The Sun Series of “Nirvana Re-birth” was Sun Liangang’s solo exhibition in the 57th Venice Biennale. Hosted by Sun Gallery of New York and co-organized by Italian curator Umberto Putzu, Rosanna Ossola, and New York curator Xiaojuan Xie, this exhibition includes the works of arts created by Sun Liangang in 2015 and 2016.
Mr. Sun is a well-known artist and founder of Caochangdi Art District. Amongst the insiders in New York, he is best known as the initiator of contemporary Ideographism. “He hopes to use his position to change the way people think through art.”— Artnet once has commented regarding him. Mr. Sun has made his life an eternal quest in creating arts with great ideas; and in turn, he receives satisfaction especially from those artworks that shed strong spiritual giving.
Mr. Sun’s solo exhibition was inspired by his thoughts and experience derived from the physical world. For the artist, the present society is on the verge of major upheaval; it is a society full of recessions, decadences, and conflicts, yet mankind is helplessly heading towards oblivion. The existing philosophy, laws, and structures, would not be able to resolve the current problems of this society or indeed any problems for generations to come. In addition, these “illnesses” are so grave that it prevents any father social prosperity. It is therefore that we will need something new!
A new way of thinking, perhaps; a new school of philosophy! Or even a new form of art! Whichever is capable of curing the all present and future “illnesses” plaguing the world for these “illnesses” cannot be cured by the existing law, structure, science and technology, or society itself. The greatest problem facing mankind is perhaps the destruction of the global ecosystem in and as a result of the process of industrialization; and not surprisingly, along with the destruction of physical environment emerged the corruption of the minds and the fall of morality. It is not difficult to envisage that a combination of destruction of the environment and corruption of the mind would inevitably led to the world to collapse, with no civilization, institutions, and education can solve the problem of down fall in the offing. Again, it is at this point, people need a re-birth of power - Nirvana. Just as modern civilization emerged from the renaissance, if people want to solve the problem of social development, they will need to start from an idea or a new Renaissance. The problem lay before us is that human being are unable to resolve the grave issue the byproducts and side-effects of industrialization, and while enjoying the benefits of the industrialization; deep-down, we have seen no hope. As such, the artist wishes to show a re-birth of power through his works. The society at large should revisit the notion of simplicity over complexity, or perhaps even more focus on thinking; think about how the future should have been for what you choose do today may become an “illness” for generations to come.
This exhibition is centered on theme the sun for Mr. Sun believes that the sun is eternal. Regardless how chaotic the world is and will ever become, the sun will continue to rise and shine every day. On the other hand, “Nirvana" denotes the power of re-birth. As childbirth requires a placenta, “Nirvana” re-birth also needs to be on a “placenta”. On a different level, “Nirvana" also refers to the whole world crumbles and re-combines into a new life. That would be considered the emergence of a new world by some philosophers, thinkers, and artists. The people in the Oriental have long had a concept called "Dao” which emphasized harmony with nature as everything are come from the nature and goes back into the nature; The concept of “Dao” came along with concept of cyclicity. Such philosophy has profoundly influenced many easterners, and as such this is also a form of sustainable development.
Through symbolic expression, Sun injected a new creative and vital force in his artwork, which help him to be released from the traditional image language, and then formed a free expression and a new artistic concept in his artworks. Although at first glance, his work may be considered to be a Western abstract expressionist style that began in 1950s, but his work was in fact a different form. As he stated, “I'm just doing the Chinese abstractionism experiments that have nothing to do with Pollock.”
Sun believes that the contemporary art of China must get rid of the shackles of Chinese and Western traditions and start from the expression of an idea. In the west, a work of art is traditionally perceived through "look" and "listen” in a rather direct way. Although the Western abstraction has already stepped away from the realistic portrait, it is still using colors, composition and shapes to directly express emotions. However, artist Sun perception is based on taste and on olfaction. He prefers the taste and pondering, which is the sublimation of freehand brushwork in traditional Chinese painting. This is the key to distinction between his contemporary Ideographism and the Chinese traditions and Western traditions, as well as expressionism.
The abstract art of the East and the West is the product of modern industrial civilization. The content of the expression of abstract art is the material world, which including the microscopic and macroscopic parts, and a more important content of abstract art is to express of the inner law of the world. It formalizes the invisible law, turns it into the image and shows the invisible thing. Sun Liangang's contemporary abstract ideographism pays attention to the essence of freehand art, and also has western rational thinking. Sun’s works pay more attention to spiritual, philosophical, aesthetic, rather than formal.