Art Tainan 2021
Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel
Cen Long’s paintings have always been suffused with an inner glow, a holy light of kindness. His earliest motif was the traveling bard, wandering amid depictions of down-to-earth scenes of Northern Chinese agriculture, cultures, and farming habits. These rustic human landscapes brought to light his most frequent theme: the harmony between man and nature lending the strength needed to survive in harsh conditions with only primitive technology. During this period, the light that permeates Cen’s art is one of gentle hope: men find a home in nature and inspire one another with love and solidarity. He paints lives, man and animal both, that live close to the sun on highlands and prairies. Around this time in his artistic career, he told me that he would be satisfied if his artwork, like the sporadic starlight one sometimes sees at night, could touch the heart of even a few.
In Gazing at the Stars, a woman looks up from working the fields to gaze fixedly into the night sky. Within her arms she carries her two goats so tenderly that they seem more like family pets than owned beasts. The starlight, representing divine illumination, falls not only on but into her, reflecting from the depth of her soul. One can tell that the path Cen strives to follow is straight but difficult. He aspires to capture and represent an elusive and mysterious halo in his artwork; in terms of techniques, he achieves this by carefully composing areas of white, black, and grey tones and by an elaborate layering of paint with varying thicknesses and transparencies. The Pearl Fishers’ Rite, which was exhibited in the Church of Malta in Venice, is a very concrete example of how important the light motif is for Cen. As the pearlfishers haul their boat ashore, a woman leads the way, illuminating the path with a torch which symbolizes the steadfast faith that supports humanity in all its struggles. The double reflection of man’s history—perseverance and faith—is encoded in Cen’s works with the former expressed by his laboring subjects and the later declared by light and flame.