Land of Solitude: New Works by Taca Sui

20 May - 2 July 2023 Beijing

In the great mountain ranges that exist all over China there are sacred areas that have been called Grotto Heavens since ancient times.

These Grotto Heavens are usually situated in natural caves. Unlike natural caves, however, they are distinguished by a unique characteristic, that is to say that since the 3rd century A.D. they have been considered as containers of hidden passages that enable pilgrims to transcend time and space.

In the nearly two thousand years of their existence, countless hermits have meditated in these dark caves, spending their entire life there, hoping to achieve transcendence. Emperors of different dynasties conducted complicated and mysterious rituals in these caves, communicating with the immortals from other worlds and asking for blessings.

To explore such cultural tradition and its unique space-time relation, Taca embarked on an extended journey in 2017, in search of the Grotto Heavens within the sacred geography of China. He reflects on the original concept of Grotto Heavens in the cave dwelling tradition of the ancients, more mundane uses as when they were used as places of refuge from a turbulent world, and on the amplified meaning they acquired as they were sanctified by religious doctrines and practices to become gateways to paradise separated from the present world.

Beyond the original concept of Grotto Heavens, Taca explores the way in which the concept was extended in the tombs of the Han Dynasty. Usually located in real mountains, the long and winding tomb passages are just like those in caves, situated between the light and the dark, connecting the worlds of life and death with its mysterious interiors that suggest a sense of awe. When Taca was photographing inside dark caves and tomb tunnels, he felt the darkness itself was a substance that conduits to another world; the darkness reduces human perception, while at the same time it raises spiritual sensibility to another level. As Lao Tzu declared in the Dao De Jing, in some cases the differences between Being and Non-Being, or between Substance and Nothingness cease to exist.