Cen Long: The Constellations
Thomas Mann, the renowned 20th-century German writer, once remarked that Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Wagner were the greatest influences on his worldview; they were his three navigational stars. Cen Long too has had illustrious guiding stars: ages of literary, philosophical, and musical cultural tradition, brought to being in past great masters, can be identified as the constellation which has influenced and guided his artistic path. Inspired by this history, one of his main artistic motifs has been the dauntless resistance to the harshness of life, the insistent will-to-persist, and the contentment with their little means of the grass roots of society. Since his childhood, he has been touched deeply by their undying morale, which has inspired a lifetime of empathy and respect—Not least, this was influenced by experiencing the downfall of his own family and forced social re-education amidst turbulent times; his affinity for simple, organic lifestyles has grown ever stronger through hard experience.
Cen Long’s paintings appear to follow the style of realism—but this appearance subtly belies layers of subsurface complexity. He has observed and absorbed the techniques of the old masters: Frans Hals the Elder, Velazquez, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck; he is fluent in the semiotic language of contemporary art. Drawing from this knowledge, he utilizes simple color schemes, varying the stiffness of his strokes, and carefully constructing beautiful architectonics. His paintings create a coherent interior world buttressed by his dedication and crafted by his brushwork. Despite his reverence for the artistic tradition, years of refinement have developed his distinct and precise, yet personal style. However, beneath the surface of his style and subjects, he regards painting primarily as a media for understanding life and expressing emotions; in essence, beneath his apparent realism he has always pursued the representation of profound and abstract truths. The composition and style of the figures he paints derive from long, deep contemplation and reflection. And it is through this careful double-artistry that he expresses love and hope through every brushstroke; anyone could see the great reverence for his subjects as well as his inspirations shining through the paint. Cen Long captures characters as they are, hoping to understand and interpret their spiritual essences, and to project the soul of a person onto linen. He believes that while life is ephemeral and quickly evaporates, the spiritual energy contained in a person’s values, actions, and personal meanings crystalize into immortality. Guided by this philosophy, Cen Long is deeply respectful of those who live simply, humbly, and truthfully, and this, imparts infinite vitality to his paintings.
In Cen Long’s newest collection, “The Constellations: Cen Long and His Art,” he presents the three phases of life: genesis, journey, and attainment of meaning. Childhood is represented by nursing, rearing, and familial joy—Ode to Life captures the tender moment when life begets life. On the journey of life we see The Pearl Fishers’ Rite, depicting a dynamic moment in the lives of pearl-fishers as they push their boat ashore; the shore witnesses the never-ending cycle of their continuous labor, reverberating with the echoes of their singing calls… The pearl fisher holding the torch not only indicates the nighttime setting but symbolizes Cen Long’s attitude to life: only hope can illuminate and justify the weight of living.
Finally, Cen Long looks back, from the culminating point of our search for meaning; he introspectively evaluates the ambiguity and contradictions inherent in human activity of all kinds. He affirms the determined insistence and resistance in the face of life’s struggles in the exultant dance of survival, the unwinding of a life-history: through this act, the human soul achieves gratification, justification, and an actualization of peace—the apotheosis of our journey.
In The Constellations, a shepherdess gazes up at a guiding star and navigates her returning path by the patterns of the firmament. After all, have the sky and stars not always encoded the clarity and hope which is the essence of our life on the ground?
He has devoted his life’s work to an exposition of humanity’s essence. He strives for an ideal: to announce the most profound meanings with the stylistic methods closest to real life, and thereby make his artwork a bridge to communicate deeply with any audience. It is this fundamental goal which drives his insistence on expressing artistic insights through realistic technique; through the universal intelligibility of this style the audience may effortless fall through the canvas and traverse the universe of aesthetic-moral values: love, kindness, hope, and strength. Through Cen Long’s style, underlying philosophy, and tireless effort we peek at his true intentions—he aspires to paint guiding stars for the era of modernity, to help us all recover hope and peace from the sound and fury of our time.
Curator / Metra Lin