The persisting quest for the truth, the beautiful, and the good appear especially invaluable given the ceaseless changes occurring in the world. Artist Cen Long has dedicated decades to the excavation of life’s meanings and values. As a follower of light, he brings to life the struggles of those against daily toils and anxieties with honest and emotive pictures, and by doing so, reflects and reconstructs the realities that exist in this vast world.
In this exhibition, Cen Long’s oil paintings are shown in tandem with relics from the fifteenth and sixteenth century, including two carved polychrome wood of the Virgin Mary, one with the Child and one with winged cherubs, a painted wooden sculpture of Saint Jerome, a portrait of the Saint in meditation, and the invaluable crowning masterpiece of the great renaissance maestro, II Paradiso by Tintoretto (1518-1594), all provided by the Fondazione Venezia Servizi alla Persona. Our curatorial philosophy is to connect the fifteenth century to the modern-day and so highlight the recurrence and constant resurrection of the spirit of purity and grace. Through the conversation between artworks from disparate times, we hope to exhibit the truth that the spirit of art bridges the distances of times and spaces.
The Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, is a phenomenal piece of literature. The verisimilitude of the elements making up each city, the melodies, scents, or histories, immediately makes the reader a fellow traveler in Calvino’s fantastical cities. The layers of language submerge the reader under the weight and reality of the place times, yet in the next instant, elements of surrealism create a free space where the imagination of the reader could expand their interpretation of the work. Cen Long’s art has imparted a similar sense of wonder and amazement as Calvino’s literature did to me. Whereas one wields visual images and the other language, that their art borders reality and the fantastic in a liminal fashion is why the audiences are strongly inclined to incorporate their own experiences when evaluating Cen and Calvino’s art.
The characters that Cen chooses to portray with realistic details, very much like the places in The Invisible Cities, are not representative of actual people, i.e., real people in the narrow sense of the word. Cen’s characters are abstract models of human traits and characteristics put together for the audience to reminiscence, to recall to their minds those they have known, those they used to know, and those innumerable faces one passes by that seemed familiar. One’s first impression viewing Cen’s art relates to the fragments of human elements Cen has styled and portrayed and are made whole through our relating these impressions to our lives and experiences. The definitions of Cen’s characters derive from the inferences each of us makes every day that eventually composes our abstract idea of humanity.
In this exhibition, Cen Long’s oil paintings are shown in tandem with relics from the fifteenth and sixteenth century, including two carved polychrome wood of the Virgin Mary, one with the Child and one with winged cherubs, a painted wooden sculpture of Saint Jerome, a portrait of the Saint in meditation, and the invaluable crowning masterpiece of the great renaissance maestro, II Paradiso by Tintoretto (1518-1594), all provided by the Fondazione Venezia Servizi alla Persona. Tintoretto’s command of the phenomenally vast canvas alongside the intricate composition and mysterious colors that rendered the lively heavenly crowd is truly awe-inspiring. Cen Long, touched by the expansiveness of ll Paradiso and the austere charm of the religious statues, was inspired to express his resonance with these works through his paintings.
It is this sentiment that bridges the fourteenth century to the modern-day, i.e., the recurrence and constant resurrection of the spirit of purity and grace. Cen believes that despite the passing of time, people, and events, Humanity is defined by the perennial pursuit of truth, beauty, and virtue. The Invisible Cities shows us a string of ephemeral and fantastical cities, whereas Cen Long paints of the invisible passages that undulate in the currents of culture, which lead to visceral places that are close to the divine sky, invisible places whose presence may yet be tangibly felt. Through these passages, connections are made between divine love and human love, the heaven above and the human world below. Both born on the fifteenth of October, Cen and Calvino have depicted invisible passages and invisible cities that reveal to the audience a glimpse of the miraculous beyond. Masterpieces are precisely works of art that withstand the test of time, through which they emerge victorious and forever relevant regardless of the rapidity of historical changes.