“The Voice of Water”, 2021, oil stick on paper by Ping Zheng. As part of the exhibition “The Voice of Water” at the McClain Gallery.
Photo: Ping Zheng
Ping Zheng’s “The Heat of the Day” talks about how particular perspectives can lead to different interpretations of visual art. The piece, an oil stick on paper, presents a blue river flowing through two hills. The sky pours down in a violet bond. Local rappers should seek out Zheng’s work, as Syrupy Sky is a natural cover for a Houston hip-hop album.
But back to the earth and the sky because Zheng’s works have nothing to do with Houston or hip-hop. Rather, “The Voice of Water” renders the elements we take for granted – earth, water, sky – and reconditions them in a brilliant and radiant way that reverses positive and negative space, while putting the emphasis on the natural flow of the elements through our planet.
In more succinct terms, these works – by a Chinese artist living in New York – take the most familiar elements and position them with a new sparkle.
The title of “The Voice of Water” suggests a certain ethereal quality. But water – in his works as in our daily life – is a formidable force. As gentle as it sounds, it cuts through land and leaves a higher topography in its wake. Many works in “The Voice of Water” place flickering water sources at the center of vibrant landscapes.
Among the many favorites is “On Summer Days” with tall, rolling land masses towering over a suggestive V-shaped body of water. ‘A Long Stream of Water’ does not contain the same geographic relief, but the meandering stream at its heart is sandwiched by a floral landscape that begins with Van Gogh reds among yellows and greens before blending into it. ‘horizon. The play emphasizes that the viewer pursues the water to the horizon.
One cannot help but consider the time spent looking at these works. Zheng’s pieces almost all feature a body of water at their center. A negative perspective would frame the pieces as documenting the slow erosion of rock by strung water throughout “The Voice of Water”. A different point of view would see the effect of water as totally positive: it creates valleys and canyons. The sum of the two points of view is a recognition of time and its slow and erosive effect.
Zheng’s executives are devoid of mammalian activity. But they are still full of life. They are fundamental and the brilliant use of color underlines this philosophical core.
You could say that any work of art benefits from in-person viewing. But with Zheng’s works in “The Voice of the Water,” there is special value in seeing the pieces in person. The brushstrokes are so soft that they not only avoid photographing, but also staring from a few feet away. Lean over a little, and the work of this young artist takes you deeper into small, familiar and foreign worlds.
When: from noon to 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday (by appointment only from 20 Dec. to 3 Jan.)
Or: McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond
Details: free; 713-520-9988, mcclaingallery.com