I really love the notes which accompany the video work, “Billenium Waves”, by the artist, Tang Nannan, “Waves are the mountains of the sea” he says “and mountains are the waves of the land. They just rise and fall at different rates”. How cool is that? It’s one of three favourite works of mine in the current exhibition, “The Dark Matters” at Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery. Images of the other two works I really like also appear below.
For my liking, there were probably too many people at the gallery this morning, so I’ll look to find another time, sometime soon, when I can go back and spend some more time enjoying this extraordinary collection.
The ancient Chinese got their ink from smoky oil lamps, brushing away deposited soot and mixing it into a paste that hardened into “stones”. This black was pure, indelible and did not fade, and they fell in love with it. By adjusting the ink’s dilution and the density of their brushstrokes, painters could create a multitude of shades, from deepest blue-black to palest dove grey. Black had always been the colour of mystery, night, the void. The better the artists got to know black ink, the more superficial, even gaudy, colour seemed. As the Daoist philosopher Laozi declared: “Colours cause the eye to go blind.” Black—utterly simple yet infinitely subtle—allowed one to see the truth.
Chinese artists no longer live in a simple, natural, orderly world. They get their blacks not just from ink stones but from printer cartridges, spray cans, propane torches, X-ray film, newsprint, polyester, computer bits and steel. And they use blacks to convey realities the classical masters never dreamed of: oil spills, air pollution, megacities, mass production and political machinations. The artists in this show don’t shun light or colour, but in using them they follow Laozi’s advice: “Know the white, but hold to the black.” Containing more than ever, the dark also conceals more than ever. And it matters more than ever that we see.