Humanism and sentimental values are resident in ancient forms of Chinese art, but are not often examined through a contemporary lens without some form of cultural, social, and especially political satire. Chengxiang's ink paintings subtly introduce the restlessness of modernity into traditionally-inspired scenarios. One work depicts a typical man of the moment riding into view atop a giant crane. In the realms of Chinese mythology (and accepted among more than sixty ethnic groups throughout mainland China), the crane was connected to ideas of immortality or the transformed "xian" (Taoist immortal) who could fly between worlds both seen and unseen. Chengxiang dresses his crane-rider in a typical schoolboy uniform: he simultaneously addresses the vivaciousness of youth and how time seems endless in the mind of a child. Several scenes include arrangements of so-called "scholar's rocks", recognized since the Tang Dynasty as having four important qualities: thinness (shou), openness (tou), perforations (lou), and wrinkling (zhou). Specially prized traits of these stones could be identified such as possessing awkward symmetry, a ringing sound when it was struck, a glossy surface, and/or a semblance to a natural landmass. These markers (aside from sound) appear, in some way, in Chengxiang's works: a smooth surface, wide open negative spaces drawing further attention to his intricate subjects in the foreground, razor-thin lines recalling the fine detail of traditional Chinese painting, and the metaphoric wrinkling of time between past and present.
These encapsulated fantasies, collectively called The Modern Utopia, are Chengxiang's own portals between time periods and aesthetic methodologies. Each circular painting is a strange gateway for the contemporary observer, where the final destination is a benevolent one, but not fully known or understood. Symbols of prosperity, luck, wisdom, and immortality flow freely through these delicate rounds, but Chengxiang's fantastic situations provide only short lapses of escape. His quotidian figures and present-day limousines, backpacks, and school uniforms are sharp reminders that the fantasy cannot be maintained as long as the mythologies they call upon.
Lu Chengxiang - Artist's Statement
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