Sublime: New Works by Ling Jian

2003-09-21 until 2003-10-30 Courtyard Gallery – Beijing, CN China

Buddha Annan II by Ling JianIn new works, created for his first solo exhibition in China at Beijing’s CourtYard Gallery, Berlin-based artist Ling Jian paints imaginative portraits of “highly evolved human beijngs.” In this latest series of paintings, Ling continues his artistic exploration of the nature of beauty and its relationship to the sublime by using round, mandala-shaped portraits that co-mingle Asian and European facial features, male/female traits and secular vs. religious Buddhist imagery.

Ling’s modern “Buddha” portraits stand akin to the sublime visage of a top Chinese fashion model such as Lu Yan. In each of Ling’s portraits – whether Buddha or model/mortal – the sensuality of slightly parted lips, half-closed sultry eyes, and silky smooth skin, is configured with divine touches and/or plastic surgery adjustments. The result is a physical “perfection°” which is both seductive and unsettling.

Implicit in these photo-realist portraits of creatures more beautiful, more androgynous, and more ethereal than merely mortal exhibition goers, is the question of beauty and religion in contemporary culture. Today, “beauty” is a pragmatic, no longer an abstract or absolute, term. Beauty standards shift each season along with the latest fashion trends. There is a hint of this techno-beauty, bubbling just below the smooth, photo-realist surface of Ling’s portraits. After all, the artist asks us, why settle for nature and one’s fate when science can enhance and adjust and harmonize the imperfections of human physical beauty? In Ling’s portraiture, the painter’s brush becomes a substitute for science, where even Buddha’s visage is enhanced by a few painterly strokes.

The installation at CourtYard hangs circular canvases like giant peepholes on gallery walls or leaves them to rest as giant wheels along the gallery floor. Behind, abstract paintings are applied directly to the gallery walls. These multi-colored, washed out pigments run and drip together, in a painterly assault on the purity of the white gallery cube.

Ling Jian relies on his Buddhist beliefs and practices to reinterpret today’s consumerist beauty standards. He uses Buddhist iconography to reveal modernity’s flaws. In portraits of “beauties” he leads viewers out of the daily morass and toward a renewed interest in the sublime.

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