Galerie du Monde spotlights Taiwanese artist Wu Chi-Tsung’s contemporary take and zeal for traditional art.
Art Radar takes a thorough look at “Inwardscape”, Wu Chi-Tsung’s latest solo exhibition and debut in Hong Kong. Like the city, which continuously blends the East and the West, this Taiwanese artist’s works are hybrids of the traditional and contemporary.
Taiwanese artist Wu Chi-Tsung (b. 1981) has been making a name for himself in recent years. Apart from collaborating with premier brands such as Dior and Rolls-Royce, he has garnered several recognitions, namely being shortlisted for the 2015 Prudential Eye Awards and 2006 Artes Mundi, winning the WRO Media Art Biennale – The Critics and Editors of Art Magazines Award in 2013 and top prize of Taipei Arts Award in 2003.
Undoubtedly, his list of credentials would draw in any collector or art enthusiast, but what makes Wu a much-talked about artist is his persistence to create dialogue about the traditional and the contemporary, while his methods clearly show that it doesn’t matter how long the art-making takes. This dedication of Wu was spotted by Galerie du Monde Founder and Chairman Fred Scholle in Beijing, back when Wu exhibited his Crystal City installation as part of a group show in CAFA Art Museum. Scholle recalls encountering a work of Wu for the first time, as he tells Art Radar:
I was extremely impressed with his work. Wu’s videos involve a great deal of Chinese traditional art elements such as plum trees, bamboo, pine trees, etc. with the videos being composed in either a vertical or horizontal scroll format with a very strong Zen meditative Chinese visual art core, but in very contemporary forms rather than painting. The moving images in his videos are much like the movement one experiences in ink painting.
This captivating first-time experience eventually led Scholle to bring Wu to Hong Kong, holding a solo exhibition that exposes the public to the Taiwanese artist’s well-known pieces. On view until 14 March 2017, “Inwardscape” includes Crystal City 007, which was part of the 2016 International Ink Art Biennale of Shenzhen, as well as new works that call to mind conventions in traditional art.
With the mission to promote modern and contemporary Chinese artists, Galerie du Monde decided to mount a solo show on Wu as his practice involves a “refreshing ability to transform Chinese traditional aesthetics to a very experimental new direction”. Scholle, who has been a part of the Hong Kong art scene for four decades, decided to bring the focus to Wu’s various series from recent years, which are bound together by Wu’s sincere and well-thought of interpretations of his background. The gallerist explains:
‘Inwardscape’ was translated from the Chinese word 憬 (jing), which means a landscape in the heart… meditated, signifying a more comprehensive look at his art.
Included in the exhibition are pieces from his series called “Cyano-Collage”, “Crystal City”, “Wrinkled Texture” and “Drapery Studies”, which are complemented by the videos Landscape in the Mist and Still Life.
The Debut of Drapery
One of the highlights of “Inwardscape” is Wu’s never-before-shown “Drapery Studies” series. Essentially a meticulous mingling of painting, sculpture and installation inspired by Graeco-Roman sculptures that began in 2013, this fresh series was projected by the artist to only be ready for public viewing in the succeeding years. Wu shares with Art Radar:
First of all, I would like to thank Galerie du Monde, otherwise it might take 10 more years for “Drapery Studies” to be shown to the public. Since developing “Drapery Studies” is a long process and the whole structure grows, the complete series will not to be finished in few years.
The long process of “Drapery Studies” entails manipulating linen wrinkles, persevering the shape and form with multiple layers of rabbit-skin glue and gesso and finishing it all off with oil paint/toner, which the artist sees as an off-shoot to his iconic “Wrinkled Texture” series. Talking to Art Radar, he comments:
Since developing “Wrinkled Texture”, which discusses oriental painting tradition, I had an idea of extending the similar practice to Western art, [which] is part of my art background as well. I studied calligraphy, ink painting, as well as pencil, charcoal, watercolour and oil painting since I was a kid. However, my own creation began [with] media and conceptual art, such as installation and video. I [have] always struggled and [felt] divided [by] Eastern and Western culture, as well as tradition and modern contemporary art.
His “Drapery Studies” therefore is a new way for him to create dialogue and balance about culture from the East and West and art from the past and the present. Noting how his “Wrinkled Texture” and “Drapery Studies” series are heavily anchored on the use of texture in traditional art, Art Radar asked Wu if he came across any interesting parallelisms between the East and West. The Taiwanese artist notes:
The characteristics of papers in “Wrinkled Texture” and fabrics in “Drapery Studies” are simple phenomena. Just like my other artworks, they are filled with ubiquitous daily materials and phenomena, for example, wire net, plastic boxes and dust. Depending on what we imagine and what context we give, the simple phenomena then [gather] meanings and become part of culture and art.
Wu then further dives into the series:
[The] “Drapery Studies” series discusses not only the Graeco-Roman sculptures as a symbol of the beginning of western art history, but also [the] oil painting materials after Renaissance, modern abstract spirit and so on. It deals with pretty much everything what is fading in contemporary art nowadays. However, drapery is drapery, there are no differences between [it] being on Graeco-Roman sculptures or being on our daily clothes. You can cast yourself onto a tiny fold to discover a scene and then walk into it.
Wu Chi-Tsung Beyond the Nutshell
Scholle provides a clear rundown of the Taiwanese artistic development, which started right after Wu finished his studies at the Taipei National University of the Arts in 2004:
Wu first started working with video arts after he graduated from university, where he received multiple awards. From his initial work in video, he then developed installations which combined video projection with industrial metal materials to create Chinese landscape images. These works had a strong relationship with his video work. He then began working with cyanotype, an old and very traditional photographic skill, but developing it to a very contemporary result by the wrinkling of Xuan paper to achieve a Chinese landscape image. These works were in a vertical or horizontal scroll format. A traditional western photo method but with a traditional ink painting visual format resulting in extremely contemporary abstract works as seen in his “Wrinkled Texture” series.
In 2013, Wu started to experiment with his “Drapery Studies” series, which were a further development of his cyanotype series, and were inspired by Classical Greek and Roman sculpture. The “Drapery Studies” series works are very three dimensional and textural where the artist attempts to study the relationship between materials and techniques. From this, one can see how the artist’s works developed over the years experimenting with new materials and techniques but with a traditional Chinese aesthetic still evident, and in particular, through the recurring theme of the landscape.
While there is an evident display and exploration of the memory of traditional art (both from the East and West) and its principles in Wu’s different series of works, Scholle notes that the artist’s future pieces may be different from what the public is accustomed to. He concludes:
It’s not possible for me to anticipate how the artist will develop his work in the future or what may inspire him. But a very positive aspect regarding Wu is that he is always experimenting with something new, and his works are always developed and created from the depth of his heart and from his cultural background.
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