The Dao: To Ceaselessly Grow and Multiply

Zhang Yongzheng “Process 6 – Water Disaster”, Acrylic on canvas, 195X130cm, 2010

The Dao: To Ceaselessly Grow and Multiply
Reflections on Zhang Yongzheng’s Paper-based Improvisational Works

By Luo Fei
Translated by R. Orion Martin

Author’s note: I have long been interested in Zhang Yongzheng’s creative process, and am quite familiar with the various stages of his work. We’ve also always been very good friends, but when I really began to write about his works, I still found it extremely challenging, as it is always difficult to make sense of the cryptic nature of abstract art. This is because it is not art that can be “read.” Rather, it must be “seen.” Nevertheless, I strive to use my own impressions and understandings in order to decipher it clearly, and I hope to contribute to a richer understanding of his work.

Process and Improvisation

Circles, squares, breaks, and piercing radial patterns, writing like running water, pure colors that garishly dazzle the eyes, an atmosphere of cold metaphysics, and concealed pearls of Xuanxue philosophical wisdom. These are the impressions that Zhang Yongzheng’s propylene on canvas works, begun in 2006, give me. These works possess a stunningly clear individual style, especially in the art world of Yunnan where scarcely any abstract artists are active. The canvas based works are collectively referred to as his Process series, and are differentiated by their themes such as solar cycles, four seasons, the five elements, and disasters. Zhang Yongzheng works from an amalgamation of Chinese philosophical schools called Xuanxue which includes elements of Daoism and Confucianism. He uses his spiritual and visual resources to search for an abstract form that is related to philosophy as well as contemporary experience. He assimilates the sharp contrast of Xuanxue-derived geometric forms with a kind of improvised writing. Together they bestow his works with a feeling of conflict, mystery, and universality. Continue reading

The Cell’s Longing: Jonathan Aumen solo exhibition


The Cell’s Longing
——TCG Nordica resident artist Jonathan Aumen(US)’s solo exhibition

Curator: Luo Fei
Exhibition Opening: 8pm, 25th of Feb, 2012
Exhibition duration: 25th of Feb – 31st of March, 2012
Address: TCG Nordica Gallery, Chuangku, Xibalu 101, Kunming
Tel: 0871-4114692


Press Release

American artist Jonathan Aumen arrived in Kunming in September 2011 for an artist residency at TCG Nordica gallery. The works on display were all completed during the following six months of his residency in Kunming and all of them are intimately focused on the city, its people, and their inner longings. They also relate to the continuous demolition and relocation situation present in Kunming in recent years.

Before he arrived in Kunming, Aumen read a popular science article that said that a single cell is just as functionally complex as a city the size of Kunming. It has its own laws of operation, centers, transport hubs, and lives. In short, your very own finger tip contains 100,000 cells.  If you continue  this train of thought and do the math, we find the human body is a biological wonder and the complexity mind-blowing.  Aumen was stunned and captivated by the beauty and wonder of life. In light of this extravagant complexity, how can one argue that there was no designer? This inspires a train of thought and a scope of work.

TCG Nordica will display Aumen’s more than 30 oil paintings in different sizes during this exhibition, from the eyes of an American, that look through the city to reflect on our living conditions and inner longings.

The exhibition opening will be 8 pm, 25th of Feb at TCG Nordica, Chuangku(loft), exhibit until 31st of March.

Related posts:
Jonathan Aumen’s CV
Interview Jonathan Aumen: An artist’s responsibility is to recharge society






The Cell’s Longing

Luo Fei

jonathan-painting14American artist Jonathan Aumen arrived in Kunming in September 2011 for an artist residency at TCG Nordica gallery. The works on display here were all completed during the following six months of his residency in Kunming and all of them are intimately focused on the city. Before he arrived in Kunming, Aumen read a popular science article that said that a single cell is just as functionally complex as a city the size of Kunming. It has its own laws of operation, centers, transport hubs, and lives. In short, your very own finger tip contains 100,000 cells.  If you continue  this train of thought and do the math, we find the human body is a biological wonder and the complexity mind-blowing.  Aumen was stunned and captivated by the beauty and wonder of this knowledge. In light of this extravagant complexity, how can one argue that there was no designer? This began a train of thought and a scope of work, but it truly originates in a belief.

