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The Sight of Code

—Analysis of Dataism and Code Awareness in Cong Yunfeng’s Painting

 

Interdisciplinary painting is artist CongYunfeng’s personal interest. As a young artist born into Generation Z, hispainting and creative methods are stamped with characters of this age:computer, cyberspace, globalization, virtual reality, mobile internet,interactive designs, Dataism, blockchain, code context… All these inventionsconstitute the information landscape of the 21st century. When codes permeateeverywhere on the internet, the calculation of data and the decision-makingprocess based on it form basis for a new mindset. A new Dataistic behavioralmodel is generated, in which our real-world self converts to a digital one, andour information-exchange platforms also move online. To the Dataists, the logicfoundation of all disciplines are formulated by data. Even the biologicalevolution is an expression of the constant information exchange between livingorganisms and their environment. To put it in an extremist way, data flow isthe ultimate foundation for the world to function. Such belief gives rise to anew group of elites called Dataists. This Dataistic realm is what Cong Yunfenghappens to break into through his painting experiments.

 

If we analyze Cong’s paintings from a geneticangle, we’ll find that they are born from the traditions of the two artinstitutes he has studied at: Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and ThePrince's School of Traditional Arts (PSTA). Graduated from CAFA in China andthe PSTA in the UK, Cong boasts the standard education of a Generation-Zartist: the artistic traditions and modern experiments from CAFA and the internationalperspective from London integrate well with Cong’s sharp individualism andambitious pursuits, shaping his personal style in painting.

 

He chooses traditional painting mediumstempera and silk scroll with an open mind, applies computer graphics andDataistic thinking in his interdisciplinary experiments, and utilizes thedelicate techniques of tempera and the broad concepts of fine-brushwork tobring the form of painting into the Age of Code. This is a way of painting thatincorporates multiple mindsets, its magic created by an unnoticeable change of perception.In almost all of his paintings, Cong employs the classic Chinese cavalierperspective while using traditional landscapes, flowers and birds as basicpictorial elements. Amid the nature scene, geometry shapes, numbers and codesflow through and create a new layer of meaning.

 

Cong’s use of codes in his paintings has beenthrough an evolution. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is the first series ofpaintings he created at CAFA. At the height of youthful passion and ambition atthe time, Cong is drawn to Nietzsche’s theories of superhuman and will topower. To exert his zeal for interdisciplinary arts, Cong willfully pulled manyunrelated materials together and juxtaposed them under the same frame, hopingto cross established boundaries in painting. In a work that employs a deepcavalier perspective, he reconstructed scenes of heavy-industry sites inNortheast China with childhood memories, scrapped cars, flying sparks, an emptycity, an abandoned suspension bridge, planets and space stations in the outerspace, ocean, rivers, aquatic lives, energy conversion in rocket launching, theGuggenheim Bilbao Museum, lotus and carps in Southern China’s classic gardens,Netherland’s windmills, wild fauna, religious architectures of the West and theEast, classic Chinese landscape icons from Guo Xi’s "Early Spring” or Jing Hao’s “Kuang Lu”… All kinds of surreal andabsurd scenes are reorganized into the same frame with landscape as theirbackground. Such is an expression of Cong’s understanding of the key chaptersin Also Sprach Zarathustra. In this painting series, Cong hasexperimented with a Nietzscheanly destructive modeling technique, a forcedcross-context synthesis method that originates from the academia but alsobreaks its mechanism. Also worths noticing is that since the creation of thisseries, Cong begins to find a logic start point for the code language he usesin later creations.

 

In “Emanation of the One,” Cong purifies thelanguage of painting, bringing the colorful and flat tempera painting into aninformation exchange through geometrical construction. A special grammar isbuilt up by the Persian miniatures’ plant patterns, and the landscape inChinese ink painting is transformed into vocabularies in graphic design.Through such cross-media conversation and distillation, the landscapes acquiretexture and color. Inspired by Plotinus’ doctrine of emanation, Cong organizeshis 24 works to match the 24 mountains in Feng Shui in their positioning. Everyposition has its corresponded attribute in the Five Elements, the SolarCalendar and the Eight Diagrams. In this way, Cong gives multiple possibilitiesfor interpretation to the seemingly simplistic pictorial systems. As an exampleof Cong’s effort to give a layered signature-significance relationship to hispaintings, he assigns solar terms Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice and Slight Heatto pictures Bing, Wu and Ding.

