Kong Lingnan, a rising star in the Chinese art world, caught our eye with her impressive solo exhibition Only Her Body at Beijing’s UCCA (on view through May 22). Her work is clean and direct, a mix of traditional Chinese influences and modern day, Western aesthetics, with a healthy dose of illusion thrown in. The neon colors in her oil paintings drown us in an imaginative fantasy, popping off the canvas and looking as if they’re literally glowing, radiating light. After spending some time getting lost in her paintings, we found ourselves wondering if perhaps we do live in the lonely environment created by her brushes. Perhaps they convey more truth than we give them credit for.
Kong Lingnan talked with us about her techniques and inspirations.
The Creators Project: Briefly introduce yourself. Which fields are you working in?
Kong Lingnan: My name is Kong Lingnan. I am a busy-lazy person, and I am constantly confronting myself. I mainly paint.
When did you create the paintings for the UCCA exhibition? Can you tell us how the idea of luminescent painting took form, and how the effect works?
I did those works in 2010. I use neon lights as a painting medium to depict the objective world. Neon is the most fascinating light source for me. It matches my feeling towards this world. It’s flourishing and lonely, virtual and real. I mix the most basic colors to paint. The strong color contrast creates the glowing effect.
Why did you name the exhibition Only Her Body?
Only Her Body doesn’t refer to the feminine body—it projects the world, the universe, the feminine aura. I think we only see the world we want to see, so we build up all kinds of systems to fit our perception. I ask myself: What is the real face of the world? There shouldn’t be [only] kind and evil, or beauty and ugliness—just the world itself.
We saw faraway planets, lonely and tiny human figures, traces of humans, and environmental issues in your paintings. Are those the themes that you are focusing on?
I suppose so. My paintings are my mirror.
What we found most interesting in your paintings is that you use traditional techniques to produce the glowing effect of neon, which is a main element in new media art. Is there any criticism of technology in your thinking?
Neon lights look like rainbows. They make city nights bright and flourishing, but they are manufactured by man. They didn’t exist before—like culture, religion, and ethics—all these concepts were created by mankind.
What technology do you use most in your art practice? Do you want to try another medium?
Painting and light installation are my main mediums. The medium totally depends on the particular project and its content.
What technology do you wish for most? Do you think it would help your life and creative process?
Teleportation and time machines sound good, but I am not sure these conveniences would be a good thing.
What are you working on at this moment?
I am working on a new show for the CIGE Young Artists section. It’s called Astroid m929. I have also been working non-stop on two exhibitions. I will take a rest after this show, and start a new series of work.
Images courtesy of UCCA.