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LIÚ, Yung Jen 劉永仁





by artist Liú Yung-Jen


Painting is not about what is painted but how it is approached that reveals one’s idea and view about this world; how one’s inner world is projected onto the things that one sees; or even, how one expresses the view on life. My concept for painting and form of expression came first from investigating art with ink, and then continued with experiments in different media. Starting in the early 1990s, my painting gradually metamorphosed from figuration to an obscure linear context. I was attracted to eastern philosophy and the simple, low relief forms on Han Dynasty tomb bricks. This prompted me to consider painterly space, the eternity of the moment, and also the extension of the current artistic attitude. A specific goal for my work was to seek opportunities that would broaden my horizons and gradually lead to the creation of images that reveal ambiguity. Furthermore, breathing and creation are mutually constitutive activities which carry associations of inside and outside, or surface and content, and awareness of this duality has served as a reference point in developing my work. I believe painting can express an individual’s understanding of our human lives, and although painters must be well practiced to create images, they still need to avoid the trap of fixed patterns, liberate their passions, and remain vigilant about art’s fundamental purpose.


Abstract art shows the perceptions that the artist coagulates from time and space in life. Abstract art is really not so hard to fathom – it can be regarded as a visual and perceptual experience involving color and form which resonates with our experience of living, and any feelings that arise while viewing abstract art lead to understanding. I have no way of explaining why I paint the way I do, nor do I ever respond to what the critics write. This is because I don’t follow intellectually-based steps when working, but rather rely solely on my intuition. Also, I first create a painting, and then after an interval of time, I return to it to discover new things. This spontaneous process, just like breathing, is not reason based but natural and necessary. Once one understands the feeling of art setting the spirit free, there is no way to stop; it indeed becomes one of life’s fundamental desires and just as impossible to forgo as breathing. I express my world view and find a space to breathe through painting. Open space in a painting is very important to me, because when the eyes rest upon a space, a form, a space between forms, or the space within a form, a correlated space expands within the viewer’s spirit that captures the force of breathing.


I am most fascinated by atypical forms arising after representations (the idea of an object) fade. They are the intrinsic forms beneath the surface that arise from the subconscious after intellectual capabilities recede. Renewed awareness of these forms is pleasing because they are authentic, simple and true. When forms and colors are balanced, they take on new characters and rhythmical structures in a way that is natural like breathing, just like my artwork. These structures have existed since the beginning of time, and I just set them free. I do not really arrange them, but rather present their original appearance. I am very surprised at their sequential movement which is related to gravitational attraction and repulsion. I believe painting is the creative axis of life, and is tempered by every breath I take. Painting seems composed in a random or unpredictable space, but is a necessity that exists in harmony and sometimes disharmony.


The lively, hazy atmospheres of ink painting give my work a recognizable context. Poetic, warm and moist – these atmospheres are a driving force in my creative ideas. Since 1996 I have pursued the concept of breathing with my artwork. In order to realize this goal, at first I used ink painting, and then acrylic paints, oils, and most recently beeswax and lead foil (piombo). While exploring different strategies such as painting in series or paintings about the environment, I have experimented with many different techniques and materials, but oil which is delicate with warmness on canvas is still my primary media. Expanding space has always been a feeling in my work. I try to create novel presentations of depth. The quality of beeswax together with lead foil, and melted beeswax after it hardens on lead foil, produce an effect of partially hiding the foil. The warmth and moisture of beeswax produces a change in quality as it hardens. I think of beeswax as a kind of oil paint that can be used for writing or poured like molten metal, which results is faintly layered textures. Golden yellow beeswax pools on gray lead foil to express an eternal fleeting moment, and in my paintings this presents an ambiguous half transparent matte surface which creates a visual sensation that dispels confusion yet is difficult to explain.


For this solo exhibition at Chini Gallery, curator Tseng Yao-Sheng interprets my new series of 2020 from a fresh perspective. The exhibition features paintings, three-dimensional works and Temporary Chair series, which serves as a comparison; and all together, these works carry the discussion of “the concept of breathing” to a deeper level. Through refining variations and reflection of forms as well as the sieving of perception, the forms are extracted and constructed through with artistic approaches. My sculptures are the continuation of my paintings, from which the formal elements are forged into three-dimensional works. These small sculptures can be viewed as independent individuals as well as a collective whole, of which its volume extends infinitely. The external space conveys malleability with a definite contour but an indefinite directionality, whereas the internal space shows a microcosmic, rotating and 360-degree observability that one’s eyes and mind can explore and traverse. They demonstrate both inner and outer visual effects, and particularly need to interact with the surrounding environment in space. This is my first attempt at small sculptures in my four decades of painting career. It is almost like an adventurous game. They can be seen as evolving tiny lotus seed pods or mysterious galactic objects – my impassioned practice to explore new possibilities while responding to the space in painting. I have contemplated on the various axes, curves and openings of the sculptural form of these small objects to construct the sculptural dynamics. The axial perspective and the curvature occupy the three-dimensional space, and each contour reveals the silhouette of the form from different angles. Viewing from all directions, these silhouettes create endless changes. When moving around this set of sculptures, the subtle changes induced by the lighting correspond to the subtle perception of the space, as if the surrounding space and the cosmos inside are two sides of the same thing and reflect one another. These flexibly positioned, conceptual sculptures in the form of lotus seed pods are made of brass, copper and silver respectively. When displayed as an installation set, they collectively reveal a rather buoyant site informed with agility that serves as an interpretation of the forever-changing space-time and the seasonal cycle.

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