 

Cong strives to build a metaphor of emanationand data exchange through this cross-culture referencing method, the passwordformed by Islamic geometry shapes. The octagon he chooses match the shape ofthe Eight Diagrams. In the painting, the center octagon is surrounded byanother two layers of octagons, engendering a hidden structure and thusproducing an extended visual effect as well as a sense of emanation from theone. Through Cong’s grammar that’s full of mathematical implications, thevisually faraway mountains and the horizontally expanding geometries createanother dimension in which the images move horizontally; Similarly, the highmountains and the cloudy geometries draw our eyes to a vertical movement; And thedeep mountains move from near to far against the background of the geometries.Through the geometries, everything is reconstructed into a contextual imagery,forming a consensual hallucination. This is also a way for mindsets totransform innately in this age. The mathematic qualities and religious implicationsof this series push Cong’s painting only one step from converting into Dataism.

 

In his landscape series “Binary,” Cong goesthrough a more thorough transition into Dataism which is evident in his mediumand techniques. He uses monochrome ink and fine-brushwork technique tohand-draw numbers 1 and 0, binary codes that constitute the computer system,forming ink landscapes on silk scrolls. Thus born the paintings “Binary OuterSpace Odyssey,” “Autumn of the City,” “Cloud Watching on a Balcony,” “Scene ofTwo Cities,” and“A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains”. In “Binary,” apainting disguised by the appearance of traditional Chinese ink painting isoffered to mislead viewers in their visual logic. A careless viewing will leadto a rushed conclusion that this is no more than an ordinary Chinese inkpainting. But what lies underneath the seemingly stereotypical pictorial systemis a “but” — a code conversion mechanism in perception.

 

Code modeling has become a popularimage-generating method in the Data Age, where artists construct classicalimages with codes to cause cognitive confusion. The products inspire viewers todistinguish between what’s real and what’s virtual, concepts that are mosteasily to be confused over in this age. The motivation behind an ink paintingis no longer to reproduce the look of an ancient mountain view, but to triggerviewers’ awareness of the absolute difference between the old and the new.Hiding behind the silk scroll painting is a picture of number 0 and 1 that’sdrawn on viewers’ perception space.

 

With a Dataistic thick description, Congcreates a delicate visual illusion. Code acquires different meanings underimage and painting’s respective spacial orders: in a visible space, it triggersthe interpretation of an ink painting, while in an invisible space, it inspiresus to think: how data affects our real life? What is their logic and grammar?This is an implosion inside of the textual structure: “code-weaving” and “image- thick description” together construct the reproduction rule of “appearance -meaning”. A code-constructed image with the appearance of an ancient inkpainting converges with ideas of Dataism of the 21st century. I would classifyit under Converting Aestheticism, a concept that’s only raised recently. In theAge of New Economics,  New Industry, NewTechnology, this is a New Aesthetic Judgment that helps us to distinguish thechange of interface from traditional mindset to that of the Data Age.

 

In Cong’s painting experiments, ageographical trait and an identity awareness in this Age of Globalization areaccented, underlining a dominant influence of Chinese culture in the artist’screative mindscape. In the paintings’ pictorial systems that are inspired byarts of China, Europe, Middle East and India, we can find visual elements ofthe ancient time, the modern, the Oriental, the West, the contemporary, andeven the future. Codes permeate the images, and changes of perception happen atthe “scene changes,” during which figures transform into codes, and realobjects into data. These changes break the original boundary of perception,bringing viewers into a free flow of information. In this context, codes have areligious significance in that they produce data and further create anoperation platform for virtual reality.

 

Cong’s painting experiment enters into a newinterface of Converting Aestheticism as well as the realm of Datism. Let’s geta sense of its core world view: “In this world, everything can be quantizedinto data. As the saying goes, everything is bit. Bit is the most basicparticle based on which the universe operates. They are abstract, inseparable,and absolute. The whole universe is a giant computer, for whom documenting andprocessing data is the whole meaning of its existence.” Many possibilities andchallenges have been brought by such distributed accounting method asblockchain. Likewise, facing this gradually digitalizing world and thetremendous challenge it brings, we question: where is the most productive spotfor us to focus on? Perhaps, this is what Cong’s vision of code inspires us tothink about in the status quo of the 21st century. 


