Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Transitory Material, Lasting Beauty

In recent field trips I got to know several art works that are made of transitory materials: incense ashes and laundry powder. I am deeply impressed by their transitory existence and their lasting impact. Zhang Huan, a Buddhist and contemporary artist, employed incense ashes in his sculptures in 2007.  In this series, tons of incense ashes were used to form Buddhist head (Ash Head No.1, Long Ear Ash Head), ancient Chinese official (Smoking Buddha) and sitting Buddha (Berlin Buddha). Because of the transitory nature of the material, those sculptures will crumple and collapse in the end, but no one knows when. This is a perfect metaphor of life—eventually everything goes back to where it comes from, but no one knows when. Also the material itself is very mysterious—incense usually represents piety and prayer. It is ironic to see how the incense ashes—people’s belief fall. 
Maya Kramer employed washing powder in her art work. She cast the scull of tiger with glued laundry powder, and put it under a glass box with water drops running through it constantly(Showed at ‘There is nothing you can measure anymore’, Ai Ke Gallery). Laundry powder contains phosphorous, a chemical pollutant, and will be resolved by water. The scull of tiger has a certain beauty that is so fierce while so fragile. It reminded me of wild tigers being hunted and animals endangered now. They will distinguish if people do not stop killing or destroying. By this piece of work, the artist tried to convey the message: Death and disintegration are natural states. All things move towards their ends. All beauty is nothing but illusion. There exists no real standard of lasting beauty.

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