moment (2013). Once a source of life for the city, the frozen reservoir becomes an abstract entity that illuminates the minute, insignificant threads of human existence. These threads are forever in flux as they flow across our earthly realm, their movement captured in still photos that embody the passage of time.

In the suspended moment, there is no distinction between what’s thought and what’s seen, when the inner realm is born unto images that reflect the essence of one’s self 1. In his photography, Jiang gives existence and light to the unseen by illuminating what he sees.

Mimi Chun
Blindspot Gallery Director
September 2013

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Everything Illuminates


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