Somewhere Within the Distance - Xu Chenyang Solo Exhibition



Han Qi

The sense of distance plays a subtle role in Chen Yang's works. It can be the structure of aerial perspective, as well as an incarnation of courtesy. The peculiar spacial interrelation between the main subject and the background turns his paintings into a massive carrier of artistic conception and philosophical meanings. Through the brush and canvas Chen Yang comforts many of us who have been wandering in nostalgia over the years.


By making the erratic sense of distance Chen Yang not only sets up technical obstacles in finishing the picture, but also brings about some humanistic care. And, of course, the vast and mottled background is not merely the visualized rituality of the personal painting language, although rituals and festivals can enlarge our life experience. The sense of distance is the surest way of feeling himself and his artistic creation.


You will find yourself standing somewhere within the distance. The antinomy of the space rescued the background from being covered completely, which avoided its sense of loss and alienation due to the negative coverage. Then, Chen Yang migrates the background from the constraint of the whole painting, endowing it with the relaxed existence and equal rights with the subject. Thus the vivid blossom of the subject comes from the collaboration and interaction with the background, which can generate the endless and harmonious rhythm. The emphasis of the background doesn’t despoil the importance of the subject. It is such a calm and rational concern and restraint. On one hand, the background has been rescued from its “practical” use of covering, on the other, the balance of the picture reflects the “intuition”, “consciousness” and the “seniority” of the background. Again, the process of painting the background here is “doing for nothing” in Chen Yang’s point of view. The background is as alive as the subject. It has lost all the possibilities of being the target of public criticism, and has become an independent creation.


As to the viewer, first of all, the artist shows us a manner of detaching ourselves from the plight of the reality. He deconstructed all the finitude, concreteness and verisimilitude in our actual world, pointing to the idea of “artistic conception appears outside the image”. The focus he takes is not on the specific and limited “image”, but on the artistic wonderland and the breakthrough of the finite time and space. Secondly, by painting the background Chen Yang places a stage in front of us, where we can have some meditation on Chinese traditional aesthetics. Xie He, the very first painting theorist in Chinese history, once said, “The vividness of a painting has nothing to do with the beauty and ugliness of the body of the subject.” The excellence or the vividness is non-specific, non-limited and non-realistic that can console our life, take us to the infinite and eternal universe.


To me, the sense of distance in Chen Yang’s works is like a calling or an inspiration. I am fascinated not so much with the background itself as with the way it presents; and I am fascinated not so much with the way the background presents as with the “indescribable subtleness” in Chinese aesthetics the painting conveys. Chen Yang never encourages the occasional surprise in the process of creation because politeness and manners can be reached only under the premise of restraint and maintaining appropriate distance. Further more, I found some joy in his sense of distance. I rejoice over his attention to all the previous value of his own works. Standing in front of his works, I have a clear and firm willing to be responsible for myself, for every moment I am spending, since every present moment happening right now will become a part of my past, and will become the background of the picture of my life. And the background will always be attached to the foreground and will never be covered, reaching a steadfast mutualism.


“Close” or “far” has lost its meaning of demarcation in somewhere within the distance. Believe it or not, it’s ingenious beyond description.