Indefinite Sadness Within Joy The series Indefinite... by Shao Wenhuan
by Du Xiyun

A desire to observe the ‘objective world’ leads Shao Wenhuan to turn from painting to photography. However, the purpose of his photography is clearly not simply in order to record the appearance of the outside world, but instead to find and grasp a more rational dimension between the objective and the subjective through a media which intervenes between the two. The coincidence of artistic paths which reveal ‘a great wisdom through an appropriate explanation’ is both intentional and unintentional. Thus, from his earliest photographs of the scenery of Jiangnan, he has brought an attitude and mode of research and study to his drawing, sketching, digital retouching and darkroom processing.

From these earliest ‘photographs’ to the following series, including the series entitled
International Tourists, the underlying motivation of this work is to explore the possibility of a definitive spiritual fulcrum or to confirm ‘whether there is a definitive spiritual fulcrum’. Following the emergence or creation of the spirit of the global downturn through International Tourists, the focus of Shao Wenhuan’s attention has returned from the west to the Chinese mainland, and moreover to the place where he grew up; Jiangnan. In this case, the series Indefinite... has emerged through his computer and darkroom.

One might regard this series as Shao Wenhuan’s consideration of Han culture through the representation of the culture of Jiangnan. Moreover, this is mainly perceived through the visual dimension of the natural landscape. In this regard, accompanying his experience and consideration of cultural issues, over many years he has with diligence cultivated an extensive compilation, in order to filter and extract the metaphysical realizations which combine and interact with the profound sentiments of the tangible landscape. Thus, through his meticulous selection and reconstruction, he hopes that one tree may represent ten thousand trees and one peak, ten thousand peaks.

Within the series
Indefinite..., he fuses his own taste for the visual language of painting and photography, leading to the attainment of expanses and layers which less talented photographers would struggle to reach. Moreover, the subjectivity of this work far exceeds the objectivity. Based upon the degree of subtlety in his realizations and his grasp of visual language, he has cultivated a refined and delicate creation and grasp of subject-matter within these works. This is wholly based upon his own strength and depth of consideration.

The trees, mountains and rocks within “
Indefinite...”, have been meticulously selected from natural scenes, and exude an extremely vivid and joyous artistic atmosphere. Joy of this nature offers us a glimpse of the enchanted, a glimpse which lingers on. Yet, these ‘high perspective’ pictures which show the vast sky’s immensity and uncertainty; also reveal traces resembling mildew, stains, scratches and hot pixels, and are created through the application of complicated studio and darkroom techniques. These elements hold connotations of ill luck and negativity, both subtle and unintentional, which the observer might easily miss. In this way, Shao Wenhuan creates abrupt yet powerful traces of the unknown; indefinite traces, and through these creations, the joyful atmosphere of the metaphysical elements are destroyed or obstructed. To take the joyful man’s face scored by an obscure airflow as an example, traces of this nature are seemingly without reason or logic, coming and going erratically, and due to their transcendent, metaphysical characteristics, they are difficult to define. Perhaps these connotations are also difficult for Shao Wenhuan to define, yet they are inspired by genuine sentiments and linger onwards.

However, is the individuality of Shao Wenhuan’s work simply based on his personal feelings or even paranoia? In what way do feelings of this nature arise and disappear? This is an issue which each viewer, moved by such work, must ponder and understand. In the eyes of this writer, if the indefinite traces within
Indefinite... were warmed up and softened, Indefinite... might become better.

Translation: Nicola Kielty

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