Emerging Within the Wild: A Project Seeking an Entry to Spiritual "Seclusion" at CAFAM



“Emerging Within the Wild” is a partially suspended experimental project.

The so-called ‘suspension points’ denote two states, one physical and the other psychological.

The physical portion of the project refers to the two-and-a-half-story exhibition hall of CAFAM. One end of it connects two long corridors leading to different floors of the exhibition space, and the other end is a closed bridge spanning the curved wall of the gallery.

This is a desolate island.

The psychological portion unfolds an association brought about by the works from two individual artists, Soengkit Wong and Cheng Yuyang.

From this starting point, a discourse on loneliness begins.




Installation View of Emerging Within the Wild



View of the Opening for Emerging Within the Wild

A Tales of Two Cities

Beijing — London

The straight-line distance from Beijing to London is 12304.76 kilometers.

This project originated from the 2022 doctoral graduation works by Soengkit Wong and Cheng Yuyang completed in Beijing and London respectively. Although they resided in different cities, they both visualized identical concepts of “nature”. Within their independent ideals, both of them immersed themselves in this concept, using it as a means for releasing the anxiety and powerlessness they feel against reality.

Nomadic Space

Mountains and Sea

Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth is 8848.86 meters above sea level.

The deepest point on Earth is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean at 10,973 meters.

The visual presentation of Soengkit Wong and Cheng Yuyang wanders between the pinnacles and the deepest ravines of the earth. Wong’s text originates from the ten scenes of secluded life recorded in the Tang Dynasty work "Ten Records of the Thatched Cottage" by Lu Hong. In a state similar to sleepwalking, Wong traversed Google Maps, discovering the rhythm of mountain peaks and the frigidness of broad landscapes. Cheng uses his body to present nature through the relation of performer and audiences, immersing themselves like shamans in a backdrop made up of a black, silky sea. Both Wong and Cheng long for a kind of spiritual exile. Both uses two different methods to present, two distinctive ends of thinking. Like a grain of dust that is carried over mountains and seas, these ups and downs reflect the fluctuations of its fate. 

山海浮生 戏剧现场1 photo by Xia San.jpg

Live Theatre of The Floating Life, Photo by Xia San

The Hidden Body: Cheng Yuyang’s “The Floating Life”

By Geng Jinghua Apple

Cheng Yuyang's concept of "nature" is showcased through her and her dancers utilizing the human "body". She combines natural music, interactive media, fabrics and the human body in creating the live structure of the five-act play. Based on Foucault's theory of the human body as a tool or medium, Cheng, who majored in architecture, comprehends the body as a part of the urban landscape. She conducts an exploration of how the body's desires generate intuitive dynamics. Several acts of the play follow the progression of emotions. The most recent arrangements incorporate a cappella, and the addition of human voices strengthens the concept of identity as a human subject. Triangular devices of different sizes, circular luminous bodies that flicker on and off, and the images of mountains and seas are represented by soft hanging fabrics. 

山海浮生 戏剧现场2 photo by Xia San.jpg

山海浮生 戏剧现场3 photo by Xia San.jpg

Live Theatre of The Floating Life, Photo by Xia SanThe artist emphasizes the usage of the Eastern language through exhibiting the spatial relationship between the image of water and the dancer's body in the space. Just like the name of the work: “The Floating Life”, the work implies the unstable movements of water and the ultimate fate of human beings floating on or hidden in it. Cheng involves herself in the construction of space, her body also becoming a domain. Her “seclusion” is tangible but simultaneously also abstract, reflecting the saying: “its movement is like heaven, and its stillness is like earth."

山海浮生 戏剧现场4 photo by Xia San.jpg

山海浮生 戏剧现场5 photo by Xia San.jpg

山海浮生 戏剧现场6 photo by Xia San.jpg

Live Theatre of The Floating Life, Photo by Xia San

From the Imagination of Sleepwalking to the Reality of Seeing—Reading Soengkit Wong’s recent works

By Geng Jinghua Apple

During the collective perplexities of 2020, Soengkit Wong, who is accustomed to traveling but was unable to, thought of the experiential tradition of "viewing the Tao with a clear mind and lying down to swim". With this in mind, Wong began to “travel” on Google Maps. His paintings with ink as the main medium and the geographical coordinates of Mount Everest as the main theme, clearly introduce a new viewing medium as a way of observing nature. Wang uses a unified screen size of 55×40cm. This work has various rotatable viewing angles due to the flexibility of Google Maps. Since the landscape of the Mount Everest region is covered with snow all year round, the image is mainly white with light gray in the dark areas. Coupled with the flowing clouds and mist on the ridge, the overall color palette is relatively pale. This series of works is the beginning of Wong’s "Seclusion" series.

Wang Xiangjie作品名称:当今我们如何隐居(一) 作品尺寸:400x180cm 作品材质:纸本水墨 创作年代:2023年How Do We Retreat in Today's World(1) 400x180cm,ink and colour on paper,2023.jpg

Soengkit Wong, How Do We Retreat in Today's World?(1); Ink and Color on paper, 400x180 cm, 2023.

