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Cloud above Cloud

Author: Liang Shaoji 2022

“The emptiness follows the emptiness, an instant in heaven and earth.”

The cloud is a floating mix of water drops, ice crystals and dust. It is one of the representatives of the massive and flowing hydrological cycle. The sublimation of vapors reflects the sunshine and the world, leaving misted and illusionary images.

Then I began to study the delicate pulse of the nature. It is the mysterious symbolic significance of clouds which has developed along with the history of human beings, religions, science, and arts. Looking into the vast sky, I can’t help asking, “What is the mystery behind the veils of clouds?” Now, I attempt to measure the inexpressible doom of sky with the long, thin and warm silk. The cosmos is no more than a silk web. The threads of silk are the traces left by the light and mysterious particles that travel through the black hole. The cocoons are the celestial bodies dotted in the boundless sky. As Giordano Bruno put it, “a man who wants to perceive the immensity of the cosmos is the same with the man who tries to grasp the essence and core of things.” Infinity can’t be measured by senses, but senses may inspire rationality. With meditation, an artist is capable of figuring out the chaos and revealing the infinity. The clouds have sheltered the world that is beyond description, though they have depicted the world in the meantime.

Since nearly all the religions guide their disciples to eternity, the clouds have been symbolized as the pleasant ladder and tranquil home to the purification and sublimation of souls. Clouds could be found almost everywhere in the sky of a Western painting during the Medieval period to the end of 19th century. They constituted part of the image picturing the Ascension or mysticism illusions. Later, with the birth of “Perspective” during Renaissance, clouds became a balancing power among the science, ideology and the painting mechanism.

Not only the scientists are studying the formation of cumulus clouds, but the religions are exploring the cosmos. I found this in 2016 during my visit at the Islamic Culture Center in Doha. In the Koran 24:43, it read “don’t you know that it is Allah who makes the clouds move, clustered and accumulated? Then you see the rain falling down from the layers of clouds…”

In Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, “cloud” has a different philosophy and a different openness. Based on the ideas of Taoism, those who can appreciate the unique beauty of lotus must have a mind as tranquil and elegant as the clouds and water. The metaphor for a monk’s travel is the wandering clouds and water. Also, music boasts a poetic definition - “the free and quiet mind of Zen in cloud and water”. In Taoism, clouds represent the constantly changing world. Nothing remains unchanged. There is no such a thing like “I” in all laws of the nature. That’s how everything can be accomplished. The trend of clouds and water are hard to predict, such as the dew and the lightening. More examples of clouds and water can be found in ancient Chinese poems. The poet Hanshan from Tang Dynasty once lived in seclusion in Tiantai Mountain, Zhejiang Province, for 70 years. He wrote, “the green and beautiful stones were shrouded in the clouds”. Another famous poet Wang Wei from Tang Dynasty wrote, “if you walk to the end of the trickle, you may see the source of water. Then if you sit down quietly and look up into the sky, you may notice the changes of the clouds.”

In the ancient Chinese art, the meaning of “cloud” derived from substantial existence to the spirituality and flexibility. “Cloud” became the code of cultural redemption because it witnessed the intersection of the void and reality. The ancient Chinese decorated the colored potteries and painted house wares with varied patterns of clouds. The renowned ancient Chinese calligrapher and painter Mi Fu was famous for his unique way of depicting clouds with intensive dots. All of these above were imbued with poetic rhythm and the wise comprehension of life and the cosmos. They are the interpretation of artists’ broadened and ambitious minds.

The traditional Chinese painting theory has described those objects with high density as “the root of clouds” such as stones and trees. Correspondently, it has described the objects with low density as “the light clouds”. The Chinese character for “cloud” is “云”. In the ancient Chinese, what’s interesting was that the verb for all the speeches or linguistic communication was “云”. It seems that everything back then were under the “clout” of “clouds”.

I held my solo exhibition “Cloud above Cloud” in the museum of the China Academy of Art in 2016. The theme already showed that it apparently proposed further questions upon the “clouds”. It’s said that to pursue a thorough understanding is the devotion to thinking. With more extensive and in-depth comprehension, one would embrace the self-transcendence. In the expression “Cloud above Cloud” the latter “clouds” referred to the radiance from the spiritualized “concepts” of materials and speeches.

The spinning of silkworms resembles traces of clouds. Clouds represent the breath of the nature and the vaporized textiles of life.

2016 at “Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art”, Zhejiang

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