With 12 artists and approximately 30 works, “An Ode to Thirty” provides a snapshot of mid-career artists in Taiwan from the 1970s until now.
Art Radar takes a look at some of the highlights and hears from curator Jenning King about the art scene in Taiwan.
From 24 June to 23 July 2017, Eslite Gallery hosts “An Ode to Thirty”, an exhibition that brings together seven young artists currently in their thirties as well as works from five senior artists made while they were the same age. With works spanning from the 1970s until now, the exhibition explores that time in life when an artist is starting to grow into their voice, but yet their practice is still relatively malleable. The exhibition also explores diverse time periods in Taiwan and what it meant to be a practicing artist through distinct political eras.
The artists included in the exhibition are:
- Lee Chi-Hsiang
- Cheng Nung-Hsuan
- Lin Shu-Kai
- Yeh Jen-Kun
- Liu Chih-Hung
- Che-Wei Chen
- Chou Tai-Chun
- Hsia Yan
- Fu-sheng Ku
- Szeto Keung
- Su Wong-Shen
- Lien Chien Hsing
Lin Shu-Kai (b. 1983), inspired by Tainan, the city of his youth, creates imaginary islands and cities imbued with religious symbolism. Using a process of metamorphosis, Lin uses left over materials from his father’s factory to create possible cities of the future.
Another contemporary artist Lee Chi Hsiang (b. 1983) uses window panes and out of focus images to investigate symbols of reconstruction. He encourages the viewer to question what they see and not rely on the artist as the authority, explaining in an artist statement that “I may remain faint silent [about] the authoring process, [it is] left to the viewers to decide is it blurry or out of focus”.
Painting in ink and gouache, Yeh Jen-Kun (b. 1984) fuses the traditional techniques to develop an authentic and textured aesthetic. He often depicts empty cities with sharp lines and scenes with overpowering concrete buildings.
Chih-Hung Liu (b. 1985) interweaves emotion and images, drawing from personal experiences and memories. His practice is driven by painting and drawing, through which he creates organic connections incorporating ordinary materials and an exploration of language.
Art Radar also caught up with curator Jenning King who shared some thoughts about the exhibition and the art scene in Taiwan.
What was the genesis of this exhibition? Can you explain a bit about how it came about and why it is important to have such an exhibition in the current context?
This is an exhibition that primarily centres around the idea of life and time. I wasn’t thinking about its importance in the current context, but rather it comes from a personal interest in what people go through in different stages of their lives, their experiences, the choices they make and their thought process, and what motivates them. With that in mind, in addition to presenting artworks, I would like to draw attention to the creators behind these artworks as emotional beings making their way through the courses of life and, in a larger sense, time.
Being thirty is an interesting age in that by then artists are growing into their distinctive voice but not fully settled. They are maturing yet still malleable. It is a time when struggles and dreams coexist, so there are qualms, uncertainties but also a sense of satisfaction generated from being able to pursue their ideals. At the same time, the exhibition is meant to reflect on how we are influenced or shaped by our own time, and how everything we have now is built upon the efforts of our predecessors. By showing works made by senior artists when they were in their thirties and young artists currently at the same age, we would perhaps see the trails artists have blazed in the past, where they are now and where they might be as they charge into the future. Essentially, through a small sampling, we might be able to trace the history of art in Taiwan and how these artists’ subjects reflect their time.
What are the specific challenges facing young artists in Taiwan today? Have these changed much over the decades since the 1970s?
Almost everything in Taiwan is affected by its tumultuous and difficult political situations, including the development of art. Hsia Yan and Fu-sheng Ku studied art in the 1950s when Taiwan was under martial law but young artists were greeted by waves of Western ideas and cultures. Hsia and Ku were the first members of Tong Fan Art Group and May Art Group, respectively, that sought for breakthroughs from rigid art training and pushed for modernisation of art in Taiwan. They were amongst many artists who left Taiwan for the West in pursuit of a free environment and progressive ideas. They both went to Europe first then arrived in New York in the 1960s.
Szeto Keung went to New York as well a few years later at the height of photorealism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the time of Su Wong-shen and Lien Chien Hsing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, martial law was lifted, Taiwan’s political structure underwent transformation, and the economy took off but it took a toll on the natural environment. Artists like Su and Lien began to take a hard look at Taiwan’s internal issues. Questions about identity and nativism arose, too.
Today’s young artists in Taiwan are still affected heavily by politics, although in an entirely different way. They might not feel suffocated by tight grips like Hsia and Fu, or have a critical eye about the same issues like Lien and Su, but they are nevertheless being deprived of a stage in the international art scene. They are often overlooked, with China rising in power and Taiwan marginalised in the international community.
What trends have you noticed in the art scene in Taiwan in the past five years?
China undoubtedly beholds the eye of the international art scene. Being so close to China and connected to China on every level but at the same time being marginalised, this seriously impinges on Taiwanese artists’ survival. Internally Taiwan’s development is experiencing a serious slow down as well, so even at home their resources are alarmingly compromised and opportunities are harder to come by
- “91 Square Meters of Time”: Taiwanese video artist Wu Chi-Yu at TKG+ Projects, Taipei – May 2017 – through moving image, Wu Chi-Yu reimagines narratives of history and time in his latest solo exhibition at TKG+ Projects in Taipei
- “Line of Vision”: Taiwanese photographer Wang Hsin at Taipei Fine Arts Museum – March 2017 – Taiwanese photographer Wang Hsin has dedicated her career to exploring the capacity of photography to forge deeper understanding between people
- “Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future”: highlights from the Taipei Biennial 2016 – January 2017 – the Taipei Biennial 2016 entitled “Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future” engages in historical critique
- Taiwanese artist Yin-Ju Chen’s “Extrastellar Evaluations II – A Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems” at CFCCA, Manchester – in pictures – December 2016 – multimedia artist encourages audiences to question the categories of art, science, superstition, history and ritual
- A “Universe of Possibilities”: Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai – interview – November 2016 – Art Radar speaks with the unconventional multimedia artist who embellishes the realms of human perception with literary mantras
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