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Transition from tradition

Deng Zhangyu
Updated: Apr 5,2016 8:46 AM     China Daily

Light Breeze at Dongting Lake, is one of the eight large-scale installations exhibited on the show.[Photo/China Daily]

Zheng Lu’s ongoing solo exhibition brings into focus the changes his art has undergone in the past years-from simple sculptures to more dynamic outcomes by combining sculptures with videos, music and high-tech presentations.

Titled Transition, the show, which is being held on the rooftop of Parkview Green, a popular Beijing mall that displays artworks, features eight large-scale works. Among them, Rain Drum imitates the sound of rain falling on the building’s rooftop, and Winter Solstice visualizes sunlight casting shadows on Dec 22, usually the year’s shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

“These tailor-made installations can’t be moved to other exhibitions. From now on, I want my works to have some connection to the spaces where they are shown,” Zheng, 38, tells China Daily.

Curator Huang Du says Zheng’s works on display are different from his past sculptures in the sense that they interact more with exhibition spaces and the visitors-”a challenging shift” for Zheng, from a sculptor to an artist of multimedia installations.

Zheng’s best-known previous work is a series of big stainless steel sculptures, with verses from ancient poems written in Chinese characters highlighting sculptures shaped like water droplets.

The artist says he is fond of trying new materials and including high-tech inputs in his artworks. So he has introduced music and videos in his latest pieces.

Zheng Lu expands his artistic exploration from sculptures to installations in his solo show, Transition, in Beijing.

Rain Drum, he says, was inspired by watching Parkview Green washed in the rain during his many visits.

He uses small metal balls on a waterproof film to bring out his vision. When the metal balls drop on the film’s surface, they produce a rhythm that is similar to the beating of a drum. Audiences walking underneath the installation get the feeling of walking in the rain.

To create the installation, Zheng worked with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He started to prepare for the show three years ago.

“It’s hard to run such installations. It needs four machines and a computer to control the space,” he says.

His studio in suburban Beijing is like a factory, where a team of more than 40 people work.

Zheng says producing his works is similar to “doing experiments” in the lab.

“To get an idea is the easy part, but turning it into a piece is tougher. I have to experiment with an idea for a long time.”

In another work, All Quiet Beyond the Heart, he uses a linear spectrogram in a dark room, where visitors can see only a beam of light falling on a potted plant and music can be heard only from one direction due to the effects of light and sound.

Winter Solstice, is one of the eight large-scale installations exhibited on the show.

Zheng has long wanted to bring music into his works. Since high school he dreamed of becoming a drummer, and the motivation for him to study hard was that his parents had promised to buy him a set of drums if only he got good marks.

“If I weren’t an artist, I would most probably be a drummer,” he says.

“I will continue to use music in future, too.”

Zheng also uses visual support to enhance the audiences’ experiences of his art. For example, his Light Breeze at Dongting Lake has a video projected onto a big metallic circle to show how lakes reflect sunlight.

Besides museums and art galleries, his works are also purchased by hotels and billionaires who want to decorate their houses. An Italian winemaker has just ordered two of his works for his villas.

“I don’t want to repeat myself, which is why I keep trying new materials and technologies to make new forms,” Zheng says.

His approach to sculptures has also evolved, and there are “no limitations” on an artist’s choice of a style of expression, he says.

Zheng’s ongoing show uses lights, video, music and sculptures together, a trend that is increasingly becoming popular in the art world and is employed by many famous artists. Rain Room, a work of falling water, created by a team of artists of Random International, for example, has been a hit with people in New York and London since 2012.

“Traditional sculptures can no longer meet the demand of today’s audiences. There will be more interactive shows that offer people such experiences,” Zheng says.

If you go

11 am-7 pm, through June 11. Parkview Green mall, 9 Dongdaqiao Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing.