The work of Chen Nong impresses most in relation to how it melds different ideas and thematic levels in a single piece. Chen shows us a hand-colored panorama of black and white photography that highlights eight single images of the Three Gorges Dam. In recent times, this man-made marvel has become an important theme in Chinese culture.
In this work, San Xia, an army of terra cotta like soldiers is standing in the foreground, reminiscent of the terra cotta army that was unearthed in China. Here, however, Chen himself created paper costumes for the men in his photo. His use of paper, the Chinese and Asian traditions of origami, and the practice of hand-coloring photography all link to old customs of Chinese culture. The contrast of heavy terra cotta and lightweight paper, bathed in dramatic lighting, reveals these figures as an army of morality.
The panorama recalls a classical style and, in addition, the format of the eight images also reflects the historic Chinese tradition of narration through paper rolls. Similarly, Chen’s panorama continues its narration without a central perspective, but is also added to an ongoing historical narration that invites you to sit down, enter in, and wonder around in his modern fantasy of Chinese reality.