Taiwanese artist Wang Wen-Chih speaks to Art Radar about his own ‘Sanctuary’ at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Despite its main galleries undergoing renovations, TFAM continues to attract many visitors due to its outdoor bamboo installation. Created by artist Wang Wen-Chih, Sanctuary, more than being an expression of how expansive contemporary art can be, is a reminder of how rare safe spaces for the mind and body have become nowadays.

The old clothing used for Wang Wen-Chih's ‘Sanctuary’ was gathered through the museum "Sanctuary: Old Clothing Collection Project". Here, locals were asked to donate their old garments, which were later on sewn into the installation. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The old clothing used for Wang Wen-Chih’s ‘Sanctuary’ was gathered through the museum “Sanctuary: Old Clothing Collection Project”. Here, locals were asked to donate their old garments, which were later on sewn into the installation. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

What lured me to your artistic practice is that it finds a way to involve the community. In Australia, you taught your bamboo techniques to local artists; while in Sanctuary, you invited the public to donate their old clothes and participate in the weaving of this into the bamboo structure. What was the “Sanctuary: Old Clothing Collection Project experience like? What kind of participants did you attract for this event? 

In the “Sanctuary: Old Clothing Collection Project”, people donated their clothes in exchange of a book dust-jacket hand drawn by myself, which can be turned into their personalised slipcases or bags with the workshops hosted on site. I enjoy the audience, volunteers and my team all working together. We co-work like a big family, sharing the happiness of collective labour!

Detail of the old clothing integrated into the bamboo structure of Wang Wen-Chih's 'Sanctuary'. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Detail of the old clothing integrated into the bamboo structure of Wang Wen-Chih’s ‘Sanctuary’. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Art Radar is curious about your learning experience with the elders of the Chiayi high mountains. Could you talk a bit about their bamboo tradition? What are their uses for it? How long have they been harvesting and weaving the material? How long did it take you to learn their techniques?

At that time I wanted to search for a sculptural language that is unique to Taiwan. I was inspired by the weaving activities in folk culture, which encompasse crafts and arts from bamboo houses, bamboo vessels, bamboo tools, to clothing made of bamboo charcoal fibre. The legacy of traditional craftsmanship gets passed down by the great efforts of traditional craftsmen. I make use of these techniques in contemporary art and it has become a huge creative breakthrough.

Who else has inspired your artistic practice? Who are the artists that you look up to?

There are two elders in my hometown who have provided long term supports to my weaving projects and have taught me many techniques.

The top hole of Wang Wen-Chih's 'Sanctuary', watchtower. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The top hole of Wang Wen-Chih’s ‘Sanctuary’, watchtower. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Sanctuary is essentially composed of two structures. The first one resembles an igloo and is very smooth and rounded on the outside and very homey within. The second one is more like a tower, wherein viewers can climb to very top (with caution) and has got a prickly exterior surface. Why did you choose to display such contrast?

The two seemingly separate parts of the Sanctuary project have their shared commonality and inseparability. It is similar to that both elevated heavenly touch and secular robustness coexist within the universe at the same time. Human being is a mixture of body and mind – two parts simultaneously coexist and blend together!

Another common component in your work is that every structure has a top hole, wherein the viewer can look up at the sky. What is the significance of revealing the heavens in your work? 

The sky window is crucial. It is like salvation, an exit, and a connection with the heavenly. I heard kids talking in the work. They thought they were on a spaceship that will take off through the roof – all the way into the space.

Wang Wen-Chih’s bamboo structures always have a window to the heavens. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Wang Wen-Chih’s ‘Sanctuary’, bamboo structures with a typical window to the heavens. Image courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Finally, what projects are you working on this 2018? 

For 2018, I intend to participate in the design project of the Taichung World Flora Exposition and am also invited by Hong Kong K11 Art Foundation to be exhibited. It is expected my creative life in 2018 should be a fruitfu.l one

Javelyn Ramos

2045

“Sanctuary” by Wang Wen-Chih is on view from 7 October 2017 to 8 April 2018 at the Taipei Musuem of Fine Arts (TFAM), No.181, Sec. 3, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City 10461, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Related Topics: Taiwanese, sculpture, bamboo, museum shows, interviews, Taipei

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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