Aumen’s interest in cities is deep. Upon finding a computer motherboard he said, “Isn’t this a city? Look, here are the buildings, here are the districts, the factories…” His newest works all feature views of Kunming. If you look carefully, you will notice that the majority are slums or traditional homes from old-fashioned districts. Aumen is a nostalgic person, possibly because he is influenced by the memories from when, at the age of eight, he lived in Beijing for ten years.

jonathan-painting02 jonathan-painting15

In the paintings there are many houses – whether from above, from a distance, in our gaze, whether crowded or inverted or askew, whether a panoramic view or a fragment. This unfamiliar city gives Aumen much insight; first into the relationship between the complex structure of a cell and a city, but also into the longings of people. Consequently, his works can roughly be divided into two groups that focus, respectively, on these two themes. The first group features a series of expansive paintings in which apartments are densely packed together and solar water heaters are bustling with activity, all of it under a cloud-filled sky that suggests a coming storm. From the windows come sparkling bits of radiant light, as if prophesying that within moments, something important will occur. These paintings are organized in the form of grid. Aumen believes that if there wasn’t something supporting this complex city, it would have already exploded, just like atomic explosions occur when atoms lose their cohesiveness. Therefore, the grid represents a certain kind of conscious energy that holds together all the varied bits and pieces. This sort image is also transcribed onto 192 square pieces of wood that appear as if drawn from a Rubik’s cube. These groups of works all stand for Aumen’s understanding of the relationship between city and cell.

A city is not merely a community of convenience, materiality, and consumption, but rather a gathering of living beings. It has order. It has soul. It has moods, contemplations, and stories. They live in these towering apartments, one moment blissful, and the next moment they would be destroyed, if not for some force holding them together.

Aumen’s premonition of urban crisis is informed by the Jewish prophet Isaiah (Old Testament, Book of Isaiah), who says,

“The earth turns gaunt and gray, the world silent and sad, sky and land lifeless, colorless. Earth Polluted by Its Very Own People. Earth is polluted by its very own people, who have broken its laws, disruptedits order, violated the sacred and eternal covenant. Therefore a curse, like a cancer, ravages the earth. Its people pay the price of their sacrilege. They dwindle away, dying out one by one.”(Isaiah 24:4-6)

This excerpt prophesies that when the world no longer respects the laws of God, when there is no longer justice and rectitude, the world will pay a price and become a place of terrible decline and corruption. There will be no possibility to uplift oneself from the midst of squalor, due to the fundamentally fallen nature of the world. This premonition of crisis is reminiscent of “Be concerned about the affairs of state before others”, a traditional mindset among Chinese scholar officials that refers to the cultivation of a forward-looking awareness of approaching threats.
But Isaiah and other Jewish prophets were not overcome by a destructive nihilism. Rather, they noted that after God judged human’s for their sins, there was always the possibility of redemption. Therefore, shortly following the above passage, the Book of Isaiah reads,

“At that time the deaf will hear word-for-word what’s been written. After a lifetime in the dark, the blind will see. The castoffs of society will be laughing and dancing in God, the down-and-outs shouting praise to The Holy of Israel. For there’ll be no more gangs on the street. Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species. Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean will never be heard of again”(Isaiah 29:18-20)

Notable in this Jewish scripture is that two themes, the punishment of sin and the longing for a coming righteous kingdom, alternate throughout the work.

jonathan-painting07 jonathan-painting08

I think these two views influence Aumen’s painting. In addition to works which focus on the darkness of urban decay, there are also scenes depicting one’s heart’s desire. This group of images is not broken up by the restricting image of the grid. They gaze into the distance at the city around us, with a slight glimmer coming through the layered clouds over our heads. They seem quite peaceful and every day, without any particular temperament. Within the house, we dwell. Below the sky, we live. Everything is in order, but one has the feels that their heart is heavy.

Chinese writer Shi Tiesheng writes,

“Whether art or literature, one need not be and imperial attendant or vocal promoter. One needs to be a detective, listening to the rocky voice in the otherwise flowing order, looking at every familiar place as if it was strange.”

I believe that in any age, this is the value of art. We don’t need art to confirm once again the progress, accomplishments, and arrogance of human beings. Nor do we need to sing once more the praises of the pleasantly livable city, all the while neglecting that which is lacking, that which is broken, the sins and longings. Aumen says, art must let one look upon the truth, and give them hope.

