Song Ling, 2 Conversation 2009
acrylic on canvas
183 x 183cm
Song Ling just isn't like other Pop artists, in more ways than one.
Technically speaking, he does pay homage to Liechtenstein's painted 'screen-print' pixel dots, though Song Ling uses more saturated hyper-colours and jaunty geometric edges, so his bear closer resemblance to a computer gaming screen or textile embroidery. And conceptually speaking, Song Ling has always eschewed Western pop's ironic stance and Chinese artists' prevalent use of Pop to explore China's social and political history .
Instead, Song Ling's wistful and optimistic paintings reflecting his Chinese heritage have been firmly focussed on life's beauties and pleasures: nature, art, family, love, and women. He has turned his painter's eye in recent years upon smiling Chinese children, re-imagined the traditional Chinese genre of ''flower and bird painting' also mastered by his artist mother, portrayed fine-looking young women from 1920s and 30s Shanghai cosmetic and cigarette advertisements, and most recently - drawn on Japanese anime, which was also extremely popular in China, to create vibrant tableaux of wide-eyed teenage girls and boys staring at us from punky haircuts, making passionate declarations of love to each other.
His latest exhibition Kaleidoscope however, reveals some serious developments: a more personal visual iconography, and an updated style of painting which applies bold, gestural Chinese brush painting techniques within his better known Pop aesthetic. Further, the work carries a potent new message: about the need to care for and honour, rather than just enjoy, beautiful things.
First attested 1817 in English, the word "kaleidoscope" derives from the Greek καλός (kalos), "beautiful" + είδος (eidos), "shape" + σκοπέω (scopeο), "to look at, to examine" : "looking at beautiful forms".
In practical terms, however, a kaleidoscope's work is based on the principal of multiple reflections, seeing through more than one lens or mirror. The multiple lenses Song Ling has always seen through are his Chinese and Australian identity, and his vastly divergent experiences in both countries, as well as his lifelong love, study and practice of both traditional Chinese painting and Western contemporary art. What these lenses reflect back at us now, with his new Kaleidoscope series, are the preciousness and precariousness of childhood, one's cultural identity, and the human and natural world - things he believes must be fiercely protected.
(Extract from catalogue essay by Kate Just)
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