Originally published on September 29, 2008.
Zheng Guogu’s sculptural work often pairs confounding idioms, layering ephemeral qualities with imposing materials, in order to poetically arrange forms that operate on both a tactile and symbolic level. In his sculpture, Waterfall, Gougu pours white melted wax over a rigid metal armature, embedding calligraphic scripts into this serene fountain. Gougu both reinforces and freezes the progression of time, in an allegorical fashion not unlike the symbolism of burning candles, skulls, or rotting fruit prevalent in Dutch Renaissance still lives.
Evocative of natural forms on multiple levels, from snow-capped trees, mountainous landscapes, to icicle-like forms, Gougu creates an enigmatic presence, both familiar and foreign. The piece’s somber, haunting aura is reinforced by the fact that white is traditionally a symbol of mourning in China. Lyrically composed, the piece acts as an abstract Memento Mori of sorts – reminding the viewer of his or her own mortality and the impermanence of life.
Zheng Gougu was born in Yangjiang, Guangdong province, China and lives and works in Yangjiang, Guangdong province. He has shown at the Venice Biennale, and was one of the few Chinese artists to participate in Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany. Last year, he was exhibited in The Real Thing: contemporary art from China (2007) at the Tate Modern in Liverpool. He has also shown at the Mori Museum in Tokyo and Guangdong Museum in Guangzhou, China.