Hanging Garden In Ink
Ullens Center For contemporary Art, Beijing
1,500 living plants, 400 kg of Chinese ink
20 x 8 x 3 meters
April 15 - May 27, 2012
For the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, a striking tableau vivant of live plants is suspended in the center of the nave. Scaled at 20-meters long, three-meters wide and eight-meters high, the garden is abundantly alive with trees and plants, which are painted intensely black with Chinese ink. The lower half of the tableau consists of plants that mirror the top half of the installation, creating the effect of a garden's reflection on water, or a three-dimensional Rorschach test drawing.
The work references the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which were reportedly constructed by King Nebuchadnezzar II to please his homesick wife who longed for the plants of her homeland. This work is a meditation on the illusion of material wealth, declaration of love, power of nature and myth, among other things.
Mo (Chinese ink) is organic and derived from plant life, with charcoal as a primary ingredient. Painting the live plants with their recycled relative not only blackens the surface, but also creates a petrified landscape in a suspended state of development. While the black coverage will slow the plants' growth, it will not terminate its life. During the exhibition period the plants will continue to grow and tender green shoots will grow out from the black, giving evidence of the perseverance and resilience of life.
This work is part of the artists' exploration of contemporary approaches to mo, which has been the main medium of expression and communication for centuries in East Asia. It embodies all colors, emulates all forms, and gives meaning to brush strokes and aesthetic achievements. Concurrently, black is the lack of all colors of light, or an exhaustive combination of multiple colors of pigment. It is a powerful symbol of void and muteness. This duality of inclusiveness and expulsion gives great opportunity for artistic exploration.
In this installation, black ink dominates the artistic vocabulary. Rather than a painted landscape on paper, the ink is directly applied to the plants in three-dimensional space, with time being the fourth dimension, altering the work during its viewing period. The black inks' allowance of plant growth refers both conceptually and formally to the significant "time" component in the Chinese ink painting practice. The work nods at the traditional legacy of ink while simultaneously and poetically transcending it.