Maleonn (Ma Liang) - Second-hand Tang Poem

Exhibition: 7 July to 14 August, 2010

Maleonn (Ma Liang)

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Maleonn graduated from the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University, where he studied in Graphic Design. After working in film for advertising for 10 years he decided to pursue his own art practice. In the few years since focusing on his art career Maleonn is now one of the most respected artists working in this medium in China, and also rapidly making his mark worldwide. His works have been exhibited and collected widely throughout Asia, American and Europe including at the Victoria & Albert Museum London.

Photographer Maleonn (also known as Ma Liang) lives and works in Shanghai. His images contain highly choreographed scenes that blend traditional Chinese mythology and contemporary life. His Second-hand Tang Poem series reflects on the way Tang poems have operated in everyday Chinese life. For centuries, elementary students memorised the poems and used them to learn to read and write and even now they are memorised and recited but their meaning feels somehow second-hand. His work is a visual interpretation and contemporary re-telling of these poems.

The creation of Second-hand Tang Poem was inspired by his reading of a book - “New Annotation on the 300 Tang Poems” by Zhao Changping, which employed a great amount of well-documented and extensive evidence and analysis that Maleonn had never read before, completely different from what he got from his textbooks. He says of the experience; “My heart was quaked by his work and I was astonished. Later, I specially bought a lot of related books and read hours every night for months, in the hope that I could describe what I wanted to say through a group of works.”

He made up the scenes for the creation of this series on a huge table, there was real clay and rocks, artificial trees and moss grass, and traditional landscape by glass. He also made up models of men and architectural features such as alcoves and steps. His own “ugly calligraphy” (as he calls it) was hung by fishing lines. Clouds and fog were produced by a small fog producer, while moisture effect was produced by a water pot.

Usually it took him 2-3 days to construct one scene. He adjusted the scenery again and again based on his digital photography drafts before he finally photographed on film. When the photography was finished he had to destroy the whole scene he had created as he only had one large table. It was really painful but he describes how he “tasted the painful feeling of existence that could never be duplicated in photography.”