Gong Bin’s “The Love That Moves the Sun and All the Stars”
By Lily Wong
Escapism has been a perennial subject in art throughout history. Since early Chinese dynasties, scholars sought solace in their paintings of shan shui (mountains and water) during times of political and social turmoil. The 19th-century then saw romantic painters turning their gaze toward landscapes to spurn the grimness of modern urbanization across Europe and America. In a similar manner, the colorful and dreamy paintings by Chinese artist Gong Bin have come at an opportune time when the world is shrouded in the devastation of the pandemic, climate change, and ongoing wars.
Presented by Mou Projects, “The Love That Moves the Sun and All the Stars” was Gong’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. A graduate of the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 2014, Gong works at the private M Woods Museums in Beijing, overseeing the museum’s collections during the daytime and creating artwork at night. Gong has long dealt with the idea of escapism and introspection in his works, defining their making as a “spiritual odyssey” that leads him into his inner emotional world. His imagination intersects with reality and fantasy, drawing traces from fairy tales, poems, personal experiences, and childhood memories.
When looking at Gong’s paintings, I was reminded of surrealist works, with their vast, empty fields and unconventional motifs that reflect the allure and bizarreness of the subconscious mind. In the painting In the deep woods no one knows, the bright moon comes to shine on me in company (2022), for instance, we see a human-shaped figure comprising pieces of colored clay slumbering under a barren tree while dots of lights shimmer in the nighttime sky and reflect on the surface of a tranquil river. Drenched in rich blues and greens, the landscape resembles a serene dreamland in which the viewer is the intruder upon the sleeping figure and their dreams. For two other paintings, The Dusk of Valentine’s Day (2022) and The Love That Moves the Sun and All the Stars (2022), Gong transports us to the moment of sunset, when the world is soaked in a warm light. Gong is not subtle about the idea of love when he replaces the sun with a purplish-orange heart on the dimming horizon in the former, or when he paints the mouth of a cave in a heart shape in the latter. These are landscapes mellowed with a fairy-tale romance, where people can find comfort and safety away from the problems and hardships of reality. Turning to Miracle (2022), one can see the magic lamp from the story Aladdin lying on the ground in-between two mounds of clay that look like a pair of weary travelers. Perhaps Gong is asking viewers to gaze upon the starry sky with the two sitters while letting the glowing tints of childhood memories sink into the deep night.
By adopting a childlike simplicity in composition and subject matter, Gong awakens a sense of wonder and imagination from our distant memory that is often lost amid the chaos of the real world. Looking at Gong’s paintings, you become captivated by the beauty of his fantastical world as you experience a feeling of peace and calmness brewing from within the brilliance of colors. Motifs like lumps of clay, building blocks, and paper planes are found across his paintings to carry us back to the glories of childhood, where innocence, playfulness, and joy are not yet tainted by the complexities of adult life.
Gong Bin’s “The Love That Moves the Sun and All the Stars” was on view at Mou Projects, Hong Kong, until October 29, 2022.
Lily Wong is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.