The Sight of Code

—Analysis of Dataism and Code Awareness in Cong Yunfeng’s Painting

 

Interdisciplinary painting is artist CongYunfeng’s personal interest. As a young artist born into Generation Z, hispainting and creative methods are stamped with characters of this age:computer, cyberspace, globalization, virtual reality, mobile internet,interactive designs, Dataism, blockchain, code context… All these inventionsconstitute the information landscape of the 21st century. When codes permeateeverywhere on the internet, the calculation of data and the decision-makingprocess based on it form basis for a new mindset. A new Dataistic behavioralmodel is generated, in which our real-world self converts to a digital one, andour information-exchange platforms also move online. To the Dataists, the logicfoundation of all disciplines are formulated by data. Even the biologicalevolution is an expression of the constant information exchange between livingorganisms and their environment. To put it in an extremist way, data flow isthe ultimate foundation for the world to function. Such belief gives rise to anew group of elites called Dataists. This Dataistic realm is what Cong Yunfenghappens to break into through his painting experiments.

 

If we analyze Cong’s paintings from a geneticangle, we’ll find that they are born from the traditions of the two artinstitutes he has studied at: Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and ThePrince's School of Traditional Arts (PSTA). Graduated from CAFA in China andthe PSTA in the UK, Cong boasts the standard education of a Generation-Zartist: the artistic traditions and modern experiments from CAFA and the internationalperspective from London integrate well with Cong’s sharp individualism andambitious pursuits, shaping his personal style in painting.

 

He chooses traditional painting mediumstempera and silk scroll with an open mind, applies computer graphics andDataistic thinking in his interdisciplinary experiments, and utilizes thedelicate techniques of tempera and the broad concepts of fine-brushwork tobring the form of painting into the Age of Code. This is a way of painting thatincorporates multiple mindsets, its magic created by an unnoticeable change of perception.In almost all of his paintings, Cong employs the classic Chinese cavalierperspective while using traditional landscapes, flowers and birds as basicpictorial elements. Amid the nature scene, geometry shapes, numbers and codesflow through and create a new layer of meaning.

 

Cong’s use of codes in his paintings has beenthrough an evolution. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is the first series ofpaintings he created at CAFA. At the height of youthful passion and ambition atthe time, Cong is drawn to Nietzsche’s theories of superhuman and will topower. To exert his zeal for interdisciplinary arts, Cong willfully pulled manyunrelated materials together and juxtaposed them under the same frame, hopingto cross established boundaries in painting. In a work that employs a deepcavalier perspective, he reconstructed scenes of heavy-industry sites inNortheast China with childhood memories, scrapped cars, flying sparks, an emptycity, an abandoned suspension bridge, planets and space stations in the outerspace, ocean, rivers, aquatic lives, energy conversion in rocket launching, theGuggenheim Bilbao Museum, lotus and carps in Southern China’s classic gardens,Netherland’s windmills, wild fauna, religious architectures of the West and theEast, classic Chinese landscape icons from Guo Xi’s "Early Spring” or Jing Hao’s “Kuang Lu”… All kinds of surreal andabsurd scenes are reorganized into the same frame with landscape as theirbackground. Such is an expression of Cong’s understanding of the key chaptersin Also Sprach Zarathustra. In this painting series, Cong hasexperimented with a Nietzscheanly destructive modeling technique, a forcedcross-context synthesis method that originates from the academia but alsobreaks its mechanism. Also worths noticing is that since the creation of thisseries, Cong begins to find a logic start point for the code language he usesin later creations.

 

In “Emanation of the One,” Cong purifies thelanguage of painting, bringing the colorful and flat tempera painting into aninformation exchange through geometrical construction. A special grammar isbuilt up by the Persian miniatures’ plant patterns, and the landscape inChinese ink painting is transformed into vocabularies in graphic design.Through such cross-media conversation and distillation, the landscapes acquiretexture and color. Inspired by Plotinus’ doctrine of emanation, Cong organizeshis 24 works to match the 24 mountains in Feng Shui in their positioning. Everyposition has its corresponded attribute in the Five Elements, the SolarCalendar and the Eight Diagrams. In this way, Cong gives multiple possibilitiesfor interpretation to the seemingly simplistic pictorial systems. As an exampleof Cong’s effort to give a layered signature-significance relationship to hispaintings, he assigns solar terms Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice and Slight Heatto pictures Bing, Wu and Ding.

