Deng Guoyuan (b. 1957, Tianjin, China) responds in his work to the drastic social changes that have taken place in China over the past three decades, as well as the profound differences and affinities between China’s cultural tradition and that of the West. He has turned from making paintings on canvas to developing large-scale public installations, which use large pieces of glass to mirror images and refer to traditional Chinese imagery such as classical gardens and landscapes of forests and rocks. His works attempt to convey the mystical relationship between one’s presence in the here-and-now and the world, as well as what might await in the unknown beyond, in order to expose the crises and dilemmas we face today. Through a discursive method that juxtaposes the real and the illusory, his works express his anticipation and hope for the future. He lives and works in Tianjin, China.
Deng Guoyuan at Singapore Biennale 2016
Noah’s Garden II, 2016
Aluminium alloy steel frame, mirror glass, LED lighting, real and artificial plants and rocks 1160 × 650 × 320 cm Collection of the Artist Singapore Biennale 2016 commission
This site-specific work is at once a garden of artificial flora and a labyrinth of mirrors. Entering the installation, viewers find themselves inside a kaleidoscope, where the surrounding infinite mirror images create a feeling of the loss of subjectivity. Artificial plants, referencing classical Song Dynasty representations of particular flora, but coated in vibrant colours, assault the senses and blur the lines between the real and the artificial. In applying the colour schemes from maps he has examined to these artificial plants and classically-referenced ‘scholar rocks’ he has created, the artist defies the conventional systems of colour-coding in map-making, recasting the world with a renewed hope for the integration of richness and diversity and the resolution of conflicts. By evoking scepticism and uncertainty, his work raises doubt about the validity and accuracy of map-making; it creates a utopia while simultaneously disassembling it.