Chen Nong’s photographs often strike the audience as intense, resembling period dramas or even one act melodramas. His cast, props and sets all work together to tell stories in a constructivist way with obsessive visual detail. The unique niche appeal of Chen Nong’s Silk Road series lies in his esoteric and dazzling rendition of a theme as grand as its historic namesake.
The Buddha once said, “The Dharma must be taught according to reality.” In Chen Nong’s three-year quest, he overhauled his draft four times. He made a pilgrimage to far-flung parts of China like Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu to find an appropriate place to shoot and spent more than half a year copying Dunhuang cave murals. Half-jokingly comparing his bitter work and travel throughout the years to Xuanzang’s journey to the west, Chen takes delight in his hard-won accomplishments. Perhaps artists share a rare gift of getting inspiration by ruminating on their previous experiences and expressing themselves in a special artful “language”. For that matter, to hear what artists have to say, one needs to listen with an attentive ear and a peaceful mind. This could be the way we walk the Silk Road of art and spirituality with Chen Nong as our guide.
A play in a play (exerpt) by Chen Haiyan