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Zhao Jing: Cathay

March 12 - April 12, 2014

The inspiration for Zhao Jing’s photographic series comes from nineteen classical Chinese poems translated by American poet Ezra Pound, one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. His translations, also entitled “Cathay”, were published in 1915 and had a profound influence on 20th century poetry. “Cathay” spawned, among other things, the imagist movement, which helped generate a widespread interest in Asian literature and thought.

These poems, like all great literature, have the ability to transcend time and establish a deep connection to the present day. Zhao therefore relies upon her intuition when shooting and selecting images for “Cathay”, only choosing images that resonate with her and the poems on a deep level. Having read the poems many times over, they have become ingrained within her; the more she revisits the poems, the more thoughts, emotions, and memories they awaken within her. The photographic process becomes more selective as one color image is matched with a black and white image to form a diptych, reflecting her interpretation of the original poems and their translations. Simple colors and low contrast images suggest the indirect and metaphorical qualities of traditional Chinese painting.

A majority of the images in “Cathay” are landscapes since when shooting the series, Zhao adheres to an important tenet of Chinese classical poetry, which is conveying emotion and indicating the poet’s philosophy of life through descriptions of scenery. Using the same process, Zhao creates visual poetry by transcribing her current surroundings through the photographic lens, the majority of which were taken in Baltimore and on her travels through the United States. An exquisite convergence of west and east proves the most beautiful parts of human expression can surmount race and culture.

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