eslite gallery

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Tzu-Chi Yeh aka Tzu Chi Yeh aka 葉子奇 (Taiwanese, 1957, b. Yuli, Hualien county, Taiwan) - 1: Typhoon Approaching, 2007-2009  2: Night Long, 2009-2012  3: Waves, Pacific Ocean II, 2007-2008  4: The Last Day Of July, 2008-2009  Paintings: Oil over Tempura on Linen

Hometown Boy: Liu Xiaodong

This time, I’ve decided, I’m really going home.

In 1980, when I was seventeen, I left my hometown of Jincheng to study in Beijing, where I’ve been working ever since. Every Chinese New Year for the last thirty years, I’ve gone back to Jincheng for the holiday. I usually meet up with a few childhood friends and we drink, eat and have fun together. All of them still live there. Some are factory workers, while others have been laid off.

Jincheng is a small town built around a paper mill. It is home to several thousand workers and their families, as well as some neighboring farmers. Three decades ago, when the working class led the nation, factories were large and impressive, with thick smoke billowing from their ten-meter-high smokestacks, steam whistles blowing, crowds of workers changing shifts and workers’ families living in single-story bungalows. Worker housing was divided into wards: there was a north ward, a south ward and an east ward, separated by farmland, fields and ditches. It was paradise for mischievous kids. Over the years, the fields and ditches gave way to multi-story buildings, state-owned enterprises were restructured, and factories fell silent, as if they were overwhelmed by all the newly-constructed buildings. It was like seeing a vast army reduced to a supply brigade, with no one left to carry on the war.

Because of rapid urbanization, when we journey by train these days, we see fewer fields and endless stretches of multi-story buildings. We discover that all cities look the same, that the people on the street are just lackeys or merchants, and the working class has been swept away. We discover that we’re all city people now: our hometowns have been invaded by high-rise buildings, making us city folk without a home. The friends I knew in childhood have gotten fat. I once painted their portraits because I was hoping to get into art school. Now, thirty years later, I am painting them again, hoping that I can finish their portraits before all of them are laid off.

Once upon a time we were hired farmhands, poor peasants, rich peasants and landlords. We were the proletariat, the working class, an army of workers and peasants. Now, we are making great strides, moving single-mindedly toward the future, becoming the propertied classand we’ve got the bricks and cement to prove it.

Michael Lin, Untitled Gathering

Michael Lin

Untitled Gathering, 2008

Emulsion on Wood

22 x 28 x 28 cm x 320 pieces

The description below was written by Chia Chi Jason Wang and was very helpful in the understanding this work. The image above is an installation view of the work in the gallery, while the one below is an installation view from the Taiwan Biennale in which this work was first exhibited. On the wall are some pieces from LIN’s tangram works entitled Untitled b and Untitled c

“To Michael LIN (1964-), the cultural memory that life’s experiences store in the body is significantly more profound than ethnic identity emphasized by patriotism or education in thought. It was during the 1990s that he accidentally discovered that traditional Taiwanese printed cloth – or “A-ma’s printed cloth” as it is commonly known – carries the weight of collective memories of the lives of the Taiwanese people. Even though the tradition is no longer in fashion, the designs and imagery of printed cloth has long stored the collective bodily memory of a great number of people, even so far as embodying a kind of common cultural identity found in traditional Taiwanese life. Lin has taken this bygone memory of domestic life and transformed it into a public installation, shaping a space that is both public and private. Gathering in this public space that Michael Lin has defined using printed cloth, the spectators, who have up until now been strangers, form a mutual relationship in which they are both strangers yet also seemingly close, perhaps even on very friendly terms.

Michael Lin[‘s] Untitled Gathering [is a] brand new work, which was commissioned for Home – Taiwan Biennial 2008. In it, he used hundreds of wooden stools as the basic element of the space, decorated to match the colored pattern of a printed cloth that he originally excels at making. When the stools are arranged closely together, a single complete pattern of the printed cloth design naturally emerges. When the stools are dispersed, like the opening branches and scattering leaves of a family, Untitled Gathering becomes a metaphor for the gathering and parting of families; but within this there is no feeling of sorrow, just an expression of the nature and reality of life.”

Reflections Upon Hometown Boy

“Ah, but we die to each other daily.

What we know of other people

Is only our memory of the moments

During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.

