Ho Kan Solo Exhibition
Ho Kan Solo Exhibition
Curator：Chung Ching hsin
Ho Kan’s Spatial Poetics
1.The Humanistic Space: Utopian Repository
Ho Kan’s art is reminiscent of the poetry of Jorge Luis Borges. It brings to mind a distant end-of-the-world space, and an even more distant time, so remote to have passed through history and become the legends of our collective memory. In his paintings, space is uncondensed and time is not an emasculated abstract concept; everything exists still in its original form, profound and mysterious, retaining a powerful dignity. From the inner energy of his works, we perceive humanity’s common plight and shared destiny. His art is therefore real and even experienced bodily. It takes us back to our earliest experiences. With age it seems Ho Kan has become more contented, and to have achieved a kind of freedom.
Living in Italy, Ho Kan has been depicting this “life force” in his art for the past forty years, drawing on experiences and impressions reamed from his continuous reflections on life. Leaving behind the culturally bereft 1950s, he abandoned a fragmented, gloomy style and embraced open and pure forms, turning away from subconscious surrealism to pursue a metaphysical direction. It was as if he was expressing some inner gratitude he felt. In his works now, Ho Kan takes myriad and diverse imagery and reduces them to simple but definite forms. Although stylistically his art is very Western, spiritually and emotionally his heart is in the East. To Westerners, the idea of the mysterious Orient holds such sway that, as Borges once described, “Merely the name conjures images of a vast utopian repository.”
Ho Kan’s art is firmly rooted in the foundations of traditional Chinese art, but by borrowing concepts and certain painting techniques from the West he has created a unique style. His paintings transmit a feeling of infinity and constancy, and possess a peaceful and static beauty about them. The understated stillness of his works has its origins in Chinese literati painting and the concept of “nothingness” propounded by Chuang Tzu and in Zen philosophy. In Chinese painting, a well known technique is the depiction of scenes in a simple, flat plane, without realistic temporal and spatial restrictions. The background in traditional Chinese painting consists of empty white spaces, and spatial arrangement of objects is used by the artist as a way of expressing feelings. Together, these elements contribute to the strong decorative quality of Chinese painting. Rather than being empty nothingness, the white spaces of the background in fact represent the very essence of the universe and pulse with living energy. Ho Kan once said, “I attempt to capture life’s essence. My images are symbols, signs, revelations. The techniques I use allow me to reach a spiritual plane, where a kind of sincerity towards the infinite yearning of humanity and the universe is expressed.”
2.The Spiritual Space: Resounding with the Retentir of Life
Ho Kan’s “poetic space” is the manifestation of impressions and insights that he has gained from reflecting on life over the course of many decades. To Ho Kan, life is the abrupt appearance of a unique individual voice in the infinite universe. In this strongly metaphorical voice, time and space are simultaneously condensed, akin to metaphysical artist Minkowski’s retentir (reverberation) of life. In his Vers une Conmologie, Minkowski states, “When the eye of the soul is reborn in its primitive state and become full of life, we discover a brand new dynamic, a new category of energy, a new property of the universe: retentir.” This “echo of life” reverberates around everything like a hunting call, causing even the smallest, most delicate leaves and lichen to tremble with fear, thereby altering the entire forest, causing it to expand until the entire world resonates.
Ho Kan’s “poetic space” strongly brings across a sense of ecstatic wonder and a dream-like quality. His uniform blocks of color transmit a feeling of stillness. On these blocks of color, Ho Kan positions his symbolic geometric shapes. But he also adds small disks or dots of light resembling the flashes of small insects or the sparks of a fire, which recklessly stand out. These “echoes of life,” although tiny compared to the boundlessness of the universe, proudly asserts themselves with a kind of self assured and resolute attitude. The retentir of life is not “concentrating” a certain property into another. Rather, it is the “energy of reverberating life.” This energy completely permeates and absorbs everything encountered on one’s life’s journey and “concentrates” it into a spatial fragment. More accurately, it is a “concentrated” fragment of one’s world, which releases its own life-force into the world.
In his paintings, Ho Kan has simplified and reduced diverse images into simple but definite forms. These geometric symbols, his artistic language, are the result of Ho Kan’s study and analysis of Chinese calligraphy, Jinshih, classical Chinese architecture, lacquer work, cultural totems, and folk art and craft. Ho Kan concentrates these art forms into his simplified forms. His signature circular disks and short lines imply, and at the same time amplify, contrast and resonance between movement and stillness, real and fake, installing his works with an Oriental tranquility and mood. His fierce attachment to the flow of time gives rise to an absolute serenity in his paintings, which also express the authentic nature of his mystical journey.
3. The Geometric Space: Ode to the East
In his “poetic space,” Ho Kan explores the unknowable relationship between the single and the whole, and the fragment and the complete. Ho Kan’s independent “part-of-the-whole” entities exist in the shape of unusual, unexpected forms, which appear as random many-sides shapes, intricate converging lines, and shattered broken stripes or linear patterns. These geometric shapes are full of creative power, but are also in a constant state of renewal themselves, giving Ho Kan’s works a mystical quality. Ho Kan used to be a metaphysical artist. Master of the metaphysical school, Chirico, once said, “On the surface metaphysical art appears serene, but it gives the impression as if something important is about to take place.”
Ho Kan’s art displays an intelligent mastery of balance. Each of his works is a space in which an event can take place. Waiting for something to happen, you become aware that the entire balance of the painting is constantly being shattered by the emergence of newly condensed and reconfigured elements. Infinite spaces and diminutive forms, shocking geometry and calm logic, mysterious forms and pure and refined narrative are balanced just so, at any moment to explode with accumulated power and intelligent action and impact. These enchanting composite forms each have a preordained position in the unpredictable and unimaginable temporal and spatial order of Ho Kan’s paintings.
Suprematist Malevich believed that true art is that which exists only for itself. In other words, art exists only in the painting. Its forms do not originate from nature but from the essence of the painting itself. Malevich’s suprematism and Kandinsky’s “spirituality in art” both strongly emphasize spiritualism. Favoring peace, quiet, and reflection, Ho Kan uses light brush strokes and texture. His random forms are in a way an emotional response to the infinite reverberations of the great universe, a refined poetical expression. The melodies of these temporal dialogues are evidence that his passion for life has grown over time. While ordered and composed, some of his seemingly logical and regulated geometric shapes throw out sparks of fire. Between these sparks, neat areas of color flow like space and color in musical form. Viewers experience something of the wonder of the East from these harmonious and mysterious images.
In summary, Ho Kan’s unique art comes from his unique self-styled language. His style is very Western, but his spirit and heart is in the East.