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Neon Paintings Inspired By Taoism

Artists Kong Lingnan’s neon artworks depict the objective world of Chinese philosophy.
May 21, 2012, 4:06pm

The deliciously tacky glow of neon lights has been finding its way into the art world since the 70s, most notably in the work of artists like Bruce Nauman and Tracy Emin. Other artists have used neon to make eye-catching sculptures, and the medium continues to be a favorite tool for making any pithy combination of words seem cool and important.

Chinese artist Kong Lingnan takes neon to new frontiers using the unlikely medium of oil painting. Sure, these images may look as though they’re woven out of electroluminescent wire, but Lingnan is merely appropriating the visual style of neon—she creates these luminescent landscapes though a painstaking, meticulous application of paint to give them that glowing, “neon-like” quality.

In her "Miao-ku-yi Mountain" series, Lingnan explores the philosophical concepts behind the Chinese Taoism championed by Zhuangzi. Set in a vast wilderness, you can always find tiny human figures within the dark expanse, fighting or maybe loving each other underneath the great hulking shadow of the mountains.

Kong explains, "From what I understand from the text of Zhuangzi, ‘Miao-ku-yi Mountain’ is the objective world itself—an essential state. It represents the world you and I live in. To answer Zhuangzi’s question of what is the godly beings in ‘Miao-ku-yi Mountain,’ I believe it is the Dao. The human experience of illness and death, hatred and love are all so humble and divine. Dao is not visible, but the world is vivid in front of us, and that must be what the people on ‘Miao-ku-yi Mountain’ were experiencing."

Yang Gallery, located at the 798 district in Beijing is presenting Kong Lingnan's solo show "Here lies one / Whose name was writ in Water" from May 19th to July 9th, 2012.