To pretend that they and we are the same

Is a useful and convenient social convention

Which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember

That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”

- T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

It has been 30 years since LIU Xiaodong left his hometown for Beijing. He visits home briefly every year for Chinese New Year, but has never stayed for an extended period until 2010. During the course of three months, LIU painted his childhood friends who he had also painted 30 years ago for his art school application. The point of the Hometown Boy exhibition is not to applaud Liu for a triumphant return or for his rise to fame from small town roots. Instead, it is a look at the changes of those around him because nothing is static. After looking through LIU’s works, viewers can’t help but turn their gaze within.

LIU is more than an ordinary realist painter because he breaks from past portraiture traditions. It’s not about the individual in the painting, for Liu only creates series of works instead of individual pieces with no connection or theme.  It is about the collective group or society to which these individuals belong. This time, it’s a bit different than his other series because he’s going home as opposed to a foreign place. He talked about feeling pressure from this environment where everyone knows you’re a famous painter, and then the fear of his art and friends being exploited:

Art has become so commercialized. Simply speaking, to do anything in today’s society, as soon as you achieve some level of fame, you are bound to be exploited by commerce. So artists also operate under such exploitation. Regarding this, I was taught differently. I care friendship and loyalty. To take this moral obligation to heart is to separate friendship from money. As simple as that. But today, art is tied with money. When making art about loyalty, I have a burden on my heart. It is a tricky balancing act.

His anxieties were soon erased after rejoining his friends. Even though they may have grown up in two different environments after their childhood, he still feels a unbreakable bond with them. This sense of “ger man”, or brotherhood, is endearing in this day and age. At a time when the word “investment” is not as dirty a word as it used to be in the art world, it is refreshing to see that there are some who still value loyalty over profit. 

LIU isn’t basing his works and career on the market and sales – there is a purity surrounding the artist that draws others in, especially when watching his documentary, reading his journal entries, and viewing his works. This is the beauty of the Hometown Boy exhibition – the documentary elements of LIU’s works are out in full display, and allow viewers to understand him on a more complete basis. Afterwards, visitors may examine their own lives for these bonds that LIU bares in the exhibition. This sort of kinship is universal and thus resonates with people on various personal levels.

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Hometown Boy exhibition is on display at ESLITE GALLERY, with his oil paintings shown at the fifth floor gallery space, while all of his diary entries, ink paintings, and documentary trailer displayed at the sixth floor exhibition space. An exhibition box set is available, and includes his diary, documentary DVD, and exhibition catalogue. 

KUO Chwen Solo Exhibition: Press Release

 

Iridescent Clouds, 2011, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 100 cm 

ESLITE GALLERY presents a solo exhibition for KUO Chwen that will run from 10 September to 16 October. It will feature both finished and unfinished works to show the depth of his later periods of painting.

KUO is well remembered for his fascination with Surrealism and symbolism, remarking in a past interview, “I am very interested in Surrealism since it is my way to look into myself. This is the most important thing as an artist. I want to look at something in the dark areas within myself, you know, violence, cruelty, and so on. Most people have dark areas within themselves but they don’t have any chance to explore these aspects of their unconscious. For me as an artist I have to explore the unconscious.”

KUO Chwen’s early works had a ghostly ambience - familiar buildings and their interior spaces contain huge insects, animals, and other living creatures. On this platform, the artist conveyed his critique of reality and perhaps his sorrow towards the ignorance of the world. In 1997, KUO’s middle period began as his works changed significantly, though still grounded in nature. The protagonists of the paintings shifted to skeletons to represent “true nature.” The themes changed to suit his interpretation of personal emptiness and his understanding of the human heart.   

KUO’s preference for painting bones may mean that although he creates a photo-realistic effect in his paintings, he would rather penetrate deeper past the skin in his works, to explore the human mind and its states. His final period of work occurred as he prepared for his second exhibition with ESLITE in 2007 - creation defined KUO’s life and destiny, even as he was struggling with his health. This exhibition will focus on his skeletal works, which contain a valuable internal journey where one experiences a free mind and spiritual cleansing.

Holding Hands, 2011, Oil on Canvas, 200 x 100 cm, 180 x 90 cm, 162 x 82 cm,  146 x 74 cm, 132 x 66 cm, 118 x 59 cm (set of six)