In this collection there is one painting where, as we peak behind a dark brown wall, we raise our heads to see a building, and from that exact point of view we see a sharp sliver of sky mediated by thin clouds. It is as if another kingdom is emerging clockwise little by little. In the moment it occurs, do we feel it in our hearts?

Written February 11, 2012
translated by R. Orion Martin (US) 








白雪娟,陈玲洁,陈曼妮,费敏,费雪梅,郭俊秀,贺晓璇,雷燕,李红菊,饶斯琪 宋梓萍,苏亚碧,王钰清,王海琳,叶松青,杨丽花,Marjan Verhaeghe (比利时)

何雾,刘双,李竞飞, 吕丽蓉,马丹,普华仙,孙谨,孙素秋,宋欢,王爱英,武妍希,徐芸,杨文萍,杨雁楸,朱筱琳











“Four Seasons: Summer” Yunnan Female Artist Group Exhibition

Curatorial team:

Sponsor: Dantong Group-Xinghe International Art Town
Organizer: TCG Nordica Gallery

Curator: Sun Guojuan
Academic Host: Luo Fei
Artistic Director: Lei Yan
Producer: Mao Di
Translator: R. Orion Martin (US)

Artists(Part I):
Bai Xuejuan, Chen Lingjie, Chen Manni, Fei Min, Fei Xuemei, Guo Junxiu, Huo Xiaoxuan, Lei Yan, Li Hongju, Rao Siqi, Song Ziping, Su Yabi, Wang Yuqing, Wang Hailin, Ye Songqing, Yang Lihua, Marjan Verhaeghe(Belgium)

Artists(Part II):
He Wu, Li Shuang, Li Jingfei, Lv Lirong, Pu Huaxian, Ma Dan, Sun Jin, Song Huan, Sun Suqiu, Wu Yanxi, Xu Yun, Yang Wenping, Yang Yanqiu, Wang Aiying, Zhu Xiaolin

Opening time:
Part I: 8pm, Dec,9th,2011
Part II: 8pm, Dec,30th,2011

Exhibition Duration: Dec,9th,2011–Jan,21st,2012(Sunday Close)

Address: TCG Nordica, Xibalu 101, Kunming
Tel: 0871-4114692
Web site:

Introduction – Four Seasons: Summer

By TCG Nordica

The creations and exhibitions of Four Seasons, Yunnan Artist Group Exhibition, are based on the seasons: Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. Planned by Sun Guojuan, Four Seasons is a series of four exhibitions to take place annually for four years. Beginning with Winter in 2009 and continuing to Spring in 2010, the theme of this year’s exhibition will be Summer. Each exhibition gathers the most excellent artists in Yunnan, be they residents of or travelers to the province, and presents their newest work. The purpose of the Four Seasons Project is to increase the cohesiveness of Yunnan female artists, to encourage persistent creativity, and connect with a wide audience.
This exhibition, Four Seasons: Summer, focuses on the season of summer. The artists express their individual sentiments, life experiences, and human-nature relationship with works ranging from oil painting to hand-made installations. As the artists realize their art they give us the chance to encounter a pleasant summer in the midst of this frigid winter.
This exhibition will feature the newest works by 33 artists in the forms of oil painting, installation, photography and others. Because there will be some 100 works, Four Seasons: Summer will be divided into two exhibitions. The first half will have a reception on December 9th at 8PM and the second half will have a reception on December 30th at 8PM.

Four Seasons: Summer

By Sun Guojuan

Our planned four year exhibition has passed through Winter and Spring. We have now come to the third year, the year of Summer.
Summer has always been dear to my heart; it is my favorite of Kunming’s four seasons. During Kunming’s summer, rain is so common that we often call summer the rainy season. This rain gives Kunming an indescribably beauty. It cleans the air, it moistens the soil, and it refreshes the trees, turning them from a tender to a deep shade of resounding green. In summer, girls come and go wearing their beautiful outfits, the flowers are always blooming, and the mushrooms are sprouting, full of the delicate flavor of summer air after a light shower. Sitting in a garden or on the banks of a river when it rains, listening to the sound of the falling drops, this is the pinnacle of rainy season revelry. The sound of rain has a kind of magic that can turn chaotic hearts tranquil. Whenever the night draws near and you find yourself on the outskirts of the city, you will find the Milky Way is sprinkled across the night sky. At times you will see a shooting star dash across the horizon.
There is a chance encounter etched into my bones and carved into my heart, one that can only occur during summer. Perhaps it is because I have always regarded summer as the season of love.

