Aquanaut in the Petrified Seas
Yi Xin Tong
Producer: Vanguard Gallery
Time: July 21, 2022, 3-5pm
Address: Haidilao Hotpot [Dapu Rd Store; 4th Fl, Golden Magnolia Plaza, No. 1 Dapu Road]
Aquanaut in the Petrified Seas is initially conceived as an exhibition in the form of a book that can be carried around, accessed at any time, and viewed inch by inch. Yi Xin Tong chooses a folding
fan as the medium to integrate painting, calligraphy, and poetry. The narrow three-dimensional space formed between the opening and closing of the fan constitutes the site for the exhibition.
Image, consisting essentially of three layers, dominate one side of the exhibition. The bottom layer is composed of lines drawn with ink pens in two basic colors of red and blue, and the layer superimposed above is a watercolor with richer colors. The imageries that appear in Aquanaut in the Petrified Seas closely relate to the object series Petrified Seas currently on display at Vanguard Gallery. In the lower right of the line drawing, we can identify the two thematic subjects epitomized in Petrified Seas: Pterosaur and Helicopter; the ring to their upper left corresponds to the “ring tooth” that materializes in several pieces, including Petrified Seas: Ring Tooth; the contour of Petrified Seas: Hummingbird II runs across the image horizontally. In addition, the artist portrays imageries that touch on the geological and the social, for instance geology hammer and scythe, and persons climbing the US Capitol Building.
Some of the imageries sketched in contour lines are depicted again in the watercolor layer. The artist draws these shared imageries in nearly overlapping positions by impression, such as the helicopter, the ringed tooth, the hummingbird, the scythe, and the lotus on the far right side. There are as well patterns unique to the watercolor layer. For example, the red shape that occupies the center is extracted from the base of Petrified Seas: Kidney. What lie beyond are further interwoven details waiting to be discovered by the viewer. These layers and their contents, resembling strata from different geological epochs, are cumulative, shared, accidental, and coincidental.
Hidden in the image is a third layer comprised of the four characters “clear breeze gently comes” on the left and a lotus flower in slightly golden and black ink on the right. These elements are replicated from a hand-painted fan gifted to Tong by his grandfather An Guo Tong while alive. Such details cast a personal and even autobiographical tone on Aquanaut in the Petrified Seas, allowing the exhibition to be viewed as a work created together by the artist and his grandfather.
The other side of the exhibition features poetry, written by Tong in an interlingual mode of translation between English and Chinese. The content comes from a long period of accumulation, connected to the artist’s new object series Petrified Seas; words in the poem are assembled in unique sequences, arising from the understanding of these objects visually by two observers, namely the artist himself and an AI program capable of converting images to texts. Both observers have own characteristics in the recognition of images and the arrangement of phrases. Their words are broken up and pieced together into lines that reveal a seemingly random but highly imaginative narrative, bringing about puzzling and uncanny imageries in the reader’s mind. At the same time, the poem is a work of calligraphy based on a printed font. Tong drew the entire text based on the Chinese and English font Jigu (drawing from the ancient) produced by designer Yonghui Ying.
Aquanaut in the Petrified Seas is a journey through time, civilizations, geological landscapes, and literary imagination, where the viewer is guided by the aquanaut to uncover buried clues in the petrified seas. The fan opens to a viewable and readable world of infinite possibilities; the fan closes to silence, the only reality we leave behind in time that holds true.