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Taipei Dangdai's Most Eye-Catching Solo Exhibition - Cheng Nai-Ming

Published on 01/03/2019 on CANS Asia Contemporary Art News

Translated from Chinese

Jeng Jundian's studio is located at the very end of a decommissioned factory in the suburbs of Taipei. In the many small rooms of this factory, one can imagine the buzzing and the clamouring of its activities in the past, though it is now as quiet as the keys of a piano left unused, merely an object resting in the endlessness of time. Winter sun enters Jeng’s studio from windows up high, slanted, but not sharp. The brightness that is diffused in the air is quiet and comfortable. Here there are no plants; except for those you can find Jundian’s canvases. If you pay close attention to them, you will hear a rustling sound... As it turns out, it is the sound of years slowly flowing out of the canvases into our tympanum.

Few artists have painted the sound of plants passing through time! Jeng very obviously was one to have done it.

From January 18, for Taipei Dangdai, Taipei’s first large-scale international contemporary art fair, Eslite Gallery has selected, among its many stars, Jeng Jundian, an artist who has composed in the last 30 years a large body of works including still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits, consolidating layer by layer and with remarkable persistence, the “colour line painting” style that has made his name.

Though only in its first edition, Taipei Dangdai is under the spotlight of the global art community. In this context, Eslite Gallery invites guests from home and abroad, to recollect their emotions and to take a break from the frenzy of Christmas and New Year holidays. Walk inside the "Strange Garden" of Jeng Jundian, a place removed of any artificial and dazzling visuals, offering you the possibility to wander off into his tranquil, profound paintings.

Jeng confides : “When you get to this age, I think you are bound to have encountered some form of change and your life has already taken many turns. In my own life, the sequences of events and their accumulation over time have changed a lot the way I approach and curate the presentation of my works.”

“You asked me about the plants that I painted, that were neither in the prime of their lives, nor at the most scenic moment of their existence, but have you ever noticed how, even when life has turned its back on them, they still held within them this elegant character?” Jeng asks. I am fascinated by this “elegance of texture" and I’m looking to render such an "attitude".”

Choosing to paint withering plants is in fact not a new theme in Jeng’s work. In my eyes, what "frightens” the most about Jeng's painting is that they show plants at the tipping point between life and death, when the moisture on the surface has almost vanished. Like a stir-fry where ingredients are tossed on medium-high heat to retain moisture - Jeng is able to preserve “thickness” and with it, the glory of its past and its grace. I became mesmerized by the velvety texture of small details which Jeng had arranged in his paintings, notably in paintings like "Geranium" and "Rose”. I was likewise awed by those seemingly febrile ginger lilies, the profoundness held within the layers of whites and greens on the petals and leaves. An existence in decline should not be relinquished: Its flavour has been captured through Jeng’s paintings! In this incubation of warm colors, and in those sequences where the ginger lilies are unwinding, a fragrance of a certain kind lingers behind.

The depiction of botanical subjects to express one’s inner state of mind is a common trope explored by artists and one that they excel in. However, Jeng has turned to portraits to evoke such inner drama, choosing to build his narrative around the figure of a child.

His portraits of a young prepubescent boy is worthy of a special appreciation. The boy’s flirtatious eyes, and the connivance in the corners of his mouth will leave any viewer stupefied. Perhaps you will notice the golden snake laced around the boy's neck, and not help but wonder how this suggestive symbol could have befallen this small animal. However, I still remain dubious. The ambiguity in the looks of the boy, the evilness lurking behind it and the half-erased smile, what a show!

Jeng’s expression relies on colours refined to the extreme. By peeling off the different facets of our inner existence, he uncovers not an unbearable nakedness, but a stream of recollections of what you could never regret. They unroll, hurryingly or very slowly, allowing you to appreciate the value of that which is before you.



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