Artists: Ku Hochung, Hung Tienyu, Yang Peichen, Yang Jeongdih, Tang Tang , Li Chuhsin
By Li Chuhsin
Once a painting is connected to the real world, it contains some sort of realistic concept. The tradition of accurately depicting images in the west can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. As for Taiwan, such trend of portraying verisimilitude started from the 1970s, while the US’s Photorealism and Europe’s Neo Realism and New Figuration movement were in the ascendant. It was also when the craze for Andrew Wyeth’s realism was sweeping Taiwan. Since then, the local realistic paintings emerged, laying the basis of Taiwanese realism. In the 1990s, thanks to the guidance of scholars coming back from abroad as well as the rich artistic information in circulation, important media and techniques for realistic paintings were finally widely realized. After four decades since its origin, Taiwanese realism has now developed a variety of realistic styles and abundant visual vocabulary.
The first series of expositions on realistic painting during 2002 have not only manifested the status of realistic paintings, but also opened a door for follow-up researches and curatorship. Aiming to continue the research on realistic creation, Da Xiang Art Space curates Cross-Realism, exhibiting works by six realistic artists—Ku Hochung, Hung Tienyu, Yang Peichen, Yang Jeongdih, Tang Tang, and Li Chuhsin. Through their diverse creation media—such as oil painting, wood carving, engraving and others—as well as a variety of realistic point of views, the exhibition intends to explore the most possibilities in Taiwanese realism.
In Ku Hochung’s painting, we will first see an “empty plate” implying dinner is finished. In terms of form, this work is an extension of a still life painting while the artist poses a “static life” in a deliberate way. Ku’s excellent photographically realistic techniques usually make viewers gasp in admiration. However, the most interesting factors in his works are “time” and the “phenomenon” hidden in it. In other words, Ku deals with still objects on the table as if they were on an “altar”, creating an effect of congealed “light and shadow” that suggests the eternity of time. By doing so, Ku has undoubtedly extended the scope of still life painting and has filled it with tranquil, silent, and even divine glory.
Landscape has been Hung Tienyu’s major creative theme. He draws with a piece of rubber chip instead of a brush, stacking and layering on the aluminum plates to vividly imitate the texture of leaves and earth. The most important element in Hong’s works is the whiteouted part on his picture. In his often used three-screen paintings on Taiwan’s landscape, he usually draws vast dense forest first but later covers most of them with white paint, leaving only the city scene with a few trees. Unlike most landscape painters who subtly remove the human image from their paintings, Hong erases part of his landscape to show his worry that the ecology has been being destroyed by human being. In other words, through such a “blank landscape,” he reveals the above-mentioned truth and tries to appeal for people’s respect for the nature.
Themes in Yang Peichen creation are mostly old used objects savored of human presence. As we praise Yang for his outstanding woodcarving skills, his works are also inspiring us to hear the stories behind each object and to feel its temperature. Through the artist’s realistic sculptural technique, viewers are able to realize their own attitude toward life from those old shoes and bathrobes that used to belong to someone unknown. While Taiwan’s woodcarving is mainly on statues of gods or goddesses, Yang’s works are about everyday objects. And the fact that he turns such commonplace stuff into sacred artwork with unique descriptive strategies as well as symbols has enabled him to one of the successful and distinctive contemporary artists.
One of Yang Jeongdih’s main themes is “land”. Seeing Yang’s engraving, viewers will be inevitably impressed by his delicate brush strokes as well as wonderful skills of carving. The artist carefully and precisely depicts each detail of the land, making his works look like exquisite embroidery. Also, in his works, viewers can see dense jungles with mingled plants and tiles on the roof of houses in fine texture. Behind these scenes are in fact Yang’s reminiscences of his early days and thus each single brush stroke or cut shows his strong emotional attachment for the past.
As for Tang Tang, thanks to his background in children’s illustration for a long time, his works retain both childlike and humorous images. He uses popular mini capsule toys and robots as his creative subjects, anthropomorphizing them by replacing the robots’ faces with children’s. Through such a skillful connection, the robots become alive. By doing so, Tang Tang intends to reveal every boy’s fantasy in childhood that a weak body can turn strong in no time. However, after the consumer culture and life issues form a link on the picture, some changes and conflicts of values may emerge—which is one of the most intriguing features in Tang Tang’s childlike pictures.
Last but not least, Li Chuhsin’s works mainly belongs to classical realism in which most themes are people and still life. Museology expert Zhang Wanzhen once disclosed that Li’s long cultivation of sophisticated realistic techniques and efforts made to savor the true meaning of painting through day-to-day practices were like a process of religious austerity. And in such an austerity, the artist is pursuing the eternal value in classical painting.
In today’s art world, the use of multiple media is very common. On one hand, the media that artists have adopted are diverse. On the other hand, many creators from various art fields have also chosen realistic vocabulary to present their works. Regardless of different media they use, these artists share some common point of view that they are all trying to illustrate “the authentic writing in the horizon” and the profound significance hidden in it.
This year, after a similar exhibition Reality．Difference in 2009, Da Xiang Art Space curates another exhibition—Cross-Realism—to introduce more young realistic artists. Through the joint exhibition of six young artists, Da Xiang aims to explore the straniamento and intercommunication from the realistic point of view. By doing so, it intends to deepen our understanding about the real world through “realism” and to lead us to see things in person that are hardly describable.
Hsieh Tungshan Et al. (2002). The Origins and Types of Taiwanese Classical Oil Paintings. ArtView, 49-79.
Zhang Wanzhen (2003). The Pursuit of Eternal Value. Li Chuhsin’s Work Collection, 20-23.