A disciple's lot: laying stones along a very long road

By Zhao Xu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-07 10:33
Part of Ten Thousand Li of the Yangtze River series, 2012.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Despite his infatuation with the painted surface, Cherney has long gone well beneath it.

"Mine is an art-history approach. In the West people go to national parks, the Grand Canyon, for example, to see magnificent landscapes as undisturbed nature. In China, as you scale the fabled mountains you are confronted not only with natural beauty, but also ancient works of calligraphy chiseled on cliffs. This makes you ever aware of the fact that you are traveling on the same path that has been traveled by those who have come before. My work is about putting one stone on a very long road."

This means to steep oneself in the country's literary tradition, to soak in the nuances, to let the mood sink in, and ultimately to journey to whatever place had been a stage to the drama of history, real or imaginary. It could also mean the quest for a visual equivalent to a beautiful line that sends the artist's heart aquiver.

Amid his sequence of photographs taken of the ancient path leading to a 12th-century emperor's burial ground in central China is one shot that features a motorcyclist. Whooshing into the frame from its left side, under the silent gaze of the tomb guards, the man and his mount constitute a worldly contrast to the site's other-worldly solemnity.

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