 

Cong strives to build a metaphor of emanationand data exchange through this cross-culture referencing method, the passwordformed by Islamic geometry shapes. The octagon he chooses match the shape ofthe Eight Diagrams. In the painting, the center octagon is surrounded byanother two layers of octagons, engendering a hidden structure and thusproducing an extended visual effect as well as a sense of emanation from theone. Through Cong’s grammar that’s full of mathematical implications, thevisually faraway mountains and the horizontally expanding geometries createanother dimension in which the images move horizontally; Similarly, the highmountains and the cloudy geometries draw our eyes to a vertical movement; And thedeep mountains move from near to far against the background of the geometries.Through the geometries, everything is reconstructed into a contextual imagery,forming a consensual hallucination. This is also a way for mindsets totransform innately in this age. The mathematic qualities and religious implicationsof this series push Cong’s painting only one step from converting into Dataism.

 

In his landscape series “Binary,” Cong goesthrough a more thorough transition into Dataism which is evident in his mediumand techniques. He uses monochrome ink and fine-brushwork technique tohand-draw numbers 1 and 0, binary codes that constitute the computer system,forming ink landscapes on silk scrolls. Thus born the paintings “Binary OuterSpace Odyssey,” “Autumn of the City,” “Cloud Watching on a Balcony,” “Scene ofTwo Cities,” and“A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains”. In “Binary,” apainting disguised by the appearance of traditional Chinese ink painting isoffered to mislead viewers in their visual logic. A careless viewing will leadto a rushed conclusion that this is no more than an ordinary Chinese inkpainting. But what lies underneath the seemingly stereotypical pictorial systemis a “but” — a code conversion mechanism in perception.

 

Code modeling has become a popularimage-generating method in the Data Age, where artists construct classicalimages with codes to cause cognitive confusion. The products inspire viewers todistinguish between what’s real and what’s virtual, concepts that are mosteasily to be confused over in this age. The motivation behind an ink paintingis no longer to reproduce the look of an ancient mountain view, but to triggerviewers’ awareness of the absolute difference between the old and the new.Hiding behind the silk scroll painting is a picture of number 0 and 1 that’sdrawn on viewers’ perception space.

 

With a Dataistic thick description, Congcreates a delicate visual illusion. Code acquires different meanings underimage and painting’s respective spacial orders: in a visible space, it triggersthe interpretation of an ink painting, while in an invisible space, it inspiresus to think: how data affects our real life? What is their logic and grammar?This is an implosion inside of the textual structure: “code-weaving” and “image- thick description” together construct the reproduction rule of “appearance -meaning”. A code-constructed image with the appearance of an ancient inkpainting converges with ideas of Dataism of the 21st century. I would classifyit under Converting Aestheticism, a concept that’s only raised recently. In theAge of New Economics,  New Industry, NewTechnology, this is a New Aesthetic Judgment that helps us to distinguish thechange of interface from traditional mindset to that of the Data Age.

 

In Cong’s painting experiments, ageographical trait and an identity awareness in this Age of Globalization areaccented, underlining a dominant influence of Chinese culture in the artist’screative mindscape. In the paintings’ pictorial systems that are inspired byarts of China, Europe, Middle East and India, we can find visual elements ofthe ancient time, the modern, the Oriental, the West, the contemporary, andeven the future. Codes permeate the images, and changes of perception happen atthe “scene changes,” during which figures transform into codes, and realobjects into data. These changes break the original boundary of perception,bringing viewers into a free flow of information. In this context, codes have areligious significance in that they produce data and further create anoperation platform for virtual reality.

 

Cong’s painting experiment enters into a newinterface of Converting Aestheticism as well as the realm of Datism. Let’s geta sense of its core world view: “In this world, everything can be quantizedinto data. As the saying goes, everything is bit. Bit is the most basicparticle based on which the universe operates. They are abstract, inseparable,and absolute. The whole universe is a giant computer, for whom documenting andprocessing data is the whole meaning of its existence.” Many possibilities andchallenges have been brought by such distributed accounting method asblockchain. Likewise, facing this gradually digitalizing world and thetremendous challenge it brings, we question: where is the most productive spotfor us to focus on? Perhaps, this is what Cong’s vision of code inspires us tothink about in the status quo of the 21st century. 


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