Hao Liang, a diligent researcher/artist of Chinese ink art and Gongbi brush techniques, has successfully combined themes from classical Chinese mysteries to integrate 'archeological knowledge' into his work. In The Tale of Cloud, Hao shifts his focus from life experiences and reflections on history to a culture-centered probe; henceforth, a dialogue between 'metaphysics' and 'science'. Conveying his rationale for the piece with Gongbi techniques, Hao resorts to the meticulous brushwork, highly detailed and sophisticated colouring prevalent in Song Dynasty, then begins a narrative journey through the undulating landscape. The work is a bibliography of Hao's attempt to replace existing storytelling with modern perspectives, and rethink existing inferences. From there, one begins to reexamine traditional cognition. It mirrors Hao's introspection on his relationship with the world.
The Tale of Cloud focuses on the delineation of spatial segues: compared with his perspectives of the outside world, his viewpoint of art is more macroscopic; and from there, he voices his concern with scientific mindedness. This piece can be divided into four dimensions-where Hao lays out his subjective understanding of the storyline - and it revolutionises the linear narrative of the ancients, where human experiences are sequenced after natural spaces.
In the first dimension, the alchemist in the auspicious clouds serves as the lead-in. Slate-blue mountain rocks and light-red clouds act as the backdrop for a fairyland. As time and space evolve from right to left, the scene in the second dimension begins to look more profound. Where skeletons of elephants and scenes of a slaughterhouse pervades; an image evocative of 'Venus' (a recurrent figure in Western mythology) stays hidden in the bush on the side. Life and death, common themes in Western traditions and modern art, are often given biological, scientific and religious significances; yet they are a rarity in traditional Chinese art. In The Story of A Cook Cutting Up A Bull, taken from Zhuangzi: the Principle of Nurturing Life, one sees a philosophy that transcends the science of anatomy; it provides a neutral interpretation of lifestyle wellness that honours the way of nature.
From the colorful clouds in fairyland to the verdant, lush vistas of the mortals, we journey past a waterfall and enter the third dimension: the upper half of the scene is enshrouded in dark clouds, looking a bit like a roadway in the world of mortals; and we rely on the sets, the plots, and the narrative to take us through transitions. The pulleys that operate in the opposite direction, and the fawn hoisted up from the tree are consonant with the laws of gravity. The energy field on the side begins to respond to the god of Thunder. Trees wither; and the skeleton draped with a white gown, with the man a few paces away, co-structure a scene of experiment, not unlike the chemistry experiment with the creation of clouds. The surge under the experimental bench implies the birth of energy. The last dimension on the left shows winds travelling through the internal organs, the eyeballs and the brain. A blood vessel soars upward to end the story in fiery red skies.
Traditional Chinese landscape scrolls emphasise the unity between universe and man, and pursue the external and internal balance between nature and the mortals. Western landscapes, on the other hand, focuson the observation and encapsulation of nature. In this piece, Hao investigates the tie between reason and insanity borne out of modernisation with a narrative on the beginning of fairyland, life and death, the transition from materialism, to divinity. The discourse characterises the element of metamorphosis, so spatiotemporal transcendence is allowed. It spotlights an external space (landscape) to self (human body), and challenges facing Hao as he addresses issues confronting modern existence.
Though the approach and mediums are traditional, Hao puts a montage finish on the characteristics of reality in a metaphor. He incorporates cinematographic elements in an ink scroll. However, he does not insist on combining the piece with reality, so as to honour the distance established between reality and the viewer, a dictate established in traditional ink wash works. Traditions are linear, whilst spatiotemporal elements are naturalistic. The scroll restructures the transition of dimensions in a spirited narrative, and marries the characteristics of narratives with traditional scrolls. It is a watershed piece that pioneers a breakthrough in traditional Chinese paintings.