The Window of the World (B8), 2008
A main focus of the extensive oeuvre of the artist GENG Jianyi is the issue of individual identity, i.e. his own personal position within the context of the collective. Despite his practices of diverse aesthetics and media (including activist street art, oil painting, installation art and ink drawing), the artist never cease to explore the questions of the 'self' in today's world. His work can be described as 'after-images' that continuously veil and unveil fragments of the individual. GENG Jianyi demonstrates an intense concern about self-awareness and the multitude of forms by which the individual is expressed and represented. In a series of portraits entitled Face (2001), the artist utilizes light-sensitive paper to create ghost-like portraits. He depicts what Paul Virilio has termed 'the aesthetics of disappearance' with a subtle calm and stillness. The semi-transparency of the portraits corresponds to a notion of withdrawal or abandonment of individuality. These images oscillate between total abstraction and recognizable facial features. A similar approach is undertaken in an earlier series of portraits titled Impossible to Name, where the artist combines oil on canvas and paper-cuts to signify the diverse layers that constitute our beings and the shifting ground that threatens our existence into dissolution. Other works revolving around themes of existential identity include Who is He? (1994) and Proving the Existence (1994).
In the exquisite series Water, the artist is concerned with a phenomenon that appears and disappears. The pictures are composed using light-sensitive paper to experiment with ways of directly capturing images from natural forms without using the lens of a camera. The black and white photos resemble the meta-physical abstractions of traditional ink and wash. Nature revolves here around notions of pantheism and the sublime as understood by Kant. According to Kant, "the mind feels itself set in motion in representation of the sublime in nature. The point of excess for the imagination is like an abyss in which it fears to lose itself."
GENG Jianyi was born in Zhengzhou, Henan province in 1962. He graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, Oil Painting Department. Today he lives and works in Hangzhou. GENG Jianyi has exhibited widely since his first show in 1989.