Wong graduated in 2022 with a doctorate degree. His creations developed into the more complex question of "How do we view seclusion now?" . The background text of this work comes from the ten scenes of reclusive life recorded in Lu Hong's Tang Dynasty’s work "Ten Records of the Thatched Cottage", which in order are: The Thatched Cottage, the Inverted Scenery Terrace, the Yue Pavilion, the ZhenYan Pavilion, Yun Jin Cong, Qi Xian Deng, and Di Fan. There are ten sceneries including Jiji, Chaocuiting, Dongyuanshi and Jinbitan. Wong appropriated the ten scenes from the so-called "Ten Records of Xuanju", but painted his scenery and the content corresponding to the text into a large composition on a non-traditional scroll painting with a size of 285×190 cm. The painting showcases mountain peaks, but it  deviates from normal perspectives of the reality. Like a 3D model, the landscaped is cut and combined together. With the technical assistance of Google and Blander, Wong added a dark blue space to the composition of the picture, suspending one white-capped peak askew in another three-dimensional space - his studio. The confusion of time and space makes the picture appear absurd. Thus, the ideal state of seclusion is no longer detached and is once again fettered by reality.

In 2023, Wong further developed his concept of "seclusion". This work still focuses on Mount Everest, but he abandoned the theme of "How do we view seclusion now?" The design of the inverted space uses a slightly overhead perspective of "flat distance" to create the composition. The "mountains and rivers" are thus pushed even broader. In terms of color, it is neither like the high contrast tones that Wang used in 2020 with white as the main body, nor did he attempt to add other colors in his creation of 2022. The tone of this work darkens - black makes up the main body, and white is only highlighted on the surfaces which reflect light. The gray layers also lean towards darker shades. This new work, which has a maximum size of 400×180 centimeters, still uses "Ten Records of the Thatched Cottage" as the text, but the inscription method of the secluded spots has been changed to a pure bitmap display method on Google Maps, and  the names have been changed to English.

Wang Xiangjie 鹊华 QueHUA.jpg

Soengkit Wong, QUE HUA; Ink and color on Paper, 28.4x90.2cm, 2023. 

Wong’s recent work, "QUE HUA", has the same dimensions as "Autumn Colors of Magpies" by Zhao Mengfu, which is stored in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, measures 28.4 cm in length and 93.3 cm in width. Wong once again used Google Maps to deduce the current locations of "Que Mountain" and "Huabuzhu Mountain" at Qi Yan's nine points. To redraw a masterpiece using a digital perspective that people are accustomed to today may be a way to remember iconic dialogues and discourses of ancient famous individuals.

From Wong’s recent series of works, it is not difficult to see his interest in the "seclusion" of the mother’s body, as well as his sensitivity and persistence in using new media as an observational perspective. The seclusion in his paintings is no longer a traditional freehand landscape scene, but a contemporary scene painted with traditional brushwork.

作品名称:当今我们如何隐居 作品尺寸:180x60cm 作品材质:纸本水墨 创作年代:2023年 How do we think about seclusion in contemporary society 180x60cm,ink and colour on paper,2023.jpg

Soengkit Wong, How do we think about seclusion in contemporary society; 180x60cm, ink and colour on paper, 2023.

In common understanding, landscape painting should be an image of the heart, abandoning form to capture spirit has always been a means for artists to express the emotions. However, "real landscape" is actually a tradition in the origin of Chinese landscape painting, which can be traced back to geographical maps. For example, the "Mount Wutai Map" in Cave 61 of the Mogao Grottoes is a  large-scale map. The scenery depicted in "Wangchuan Picture" by Wang Wei of Tang Dynasty is also the place where Lantian Bieye, where he lived in seclusion in the Shaanxi province. Another example is China's early map of the Yangtze River - the "Ten Thousand Miles of the Yangtze River" written by Ju Ran and stored in the Freer Museum of Art in the United States. The real-life features of important landscapes along the Yangtze River are very evident, there are red text marking place names...a combination of landscape painting and map. These very real locations were the spiritual residences of ancient people who "didn't go out to feast in the hall, but sat in the ravines of poor springs". These seem to provide a historical basis for Wong’s concept of seclusion. However, his "real scene" is a drastically changed landscape - replacing human pupils with "dragonfly eyes", which is an attempt to reconcile seclusion with the new possibilities brought about by digital technology. Wong is convinced that the impact and influence of technology on our current life and art world is inevitable. But can this convenient way to enjoy a leisurely trip satisfy your heart? Through the development of composition and strong transformation of colors, Wong’s paintings present the contradictory emotions of "reclusion" and "inability of being reclusive".


Exhibition time: January 11 - February 25, 2024

Exhibition Venue: Exhibition Hall C, 2nd Floor, CAFA Art Museum

Emerging within the Mountain Artist: Soengkit Wong

Emerging within the Sea Artists: Cheng Yuyang (writer & director), Luba Hilman (arranger) & Echo Music Studio (acappella)

Text | Exhibition Structure: Geng Jinghua

Title Inscription: Qiu Ting

Exhibition design support: Dongchen Design

Project members: Wang Donglin, Chen Yijun, Zuo Mengxin

Exhibition Assistant|Translation: Guo Hetong

Equipment and venue support: Skyworth, Magician Space Xunyi Culture, ENLIGHTV PTE.LTD.

Brand support: TEASURE, Art Nova 100, Jinghong, Shi Men Dang Xue

Acknowledgments: Qiu Ting, Linda, Qu Kejie, Liu Fang, Yan Mingdan, Wen Liang, Wang Donglin, Chen Yijun, Zhang Yudong, Yang Dongcai

Courtesy of Geng Jinghua Apple, edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO.