“Seeing the Unseen” Tang Zhengwei ’s Solo Exhibition
Curator: Zhang Linmiao
Translator: Luan Zhichao
Art+ Shanghai present the second solo exhibition of Tang Zhengwei: "Seeing the Unseen". Four years ago, Tang Zhengwei’s first solo exhibition in Shanghai, “Cut it out”, featured his graduate work series “Carbon Folding” at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, which is impressive for its sophisticated technique and the underlying theme. With its two-dimensional or three-dimensional appearance, it is not comprehensive enough to only describe his work as “papercutting”. The artist continued to explore the possibilities of paper art in his creation, and through his in-depth research on the global issue of “carbon emissions”, he discovered a hidden and complex structure involving ecology, society and economy, which is the artist’s unique insight into the contemporary world. Paper itself is inextricably linked to environmental protection and carbon emissions, which is biodegradable and remains the most widely used environmental material in the world today. To associate the cultural attributes of paper and papercutting with the above-mentioned contemporary issues would contribute to a multiple-interpretation of the artist’s works.
The works in the exhibition were mostly created during the epidemic of COVID-19. The discussion on “carbon finance” and the implied power structure in the first solo exhibition, as well as further exploration of the art of paper-cutting, which needs physical involvement, lead the artist to a more pure reflection on “force” itself: This force comes from the evolution of forces (the four basic forces) in the physical world, and introduces the artist into the consideration whether there is a comparable system in human society as well. In the physical world, the physical world forces can only be perceived and measured, but not seen, and so are the various relationships in the social field, such as human relationships, social systems, and urban development. Thinking of all the experiences of force that he had come across in his life, the artist attempts to reveal a hidden visual pattern beneath the apparent interactions. Just as the line of magnetic force is invisible, and only with some medium (such as iron powder) can we see its paths being displayed. For the artist, there is no better way than shaping it, if to materialize and visualize such a force. The process of papercutting thus becomes a way to properly articulate his ideas in mediums. The artist considers papercutting as “painting-sculpture”, which, unlike painting, could liberate the flat properties from the plane and acquires some kind of super flat and low sculptural properties. Papercutting is at the same time a work that requires force. Each time the knife and the paper confront each other via force, there is a subtle relationship between force and form represented, which also urges the artist to think of force in another dimension.
There are three series of works in this exhibition: the Evolution Series, the City Series, and the Midnight Series, which will consider the “force” in the relationship between human beings and the universe, the “force” in urban development from a macro perspective, and the individual perception of “force” on a more conscious level. Compared to the first solo exhibition, a major characteristic of the works in this exhibition is the inclusion of color. This is because each work has its unique context, taking place in a special field: for example, The History of Small Island in Vortex is about a purple and chaotic space; Deep Space is about a deep cosmic starry sky; Pulse-alike Rhythm is about a seductive financial world; Gaze is about a transcendental high sky, etc. The inclusion of color becomes an attempt of the artist to illustrate these spaces. In addition, the artist seems to intentionally break the symmetrical form characteristic of traditional papercutting: taking In A Curved Space and Body Allured and Torn as examples, their asymmetrical form breaks the balance in the sense of visual and is full of dynamics, inviting the audience to perceive the theme of “force” in a more intuitive way, which is also the artist’s exploration of his artistic language.
In recent years, with the scientific fever resulting from counter-intuition introduced by physical concepts such as quantum mechanics and wave-particle duality, more and more people have started to pay attention to and attempt to understand these complex physical concepts. Artists and scientists indeed take different roles, however, perhaps as Gustave Flaubert once said: “Science and art break up at the foot of the mountain and meet at the summit.” Among the outstanding scientists that we are familiar with, there is no lack of some one of high artistic culture, such as Einstein, Newton, Galileo and many others. Da Vinci, who was a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, biologist and inventor, is exactly a prominent representative of the “scientific” artist well-known. Maybe there is no insurmountable gap between science and art, as they are just different paths for human beings to perceive and represent the world. What’s more, they influence, penetrate and enhance each other.
Tang Zhengwei, as well, read lots of theories related to mechanics during his creation. Though for him, force is interesting because it is something so common and affects us almost all the time. Meanwhile, precisely because of this, force becomes a key to explaining the world and even everything in the universe. In the scientific world, physical theories that set out to explain the universe are constantly evolving, describing basic principles for an invisible world, hence becoming a way to understand many complexities beyond the physical world. In his unique thoughts and experiences, as well as a special artistic language, the artist concerns with the human social field and invites the audiences to think together and more vivid ideas will probably come up.