In a recent Taipei exhibition, Taiwanese painter Lien Chien Hsing’s Taipei imagines away the country’s continued environmental degradation.
“Between Reality and Fiction: Sceneries of the Mind” was Lien Chien Hsing‘s seventeenth solo exhibition, hosted in Taipei at Eslite Gallery from 9 June to 8 July 2012. In his paintings, Lien returns Taiwan to nature, imagining its future as a country of ruins.
“Between Reality and Fiction: Sceneries of the Mind” at Eslite Gallery illustrates a journey through the ruins of post-industrial Taiwan, including those in the northeast coast where the artist was raised.
As stated in the exhibition catalogue:
Born in 1962, Lien Chien Hsing grew up in the Taiwanese port city of Keelung, where he saw the fishing industry collapse due to overfishing, as well as the decline of the gold, copper and coal industries in the area as mining depleted the resources. These events caused industries that had in the past flourished to gradually disappear or facilities to be abandoned as prosperity was lost. During field surveys and explorations, Lien witnessed the abandonment and ruin of shipbuilding plants and mining operations. With the passing of the years, [a desire to draw] the desolation of such sites emerged. This local allure encompassed a vast language of place and spiritual significance.
Permeated with an aura of pessimism, the dream-like visions that characterise the ten pieces in this exhibition exemplify Lien’s “magic realism“, which is at the core of his work. As Taiwanese auction house Ravenel, which sold some of Lien’s paintings in 2010, explains,
Entering into the 1990s, the works of Lien Chien Hsing reveal the contrast between reality and delusion …. Apart from the ruined mines, saps and mottled architecture, in his paintings he transforms the ruined sceneries into imaginary space [using] blocks, walls, wooden racks, water sources, animals and vegetation located at the seemingly ruined [landscapes]. … The sceneries, ruins and animals [that] are intertwined into partially realistic and partially virtual illusion … suggest the insignificance and uncertainty of life.
The urban settings are embedded in the natural surroundings, hovering in the air or floating in the water. The massive interiors are full of vestiges of daily life, in sharp contrast to the absence of humans.
Nevertheless, beneath the empty and austere appearance lies a positive message. Says the artist,
I can sense the transformation of industries, changes in the flourishing and decline of different parts of society; I can contemplate the conflict between tradition and innovation and the awakening of a crisis mentality about overdevelopment of the natural environment. I hope that these works can stimulate people’s sense of belonging and affirmation for this land and culture and restore the original beauty and glory of this place [as well as serving] as a stimulus and source of hope for personal creativity.
About Lien Chien Hsing
Lien Chien Hsing graduated from the art department of Taiwan Chinese Culture University. In 1984, he was selected for the first annual Republic of China Modern Painting Outlook Exhibition. In 1989, he took part in an exhibition of the Taipei Painting Association held by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Eslite Gallery began representing Lien in 1992 and have periodically hosted his solo exhibitions since.
- Surreal Zhang Xiao photographs document changing Chinese coastline – picture feast – April 2012 – a photographer works with a theme similar to Lien’s, using photography to document changes in the Chinese coastline
- Modernity through eyes of 8 South Korean photographers - October 2011 – identity, family, sexuality, boredom and consumption in Korea’s urban spaces
- Video artist Chen Chieh Jen’s diary for Taiwan society – Studio Banana TV interview – April 2011 – like Lien Chien Hsing, Taiwanese video artist Chen Chieh Jen is also concerned with portraying different “landscapes” of Taiwanese society
- Get clued-up on Taiwanese art: Art Island profiles 200+ artists- March 2011 – a comprehensive resource for those that want to learn more about top Taiwanese artists
- Visual culture of Shanghai on show at San Francisco Asian Art Museum – June 2010 – another example of art as a medium to explore and analyse the cultural and social change of an urban setting
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