Michael Cherney: The Heart-Mind Learns From the Eyes

Duration: 23 Sep - Sun 25 Nov (Every day except Monday)

Venue: Three Shadows Photography Art Centre , 155 CaochangdiSun


Three Shadows +3 Gallery is honored to host Michael Cherney's first solo show in Beijing in over ten years, "The Heart-Mind Learns From the Eyes – The Art of Michael Cherney." Resulting from decades of immersion in Chinese life and culture, Cherney's photographic works exist in vibrant conversation with the unbroken tradition of Chinese art. To see them is also to travel through the geography and history of the country.

Cherney’s photography centers on depictions of landscapes that he selects according to their associations with collective cultural memory. He embeds poetic and pictorial references alongside his deep interest in environmental issues, situating himself in a long continuum.

The photos often start with subject matter stirred by three of China's traditional arts – poetry, painting, and calligraphy. Cherney then engages himself in a long research process that culminates in journeys to the landscapes revered and immortalized in the work of his predecessors.

Cherney photographs with the wide-angle lens of his Leica M6 or Fuji XPAN on 35mm film, often in black-and-white. Only a few frames pass his meticulous edit. He then crops and magnifies a slice of the image according to conceptual, aesthetic and formal criteria, such as the actual resemblance of the subject to the brushstrokes in the inspirational ink-and-wash painting, the overall compositional rhythm, and the intended presentation of the photograph – a vertical or horizontal scroll, an album, a screen, a photograph in a wooden frame, etc.

The final result is an ink-jet photograph printed on traditional paper normally used for calligraphy and brush painting, generally Xuan or Mitsumata paper. Left untreated with chemicals, the surface absorbs the ink naturally according to its intrinsic structural qualities. The speed, pressure and amount of water that form the distinctive character of traditional brushwork landscape painting are replaced by mechanically propelled ink droplets.

To a connoisseur like Cherney, photography constitutes only a piece of the final artwork. He creates full objects featuring sophisticated mounting, calligraphy, special seals, and – in the case of the scrolls or accordion fold albums he creates – a refined, handcrafted box realized with the finest Chinese woods.

Varying in their level of grain and abstraction, Cherney created the twelve works featured in this exhibition over the past decade. This is the first time for any of these works to be shown in China; many have never been exhibited anywhere.

About Michael Cherney:

b. 1969 in New York, lives and works in Beijing

Michael Cherney studied Chinese language and history at the State University of New York at Binghamton, followed by graduate language study at Beijing Language Institute. A self-taught photographer, Cherney's formal studies, combined with his rigorous personal studies of China's art historical past, have resulted in his abiding appreciation and even reverence for China's rich history and painting tradition, particularly landscape painting. His relationship with China has been deepened by his residence in Beijing for well over two decades along with his extensive travel throughout China, seeking out the specific sites that have historical relevance to his work. He has described his art as a way “to look upon a place imbued with a vast (sometimes daunting) accumulation of history and cultural memory, and then to capture one instant, fleeting, tangible moment of it with a photograph.”

Cherney's works were the first photographic works ever to enter the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Asian Art and are in the permanent collections of many other museums as well, including Cleveland Museum of Art, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, HarvardUniversity Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Portland Art Museum, Saint Louis ArtMuseum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, among others.