LOVE LOTUS ESSAY CHUNG-PING CHENG
“Temperament is like wind, you cannot touch it, but you can feel it when it’s
blowing” Chang Shao Feng, Chinese (Taiwanese) author
Love Lotus Essay is inspired by Chinese scholar and philosopher Zhou Dunyi’s poem “On the Love of the Lotus” (1063AD). He used the Lotus flower as a metaphor for the “Ideal” person…an anthropocosmic view of human nature, ethics and the authentic self. The Lotus flower grows and flourishes in mud while remaining pure and unstained.
This photographic series Love Lotus Essay, like Zhou’s prose, celebrates the intangible and the timeless- uncontaminated by external influences and circumstances, staying true to one’s better self.
For this project, I layer my images with painting; write with Japanese pigments; and use Chinese chops-an ancient means of identification and signature- on black and white silver gelatin photographic prints. My work and process achieve something new from intangible aspects of things and times from our past. I have long been attracted to the conceptual combined with the tangible as in Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings or Zhou Dunyi’s writings. I’m grateful for the timeless ideas and images that continue to inform my work.
REFINING FIRE / UNDESCRIBED VARIATION
Through some years of difficulty, I was refined and changed, and I got this project, so I titled it as Refining Fire and Undescribed Variation. It is a story of life, going through up and down, but you'll be polished.
BLUE AT LACMA
I visit museum often, it’s a delight to watch such amazing collections, exhibitions, as well as the architecture. One day when I strolled in the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, the architecture caught my eyes, every building was different in material, design, etc. The wall of BP Entrance was built with shinny marble, and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum Building was built with coarse stone and red steel stairway. It’s the project by world renown architect Renzo Piano since 2006. Then I shot the images to catch the essence of the architecture and surrounding of a museum.
RGB AND CMY
Cyan Red is a project using colored photography theory. The theory consists of three-color processes RGB and CMY, which is red green blue and cyan magenta yellow, as the additive and subtractive color to create the image. Cyan is the subtractive color of red.
I found those colors in my wardrobe, so I brought it out as pairs to add it to my art pieces.
THE UNTITLED LOTUS
Through the contrast of light and dark exposure, the image is depicted monochromatically, presenting the subject in an unconventional way, filling a story of love in different staging.
THE PEONY II UNIQUE COLOR
The Peony II-Unique Color is my latest interpretation of peonies. I have been inspired by the unique colors used in Chinese paintings, such as Yao yellow, Wei purple, Bean green, Zhao pink, and Buddha head blue, etc. These beautiful names of the colors also refer to the rare varieties of peonies.
Although my main focus is fine art photography, I also express my creativity through Chinese paintings. I have learned many techniques and become familiar with legendary stories behind famous Chinese paintings. The father of my Chinese painting teacher is a good friend of the late Chinese painting master Zhang Daqian’s. Master Zhang has titled his work of blue peony as Buddha Head Blue. This has also inspired my photographic work of the blue peony.
I prefer shooting with medium-format film, and then enlarging it in the traditional darkroom. Unlike shooting with digital cameras, this process involves more uncertainty. In order to produce a good piece of work, no steps can be skipped and every detail must be handled with attention. Not until the print is finally processed from the RA-4 machine, it can then be determined whether or not it is suitable to be hung on the wall for exhibition. The traditional method is more challenging and time consuming, however, to me it is a great pleasure.
When I first started learning photography, my instructor once said, “to be a good photographer, you must have the three P’s in mind – passion, patience, and persistence.” I believe these three traits sum up the characteristics of aspiring artists, and it is very true to me as I continue down this challenging path of traditional photography.
FANTASY IN LOTUS POND
The lotus flower is often seen in Chinese art pieces depicted for its natural beauty, a symbol of purity and serenity. In Fantasy in Lotus Pond, not only is the lotus flower featured but the lily pond in its entirety is given consideration and presented with a multi-layered complexity. Fantasy was shot with film and exposed with double exposure. Through the use of light and color contrast, the life of the lotus and the lily pond comes alive and presented in a way that is seldom seen. Just like the flower that blossoms out of the muddy waters of the pond, the purity and other qualities of the lotus shines thru in the midst of a darker, filtered backdrop. The lily pads which is often overlooked is given equal consideration in this series. By using this processing technique with shifting colors, layer enhancement, the lotus and its habitat is given a new dressing, a new platform, challenging the viewers to step out of the normal convention, to look deeper beyond the normal focus, to see life within the lily pond thru different lens, different perspective and draw its parallel to life.
For years, I have practiced Chinese painting and calligraphy. The aesthetic of Chinese culture has influenced me when I create photography work. The composition, the use of “empty” spaces, and the spirit of Chinese culture are always embedded in my creativity. Peony is an iconic symbol in Chinese culture. It represents wealth and elegance. Affluent families would often hang Chinese representational paintings of peonies in the hall to depict its prosperity.
Peonies have been used historically as ornamental plants since the Tang Dynasty. They have been praised as the “Queen of Flowers.” A myth of Empress Wu, the first female sovereign in Chinese empire, had it that she once decreed for peonies to bloom in a single night for her to appreciate their elegance.
Chinese literati are fond of using peonies in their works. Li-Po, one of the greatest Chinese poets in history, wrote about peonies in his poems to describe the Imperial Lady Yang, one of the most beautiful women in Chinese history, with which the saying of “dress like cloud and face like peony “came from.
Even artists express the glamorous mannerism of peonies through their art works. Zhang Daqian, one of the greatest Chinese painting masters, painted the blue peony as “ Buddha head blue, “ a unique color depiction.
Nowadays, I also utilize peonies to express my affection toward colored photography. Through lens, I capture the images with different perspectives - the beauty of peonies and the beauty of femininity.
I have learned Chinese painting and calligraphy for several years when I first started learning photography, and this is why Chinese art theory has always been on my mind when I take pictures.
When I walk around my neighborhood, the texture, pattern and lines on the trees always remind me of the Chinese paintings and calligraphies I have created in the past. I then turn to camera to capture these images of the tree barks to create pictures that resonate with Chinese aesthetics.
“Breath Resonance generated by moving” is one of the Six Principles of Chinese paintings, established by critic Hsieh Ho in 6th century China. According to Hsieh, a good painting should be vital in its breath, and it needs to be harmonious, alive, and full of motion in its execution. When the artist creates the artwork, he or she not only reveals the bare truth of the universe, but also confronts his/her personal psychological reality of the moment.
To express my inner self through photography, I tend to apply the old principles of Chinese paintings to convey my deepest feelings.