Firefly and Light- Tsun-shing Cheng Photographic Exhibition Part Two of A Personal Passage


Long Museum West Bund is pleased to announce the exhibition “Firefly and Light” of artist Tsun-shing Cheng, on view from November 2, 2019 to January 12, 2020, with a 10 year photographic project, part two of the artist’s personal passage. Curated by Gu Zheng, the show will include 136 original, personally exposed silver halide prints that have been meticulously collected for 40 years, inviting visitors to gaze into the perspective of the artist, and experience the “Twilight of the Gods” at the end of the 1970s (1976 - 1980) in the aura and social climates of European countries such as France, Britain, Ireland, among others, and American cities. Condensed emotions and ideas clash within the camera lens, as if full of vitality, reproduced before our eyes. Concurrently, a three-year darkroom process is inventively included in this exhibition as a unique focal point.


In contrast to the 2015 exhibition “Won’t Someone Bring the Light” of Cheng’s self-taught, youthful, provincial and wild period, the works in “Firefly and Light” were completed during his rigorous training in France, the site of the invention of photography. The artist has appropriately designated a name for this particular period of impact and infiltrations: “mixedblood gaze.” This collection has also witnessed the last, vast moment in the golden era of Western ideology, with the rising rift of racial tension and class conflict in the late Cold War period. During this nebulous, twilight period of avant-garde in Western Europe, there were few students of Asian descent in France. Through the documentation of a rare Asian photographer, the work presents a perspective and view distinct from Western photographers, encapsulating the social atmosphere and reality of the time, and a unique Eastern nostalgia and spirit felt in cultural convocation. The gaze of mixedblood, heterogeneous regeneration is the expression of “Firefly and Light”.


In the past, photographic exhibitions have typically presented still images, with the darkroom as a mechanized, craft process that is excluded and repressed. However, with the rapid development of digitalization, the relation between darkroom and image should be reconsidered. The title “Firefly and Light” refers to “darkness” and “light,” the production process from nothing to something. This exhibition juxtaposes installations, darkroom spaces, and the final, still image. The visitors first enter the space of “firefly,” a metaphor for the darkroom. After which, through fumbling in the dark, ones’ perception is alerted, and experiencing hazy images, one enters the space of “light,” the “light room” which showcases images.


Unlike exhibitions that only display the final photographic results, the space of “firefly” is inventive: utilizing light, space, and matter to assemble the abstract unconsciousness of the darkroom and time perception of image installation. A vivarium of thermal induction developing process that one can see and sense, a long, 10 meter touch-developing wall, and a wall that records countless experiments to produce the best optimized image, transforms the process from darkroom to image as another expression of art. A comparison of various states of film and image have been specially designed, with film negatives presented like music scores, re-interpreted by the darkroom printer, constructing different perceptions, and releasing the possibility of negatives.


The “light” space features 136 original, personally exposed black-and-white silver halide prints, organized under the theme of “The Market,” “The Cemetery,” “The Journey,” “Orly Airport,” “Delivery Truck Trip,” “The Wedding,” “Laborers,” and “Shadow,” with the social reality of various European countries including France, England, and Ireland, and American cities at the end of the 1970s as medium, showcasing a glimpse of the exhaustion and decline of industrial civilization. The succession of the avant-garde, rifts in Western society, shifting between ethnic and class differences in the exotic ambience of intellectual relish to gloom presents a clash of emotions and ideas condensed in the present moment of history.


In recent years, many exhibitions are revisiting and emphasizing traditional photographic craft. This phenomenon underscores the importance of darkroom and technique in the immense surge of digital imagery, and a need to return to process in the moment of a crisis era and turning point. Long Museum West Bund hopes the exhibition “Firefly and Light” will introduce silver halide prints to more visitors, prompting connections with craft, and generate interest in photographic skills, to fulfill the artist’s ongoing commitment in promoting and entrusting aptitude in traditional images.