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About The Artist

Jonathan Liu (b. 1993) is a Visual Artist working primarily with photography within his practice. He is interested in the narratives formed through text and photographs. Drawn from his fascination of narratives and the relationship between the artist and the poet, his recent works attempt to mirror and question our reality through representation and fragmentation of the landscape. His work deals with concepts such as memory, post-memory and the search for the layers in-between with works having exhibited in the United Kingdom, China and Singapore. He graduated from London College of Communication with a BA (Hons) Degree in Photography and currently lectures in LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. He is also a founding member of NFT Asia.

Colorado River | 2017
By Jonathan Liu

Solarized & darkroom-printed on Ilford Fibre Based Gloss Silver Gelatin Paper | Edition of 1/1 | 50cm x 50cm

Mounted on archival Dibond panel with wooden split-battens

In Plato’s Meno, a poetic assertion was proposed by Socrates that a Man’s soul has acquired knowledge of all things prior to birth and thus what one perceives to be learning in life is not the acquisition of unknown knowledge, but a recollection of knowledge already known. In response, he was challenged by Meno with a paradox; How does one search for something that is unknown to you when you do not know at all what it is? Conceivably, there is a mystery to this unknown entity and that this mystery can act as a compass guiding you through the seemingly unknown.

Mystery Is A Compass delves into that theory with the disappearance of 20-year-old Everett Ruess. He was last seen in November 1934 in Utah, USA. A boy utterly consumed by the wild desert landscape while on a metaphysical quest in search of the unknown, rare indeed was his ability to sense beauty so acutely that it bordered on pain. A penniless romantic, he wandered through the terra incognita of the land and proclaimed in his letters to the outside world: “I have seen almost more beauty than I can bear.”

Investigators that were sent in search of him found what looked like a campsite with some of his supplies. Further along, the canyon was an arch with an enigmatic inscription at the base which read, “Nemo, 1934”. In Latin, Nemo translates to “No One”. Perhaps it was the last act of poetry by Everett.

Photographs are symbolic in a way where we do not see the world in them, but concepts in the world. I stood within the landscape that enchanted him. The photographer, like the poet that Everett was, has no fixed identity. And through his writings from letters left behind, we will gain insight into the mysterious character of his reality.

Nothing is as unmediated as the end of life; it is the only event one faces alone. Death’s truth is the unknown, and perhaps the lure of life’s mysteries eventually took over and solidified his destiny no less in exaltation. In his own words; “I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anti-climax.” Perhaps disappearing was the only transcendental act he had left.

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