Jin Ping’s Glacier and the Multi-Sensory Experience of Photography Chen Jianzhong   I went to visit Jin Ping’s studio in Chengdu in the summer of 2009, but I had already formed an impression of his work after viewing a few pieces at Inter Art Center/Gallery in Beijing. I was struck by Jin’s selective attitude toward printing techniques, materials, and artistic themes. He does not utilize popular and readily-available methods; he cares more about the dialogue between the subject matter and the viewer. He is also deeply concerned with the complementary relationship between printing processes, materials, and his subjects. When I visited his studio, I witnessed his experiments with printing cyanotypes of glaciers on glass, experiencing the experimental process outside of the finished works. In the history of photography, cyanotypes are just one example of an experimental process that has promoted the diversity of expressive forms and increased photographic artistry.   The cyanotype process is also called negative cyanotype or the blue process, which was invented by Englishman Sir John Herschel in 1842. It was called negative cyanotype because this technique relies on the use of a chemical compound including a blue reagent to make negative images, thus forming blue backgrounds and white lines. The primary use of this technique was the creation of construction diagrams, which are often called “blueprints.” As an alternative photo printing process, the combination of cyanotypes and other classic techniques, such as the collodion or platinum processes, added a special Turnbull’s blue or Prussian blue to typical monochromatic prints made using hand-printing techniques. The complexity and uniqueness of this process makes it easy for photography enthusiasts to handle and perfect, and the Chinese contemporary photography world is not lacking in such enthusiasts.   Jin Ping is professionally connected to printing, and his familiarity with material properties and techniques are not simply the product of a strange hobby. Beginning with photographic records combining Tibetan paper techniques and traditional processes, he explored multi-sensory and interactive experiences uniting photographic materials, presentation methods, and feelings. After he completed Apocalypse, a series on the Wenchuan earthquake, he continued to use multi-sensory experiences and experiments in Glacier.    Unlike Apocalypse, Jin Ping’s Glacier series does not reflect any grand social themes. After witnessing the destruction of the Wenchuan earthquake, Jin shifted his focus to glaciers, one of the few natural phenomena that has not been significantly changed by humankind. Due to global warming caused by industrial development and pollution, glaciers have also become a victim of human environmental destruction. These photographs of glaciers are actually an extension of Jin’s participation in the Wenchuan earthquake relief efforts. He chose to use glass and cyanotypes in his glacier photographs because he wanted to showcase the nearly crystal clarity of glass and ice, and the cool elegance of Prussian blue, which further highlights the glaciers’ clean and fragile nature. Jin told me that cyanotypes on glass are hard to control, which meant that his success rate was even lower than that of positive cyanotypes. This combination of materials required numerous repetitions, wasting a lot of materials and making it easy for a photographer to lose confidence. However, Jin Ping’s perseverance and faith in photography as a medium for artistic thought and presentation pushed him to experiment in creating Glacier.   It is difficult to convey the multi-sensory experience of this series in normal printed media, and this is precisely what makes Glacier unique. Due to the unexpected effects produced by the printing techniques and materials, some of the photographs have areas of skewed or mottled color. To a certain extent, this is the illusion of polluted ice, obtained through sensory perception. When this illusion is combined with clean glass, the viewer’s psychological reaction is intensified due to this sensory contrast, and this tension highlights the interdependence of man and nature.   In the 1902 American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac, Alfred Stieglitz wrote, “…the birth of a good artwork cannot be separated from freedom of thought and action. Similarly, it cannot be separated from the organic combination of our ideas and photographic techniques.” Like Apocalypse and An Unretouched Cuba, Jin Ping’s Glacier reflects the consideration of the subject and production technique, contributing to the overall effect of the work. Jin has moved from “painting with light” to the three-dimensional experience of “sculpting with light and materials.”     
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