Blurred Realities – Reflections on the Past
Cheng Guang’s bright-coloured and often out-of-focus paintings represent the mature and very personal style of an artist who has addressed many topics in many different styles over the past years. Throughout his oeuvre, the artist has aimed to convey his very own questions and reflections on the past – on his own personal life and on the history of China. The viewer can see that in many ways, his works aligns with philosopher Paul Tillich’s opinion that “all that the art presents is related to me.”
From his early work such as The Portrait of a Kindergarten (2001) through his more recent works reflecting upon morality as in Farewell to Worship (2002) and the series of portraits of the happy and proud revolutionary family named Luck (2003), it becomes evident that Cheng Guang is telling a story – not only his personal life story – but also one of human nature and society. The later work Dismantle Document (2003) is one of the most powerful examples of the artist’s expression of his views and understanding of today’s culture.
Cheng Guang’s steady artistic evolvement can be traced throughout his career: from his early days at the art academy and his year-long continuous experimenting in various media and techniques to his current mature way of expressing himself in paintings and installations. Drawing on his memories and perfecting his painting techniques have allowed his style to mature and to enable the artist to fully express himself on issues dear to him: his personal past and the history of his homeland. He does, however, not limit himself to dealing with the past, yet his works clearly reflect his feelings of responsibility towards current issues and to the future.
His series Luck focuses on his recollections of past, while his more recent series Singing Paradise (2005), takes the viewer on an evocative psychological journey of recent events and experiences through his unique choice of bright colours and blurred boundaries. The generation that has participated in the upheavals of China’s recent history and who have experienced the many trials and changes of the last decades are the ones who can fully relate to the emotional context that his oeuvre conveys. Cheng Guang’s out-of-focus visual effect is intended to evoke uncertainty in the viewer and demonstrate that the true experiences of this generation can never be fully accounted for. These memories and experiences occupy an empty, blurry place in their souls.
The artist and his contemporaries have experienced a time where China has undergone radical changes. These changes have influenced and shaped their understanding of the world before they were mature enough to form their own personal view of life and the world they live in. Regardless of their social background or education – they all experienced countless movements of destruction and renewal in the recent history of China, and for Cheng Guang, this resulted in an indistinct and sceptical attitude towards absolute identities and clear-cut realities. After much consideration, Cheng Guang’s assessments of these times have taken on this blurred and out-of-focus expression in his works. Although it may be interpreted or criticized as refusing to offer any conclusion or personal point of view, one might also consider this as a deliberate intentional form of expression on the part of the artist. He is by no means indifferent to what he witnessed and experienced. By being both an artist and eyewitness to this generation, Cheng Guang’s desire to comment on this particular period of Chinese history will continue to evolve and find expression through his art.
Born in the 1970’s, Cheng Guang is part of a special generation whose younger years were strongly influenced by the many changes taking place around them. Although the artist insists on not limiting his art to generational issues, his works nevertheless does represent the very special topic that other artists of his generation have made and the role the 70’s generation has played in current Chinese society. Being led by moral principles of passion and honesty, Cheng Guang’s thoughts and art are characterized by a clear vision with no desire to escape reality. Personal experiences of these turbulent times have deeply affected Cheng Guang and have strengthened his dedication to address current issues and a truthful portrayal of reality as seen through an artist’s eyes as well as pursuing an investigation of the past. This ongoing process of reflection and questioning is what passionately drives Cheng Guang to transfer his innermost emotions onto the canvas. What immediately strikes viewers when looking at his paintings and installation is his vivid and ironical use of colour and noise and the powerful impression of a strong positive energy. Within these fanciful expressions of memory, Cheng Guang‘s search for his roots reveals a complex mixture of an attraction to and a rejection of the past. This absence of a straightforward answer lies at the root of the question which Cheng Guang’s oeuvre continues to raise, “What IS today’s reality?”
Curator and Art Director of Huan Tie Art Museum, Beijing
Every generation faces hardships and challenges and all have to find different means of coming to terms with these experiences – some like Cheng Guang revert to realism or sarcasm. He has found a contemporary, pixel-oriental pictorial language to portray the incidents and experiences from the past, which have firmly embedded themselves in his memory.
Cheng Guang’s paintings are retrospective illustrations connecting personal experiences with historic events. The bright colours and the animated yet blurry motifs are characteristic elements for the artist’s pursuit of reinventing propaganda in search of the true underlying values hailed in well-known pictures, which form the basis for his paintings.