Interview with Sun Guojuan and Lei Yan:

“Four Seasons: Summer” Yunnan Female Artist Group Exhibition Interview

Lei Yan, Sun Guojuan, Luo Fei and Orion Martin

“Four Seasons: Summer” Yunnan Female Artist Group Exhibition Interview

Luo Fei (TCG Nordica Curator)
Sun Guojuan (Artist, “Four Seaons” Yunnan Female Artist Group Exhibition Curator)
Lei Yan (Artist, “Four Seasons” Yunnan Female Artist Group Exhibiton Director)
The content of the interview has been revised by Luo Fei.
Translated by R. Orion Martin

2pm, Nov/17/2011
TCG Nordica Gallery

Luo Fei (abbreviated Luo below): First I want to thank you Ms. Guojuan and Ms. Yan for inviting me to be the academic director of the “Four Seasons: Summer” Female Artist Exhibition. “Four Seasons Yunnan Female Artist Exhibition” first began in the winter of 2009 and has exhibited “Winter” (2009) and “Spring” (2010). This year’s “Winter” will, like previous exhibitions, see Sun Guojuan assuming the role of curator and Lei Yan that of academic oversight. Can you please introduce the ideas behind “Four Seasons” and explain how you came upon the plan to run an annual series of four exhibitions?

Lei Yan (abbreviated Lei below): The idea of “Four Seasons” was one that Sun Guojuan had early on. Sun Guojuan has always been a leader among Yunnan female artists. She already began practicing contemporary art in the ’85 period. Later she lived for some time in Beijing (1996-2000 and 2006 until now) and brought new art styles back to Yunnan. My own work has also been influenced by her. These years Sun Guojuan has been living in Kunming organizing Yunnan Female Artist exhibitions, for example “Flexibility of Flexibility” in 2004, or “O,” named after the shape of an egg, in 2005. These two exhibitions were not limited to Kunming artists, but also included a few female artists who were living in Kunming at the time. For the Guiyang Biennial in 2007, curated by Ye Yong Qing, Sun Guojuan organized a team of Yunnan female artists for the collaborative piece “Pink”, an enormous furry pink egg that became a highlight of Guiyang Biennial.

Taking a break to gather herself in 2008, Sun Guojuan was constantly debating whether or not she wished to continue organizing Yunnan female artist exhibitions. Based on the popular demand of Yunnan female artists and the encouragement and support of Teacher Mao Xuhui, Sun Guojuan resolved to assume responsibility for organizing exhibitions by the Yunnan Female Artist Group. Following her decision Sun Guojuan proposed the concept for “Four Seasons.” Using an long duration and forward looking method, she began planning a four year long series of Yunnan Female Artist exhibitions. Over the past two years, “Four Seasons” has indeed given many female artists power and opportunities. For example, Ma Dan has said that when she felt bewildered or was overcome by hopelessness, it was the “Four Seasons” exhibition that gave her the strength to continue. She said, “If I can’t create a new appearance every year, then I might as well not be an artist. This four year plan has really encouraged female artists to maintain a creative state.”

Sun Guojuan (abbreviated Sun below): I can also say from experience that many female artists are caught in a very solitary predicament. During the 80’s and the first half of the 90’s, very few people would see my work in any given year. Perhaps in one year not even a single person would come to look at my works. In those days there were few exhibitions and even if there were exhibitions I wouldn’t be there. I think that in the 90’s my relationship with the conditions of Yunnan art was not particularly close.

Luo: During the Long March Project, American artist Judy Chicago, the “founder” of Feminist Art, came to Yunnan and met with female artists at Lugu Lake. Conversations and collaborative projects with her were very important to you, is that correct?

Sun: Yes that’s right. Some collaborative works from that time showed that art could be like this, a comparatively open way of thinking. At that time everyone wanted to make new proposals, try fresh methods, discuss works and collaborate, etc.

If the Long March were a Women’s Rights Movement, Photo by Lei Yan

Luo: Are you influenced by Feminism?

Lei: For me I would say yes. Right now I am working on a series of image-based works named “If They were Women” and “If the Long March were a Women’s Rights Movement,”which involve characteristics typical of Feminist Art.

