Mingjun Luo has accomplished her own “long walk” in the solitude and concentration of her Bienne workshop, split between her native China and Switzerland. She has been able to tame a large cultural gap which is at the heart of her artistic approach. She lives and works in this continual oscillation which, while painful, has become fruitful and remains in construction and in perpetual movement. Between here and there, the artist has invented a "third place", a space of creative freedom that opens the door to all the contradictions that live in, and intimately fuse, the East and the West.
Before entering the Academy of Art, Mingjun enjoyed working in the theatre and opera set workshop where her father was employed, after which she painted posters in a cinema studio. In these story “factories”, she preserved an acute sense of poetic narrative. She learnt photography techniques indirectly, from a professional who liked to use her as a model for his portraits. The magic of the image as it makes its appearance in the developing bath is still there. Starting from family albums and as if she were working on photosensitive paper, she draws, paints and photographs, films and creates installations, because "one medium isn’t enough to tell it all". With their dreamy and meditative languidness, her works oscillate between the blurriness and the clearness of the emergence and the erasure of the images, the appearance and the dissolution of memories.
However, she's not content just to document her life in China or the changes in her country since the end of the 1980s. As long as Mingjun draws on the traces and vestiges of her past while she focuses her attention on everything happening in the present, she’ll express and transpose it artistically by interweaving the fragments with everything - the light with the shadow and the sensitive with the conceptual. Committed to telling the world through "little things", she closely combines the nearby with the very distant, and the intimate with the universal.
There is almost no colour in her work: she bridges the love and science of black and white, transparencies and chiascuros of her Chinese ancestors. No pathos and no more large effects: like them, she does it in suggested, subtle and intimate ways. And never anything definitive or frozen: everything there remains floating, uncertain, imbued with the fundamental mystery of life and destiny.
But the west has also left its imprint. She says herself that if, until very recently, she was focused on the final outcome of her work, now it's the approach that she’s interested in, and where she tries to "crystallize the process".
Today, the themes of the uprooting, the loss of identity and the search for integration are more burning and difficult topics than ever before. Even if her own departure goes back almost 30 years and was her own decision, her work alludes to all kinds of migration and all quests for identity, in the manner of a melancholy tale that is both tender and cruel.
July 2016, Françoise Jaunin