The esteemed British art critic and author John Berger once said: “Art is one of the noblest achievements of man”. He advocated that the art critic must not only look at art from his personal point of view, but also from that of other artists, the conscious and unconscious mind of the spectator, the general public, and even future generations, if possible. Berger’s underlying meaning was that art and human life are inseparable, and when we view a work of art, we may find ourselves through its aesthetic. That is why some of the best works of art resonate throughout our lives and leave lasting impressions that unfold with new meaning repeatedly.
While people have very different ideas about the purpose of art, it appears to have an intrinsic place in our lives. Governments, organizations and businesses have found art to be a powerful tool, whether it is for propaganda, religious conversion, or tourism. Almost in the same way that popes commissioned Renaissance artists to promote the Catholic Church, companies are now calling on fine artists to build brands. At Hong Kong Art Basel 2017, Swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet commissioned the Chinese artist Cheng Ran to make a piece of video art for this most reputable art fair in Asia. Cheng Ran’s video art “Circadian rhythm” connects viewers to the passage of time via scenes of seamlessly flowing water and mossy forest landscapes.
Cheng Ran’s video art counts the ticks of nature’s clock. We can’t be in tune with time until we notice the circadian rhythms of the natural world. Artists create a close dialogue between human experience and the world through art. It is more than just aesthetic function, and has a social, historical, cultural, and economic effect on society.
“The past mind cannot be grasped, nor can the present mind or the future mind,” the Buddha said to Subhuti in the Diamond Sutra. All living beings, including humans, are going through the process of change as they experience the world. We can’t grasp time; the passing of mind is a flow of becoming form. Cheng Ran’s “Circadian rhythm” captures all the changes and soundscapes in a day within the forest, which highlights the passage of time and the flowing forms of the natural world.
Art is commonly seen as a luxury for the well-to-do. In fact, it is a part of everyday life and should not be remote or distance from our usual activities, as it is normally understood. Artists communicate their experience through art, and if the works are genuinely connected to the world, viewers will feel a resonance with the piece and inspired by the art. That inspiration, of course, has its own nurturing power.