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Existence, Here It Is.

Our eyes enable us to “catch a glimpse of the stars, the sun, and the sky”, which, straightforwardly, evoking our “urge to seek the essence of the universe”. According to Plato, the sensible world is fluid and ever-changing, in which the objects and matters perceived are considered both existent and illusive, absolute and ambiguous, resulting in the impossibility of forming knowledge of the truth, but only opinions.


Every image could be regarded as a slice of the existing world. The constructions of contemporary images reflect the world through, but not limited to, photography. However, the world does not solely consist of simple images. Given both ourselves and the objects we live with coexist in the world, the world itself cannot be as an object, and therefore is neither revealable nor explainable, so that rather than emphasizing on uncovering the world per se, it is far more practical and realistic to embrace oneself instead.


In comparison to artists’ ideas, the representation of the universe is imperfect either; both remain as mere “imitations” of their true forms that are forever elusive, no matter how likely they are. Based upon individual existence and free choice, the feelings provoked by visual communication are often momentary, followed by an indescribable sense of loss as they fade. By confiding self-purpose and humanistic solicitude to images, an individual is allowed to have a more intimate self-relationship, which, more likely than not, is where the value and significance of images’ existence lie.

Fascinated. Lingered.


From a personal point of view, “things” are the best objects in comparison to humans, who are often excessively emotional. Perhaps, it is more meaningful to perceive a human being as an ordinary “thing”. A thing does not have the aura of character or emotion, nor demands self-awareness, self-identification or requires mental focus, and hence, is capable of accomplishing the most thorough and successful self-actualization. To revive stillness, emptiness and appearance of things to their most authentic, primitive and purest state is what I pursue in my work.

Existent or non-existent?


Realms of “existence” and “presence” are particularly crucial to an individual. In my opinion, “humans” and “things” are both blessed with living spirits, inspiring me to breathe and appreciate the transience and ephemerality of life. Therefore, everything, whether it is a natural object, a worldly affair or a spiritual matter, has its intrinsic form as long as it exists, which, in turn, justifies its existence.

This “Existence” series was not created to reveal the general problems of life, nor is capable of revealing. Instead, it conveys a personal sense of freedom, free-flowing thoughts, and self-revelation, all from the bottom of my heart. Imbued with self-consciousness, this series, regardless of subject matters of sky, land, mountains, water or nameless objects, could be interpreted as a connection between my contemplative state of mind and the “existing world”. The two concepts, “existence” and “nothingness” are present here.

Ultimately, “existence” only becomes discernible if the fundamental purpose of images is being set aside here, in other words, it invariably dwells behind my work.

Qian Yongning, June 2019

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Yongning Qian

Born in Shanghai in November 1968, Associate professor, Shanghai University of Engineering Science College of Art and Design, Member of Shanghai Artists Association. In… More »

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