Sun: I’m more prone to discuss societal problems. Right now I’m working on an image installation named “Stuck on You, Leaving You,” a reflection on travel culture.

Luo: How many artists participate in “Four Seasons”? Can you tell us a bit about how old they are, where they’re from and what kind of work they do?

Sun: On average we have about 37 or 38 artists participating, and many of them are young. This is related to the Yunnan fine arts education system, for example many students of Mao Xuhui at Yunnan University take part in the group. Many of the artists live in Kunming but the majority come from various states in Yunnan, for example Su Yabi or Bai Xuejuan. The works are primarily oil painting and installation, with most of the installations involving manual labor as opposed to readymade items. I hope they can experience the special features of female art for themselves.

Su Yabi, oil painting and silk

Luo: Is Feminist Art the orientation you’ve chosen or is it enough to be female artists? What is the criterion for the artists you have selected?

Sun: It is the art of female artists, not Feminist artists. We have no prerequisites emphasizing Feminism. Rather, our standard is simply a contemporary style. Works must be distinct from traditional and educational institutional styles. They must not be cliché, and they must be the product of an independent creativity.

Luo: You often hold exhibitions in Beijing and other locations. Do you see points of difference and similarity between the Yunnan Female Artist Group and the domestic artists in other areas?

Lei: We are a group, so the individual artists aren’t lonely. I believe the artists of the Yunnan Female Artist Group are quite active and cohesive, much more than other artists in central and Southern China. But last year I participated in a Chengdu exhibition and discovered that the scene there appears to be more active. Sichuan also has a tradition of group movements.

Luo: You remain very open to men; your assistants and academic support, etc. are all men. Do you expect women to fill these roles or is it unimportant?

Sun: We hope women will also fill come to fill these roles, but currently it’s not an option because a more open mentality is needed.

Luo: On the whole, the works exhibited in “Four Seasons” are focused on the artists’ individual sentiments and not societal problems.

Lei: Expressing individual sentiments is a special quality of female art. They’re more focused on internal qualities.

Sun: Today’s society really is like this. We also tend to select works that are focused on internal circumstances.

Luo: In past exhibitions, have there been artists who touch upon International Feminism by using art methods which participate in the public sphere? I am referring to (contemporary art critic) Wang Nang Ming’s concept when describing Lei Yan’s “A Bullet Passes through a Young Heart.

Sun: No, more of them focus on individual creation. But since commercialization has become so important, many artists have begun to consider whether or not their work could have market value. Consequently, it’s impossible to make works that are very biting. But we encourage young artists to focus on installation or other kinds of art. This can inspire their creativity and prevent market influence.

Four Friends, oil painting by Fei Min

Luo: Could we say that Yunnan Female Artists are not particularly attuned to the public sphere?

Sun: It could be that they have not reflected on the public sphere, or that they do not know how to express their thoughts. Our artists lack an experimental spirit, their works are always complete and lack experimentation.

Lei: Education is also a factor contributing to this.

Sun: It requires courage. As artists, we fear failure.

Luo: Have you imagined what form or state the Yunnan Female Artist Group may take in the future?

Sun: It will continue as before. Female artists will continue to move us with their art and energy.

Luo: Have the past three years brought any pleasant surprises or disappointments? Did you ever consider abandoning the project?

Sun: The pleasant surprise has been that good works have continually come out. This is most encouraging because the artists do not simply make some works in a year and then bring out one for the exhibition. Rather, they focus on the subject every year in order to produce a special work.
We often meet with artists in advance and express our own opinions. Last year we wrote an “Informing All Artists” letter. This letter was on account of our disappointments and our refusal to give up on any artists. If we do not tell her our thoughts, then when she makes something bad we can only give up on her, but this is not what we want to do.

Luo: Next year will be the last exhibition of “Four Seasons,” Spring. What do you plan to do after “Four Seasons?”

Sun: We will continue. Best would be a four year plan. We would especially like to thank Nordica for their support, really. The words of those people who win prizes are always vapid. They all thank their parents and those that helped them, but afterwards I think more and more that this is very important. Without the help of friends, we really wouldn’t be able to do anything. At the same time, we want to thank Xinghe Group for their help, and Mr. Mao Xuhui for his consistent support.