Walking Penumbra: Zheng Chongbin

24 March - 27 May 2018

INK studio Beijing is proud to announce a major solo exhibition entitled Walking Penumbra for California- and Shanghai-based artist Zheng Chongbin. Opening on Saturday March 24 on the occasion of Gallery Weekend Beijing 2018 and running through May 27, 2018, the exhibition for the first time presents the artist’s multi-disciplinary practice—including his newest immersive light-and-space installation, video installations and a selection of his most recent paintings—as an integrated exploration of our living material world and how we, as conscious perceiving beings emergent with and within this world, construct ourselves and our reality.


Centrally featured in the 11th Shanghai Biennale, Zheng’s 2016 installation Wall of Skies confronted its viewer with an imposing crystallized ink wall in a perception-shifting non-rectilinear white space. As sequel and counterpoint to this acclaimed installation, Walking Penumbra places its viewers in an inchoate black space of layered shadow, skylight, moving image, and sound. By transiting through the space, the viewer continuously discovers and recovers his or her position and orientation in relation to a kaleidoscopic flux of images and sensations.


The embodied experience of light and shadow have functioned as central metaphors throughout the history of philosophy from Shakyamuni Buddha’s “Shadow Cave” to Plato’s “Cave of Shadows.” Only Zhuangzi, however, makes the penumbra—the luminous border between light and shadow—his central image for our existence; it being at once entirely without autonomy or independent existence and yet entirely self-realizing and self-so within its own experiential context.


Alongside Walking Penumbra, Zheng Chongbin will also exhibit Actant Memories, a new series of translucent acrylic and video sculptures derived from the artist’s solo exhibition at the Yoshio Taniguchi-designed Asia Society Texas Center, Houston in November 2017. Here, freestanding sculpture mediates a homologous spatial play of image, light, shadow and penumbra.


Finally, in its third-floor galleries, INK studio will showcase Zheng Chongbin’s latest abstract paintings. In development since the early 1980’s, Zheng’s painting practice employs, in combination with the medium and language of ink, the visual language of geometry—specifically the natural geometry of fractals, the Euclidean geometry of human design, and the abstract, mathematical topology of continuous spaces—to reveal the living material world in its unfolding, dynamic engagement with embodied human experience.


Central to my practice is the pre-modern Daoist concept that the natural, inorganic world of energy and matter is living and always changing. If this is the case, how do we attune our perceptions to produce knowledge of this ever-changing world? How are we changed by our phenomenological (perceptual) entanglement with the phenomena (events) of the world? In turn, how do we, through our engagement with the world, actively create-transform ourselves and the world’s being and becoming?


Unlike Western philosophers, who tended to embrace an ontology consisting of objects and categories, the pre-modern Chinese saw the world as made up of processes in flux—chaotic flows of matter and energy that came into transient coherent order and then dissipated. Today, this process-based worldview undergirds contemporary mathematics and scientific inquiry, from chaos theory to ecology, as well as philosophical discourses such as post-humanism and new materialism. Through geometry, space, light, moving image, material, and process, my work places these different worlds in dialog as human experience. 

—Zheng Chongbin, 2017