In 2017 Taca Sui 塔可 embarked on yet another extended journey, this time in search of the grotto-heavens that with the Five Great Mountains occupy a primordial position within the sacred geography of China. Described by scholar Franciscus Verellen as “places of refuge, initiation, and of transcendental passage, paradisial microcosms,” these sacred sites (dongtian) were particularly important in Daoist ritual and cosmography, and were first mentioned in the revelations of Shangqing around 360 CE. They were organized systematically in the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) by Sima Chengzhen (647-735) and Du Guangting (850-933) and are now divided into two categories, the ten greater grotto heavens and the thirty -six lesser grotto heavens.
Now that he has learnt how to drive, Taca was away from his home in Beijing for many months, visiting the Mausoleum of the King of Chu, Songshan Mountain, and Zhongtiao Mountian Wangwu in Henan province; Shangluo, Taibai Mountain, Qinling, Ankang and Hangzhong in Shaanxi province; and Yichang, Shiyan, Shennongjia, and Enshi in Hubei Province. Two more expeditions are planned in the future to complete his survey.
The project is divided into two parts, one of which is devoted to the landscape in which the grottoes are situated and the other to the poetry of caves. Using color for the first time in the landscape section of the exhibition he focuses details that convey the impression of the whole, a pile of turtle shells in the interior of a cave, another so damaged that almost nothing remains, or calligraphy indicating that the late Tang dynasty painter Jing Hao lived there until he died. In complete contrast are the black and white photographs that convey the poetry of the caves, mysterious interiors that suggest the sense of awe they inspired by pilgrims who visited them in full expectation of achieving powerful insights into another world. Using a contemporary analogy, Taca has compared these grotto heavens to wormholes, passageways through space-time that theoretically would permit journeys as mysterious as those achieved in grotto-heavens.
Taca Sui was born in Qingdao, China in 1984. In 2003, he studied at China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. In 2007, he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester. Taca’s work has entered the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He currently resides in between New York and Beijing.
More information: www.taca.work