Experiments and expressions of colour, space, composition and sensation construct the major explorations of Chen Ruobing’s abstract art practices. In recent years, while pursuing such practices, Chen’s work has extended from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional. In his solo exhibition taking place at Ginkgo Space, River of Light, striped colour fields run across the walls and floor, penetrating and transforming the space. The artist orchestrates multiple elements in his painting and constructs a scene of sensations in three-dimensional space.
The composition of the colour strips echoes what is often seen in his paintings: two basic colours. In a cuboid space without visual obstacles, fluorescent green and orange resound with a confrontational visual power; meanwhile, a touch of subtle light emerges against the backdrop of the white gallery walls and grey floor. Colour here seems to be emancipated from the physical base and endowed with the sublime. Colour strips hang in the air like rivers running downwards, responding to the exhibition subject with their vivid and poetic abstract forms.
It should be noted that, although the canvas-surfaced colour tapes appear to be unified and homogeneous, the artist has interfered with this industrial product with a ghostly, painterly and human touch. In fact, the tactic of using canvas to manufacture the tape itself, reveals connections between the installation and the medium of painting. On their top and bottom sides, the tapes have gradient colours hand-drawn by the artist. Similar treatment is made at the middle, where the tape is tightly adhered to the wall, forming an exquisite transition of colour and light. With apparently random strokes and uneven edges of the colour fields, the creator’s presence is made manifest, allowing the individualised, differentiated and human touch to emerge amid the homogeneity. If examined closely, subtle yet rich variations appear at the intersection of colour fields, in alignment with the visual style of Chen’s paintings.
Dozens of colour strips of various widths form sequences on each side of the gallery, asymmetric yet echoing each other. On each side of the wall, there co-exists a sense of imperfect order in the layout of the orange and green tapes. The arrangement of these colour tapes seems to be random, but at the same time embodies a fundamental rational formal structure. The various width colour strips and blank walls among them create rhythmic breaths between the fictional and the real, the fast and the slow, as well as a numeric aesthetic as if revealing natural laws of mathematics with metaphorical, abstract forms.
If what is on the gallery walls lays the foundation of a rational framework and sense of order, then the ground element adds the sensational touch. Random stretches during the creation process end the tapes’ ground part with various lengths. The rolls of unused tape are left on the floor, indicating the overall momentum of the piece. These elements seem to sprout naturally from the ground, or are like brush strokes that break the borders of a painting. Sensational elements are liberated from the rational order, infusing the work with vitality. In the creative process, there was debate regarding the length of tapes on the ground, reflecting the artist’s cautious and restrained attitude towards sensational expression. The contracting and releasing act on the tape discloses the artist’s modest hesitance, not only endowing the work with humble characteristics, but also letting the unspoken linger.
Intrinsic to this spatial installation is Chen Ruobing’s artist language of colour and structure; meanwhile, it embodies the artist’s metaphysical reflections on nature, life, spirit and sensations, as well as cultural influences rooted deeply within him. What is unique about this installation is its breakthrough of conventional canvas and frames, emancipating artistic expression from the restraint of two-dimensional space towards the physical, three-dimensional world full of uncertainties. This approach not only expands artistic territories and potentials, but also allows the sensational experience at play in the piece to permeate the space.