Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The waste land

Peter Nelson’s show of video and sculpture suggests that Chinese painting predicted today’s video games by 500 years, merging both to create a desolate portrait of the artist in contemporary society

By Yin Khvat  /  Staff reporter

The effect, referred to as “moving perspective” in Chinese painting, is an endlessly extendable scene where no single point on the landscape has hierarchy over another (which is good for both ambulatory Chinese scrolls and large-scale sci-fi battles), and in terms of time, past and present are conflated, making the concept of time irrelevant.

In Nelson’s Qiu Ying the court buildings are replaced with a Sonyshop and Taipei apartments, and the female courtesans with versions of Nelson in drag, while the soundtrack plays in Mandarin and English lyrics from US rapper Eminem’s Without Me.


It all started in the soaring, sublime mountains of China’s Zhangjiajie National Park, Hunan Province. The title of Mountain Drawing (The First Time I felt at Home), a 2.6m by 4.2m perspex sculpture, indicates that Nelson felt a connection.

But could this also be where it ends? In Qiu Ying, there is a devilish figure crouched down, creating smoke. This is in fact a silhouette of Nelson destroying First Time.

Shorn of The Waste Land’s spirituality, or any other redeeming feature, perhaps the title’s No-Place can only rely on Nelson’s Jade-like mountain sculptures — his final medium made from celadon ceramic through a 3D printer — to bear the burden of beauty and hope, where Jade represents purity, nobility and perfection.

Still, Nelson says he destroyed the sculpture in order to recycle it, which again recalls The Waste Land’s cycle of birth and death. In the poem’s very last stanza, many read hope in the Fisher King’s final words: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” Perhaps Nelson’s message is, with these fragments, that we can build our worlds.

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