jennifer wen ma

ART TAIPEI: Jennifer Wen MA

Dodo with One Hundred Meeps Walking in the Desert, 2011

Single-monitor Video with Audio Track, 2 minutes 22 seconds

In Jennifer Wen MA’s first solo exhibition in Taiwan, she investigated Chinese painting, ink, and the color black from different contemporary perspectives. Using a single color to represent all colors, employing two-dimensional forms to symbolize realistic space, embodying dynamic actions and a sense of time in a still image, these are some of the characteristics of Chinese art. Here, MA extends and re-interprets Chinese aesthetics within a contemporary sense of time and space via installations and videos. In her ink and wash animations, MA paints on glass as opposed to paper, which she thought would limit the natural running and movement, that is to say the dynamism, of the ink. As her works are also drawn from personal experiences and tales, they tenderly reveal MA’s inner emotions and speak of heartrending moments in life while weaving poignantly between history, art, and culture.

Below is a excerpt from an interview between her and CHIN Ya-Chun:

MA: … When I filmed Dodo with One Hundred Meeps Walking in the Desert,my video editor reminded me of many things to which I needed to pay attention to in advance, but I didn’t heed to any of them because I already knew exactly what the work should look like in my mind. I just went ahead with my camera and shot it, but the end result indeed had many problems. I filmed my seven-year-old niece, Dodo, following her with my camera. I was in love with the way she walked, adorable and real. But the video turned out unwatchable because the image was constantly moving. When I added my flowing ink and wash paintings, the whole thing was moving and what’s worse, the elements seem completely unrelated. It was simply unwatchable.

Later I selected a video segment of her walk that I liked the best. Isolated the still frames, and cropped out her figure frame by frame, rearranged, retouched and finally composed a new clip from these screen shots.

CHIN: That is to say you made these screen shots.

MA: Yes. I felt that this was my hand filtering the details of the whole work. Of course it took a lot of time, and I made numerous tries, but I quite enjoyed it. My editor had said, “You should set up a blue background with good lighting and film the work in a studio.” But if I had done it like that Dodo would not have been as natural. A little girl pretending to walk against a blue background: do you think she would have been as cute as she would have in a natural setting? She had to be in a desert, walking like this and that, sometimes jumping, sometimes doing something else, and she has walked on roads, sometimes placing one leg across the other and so on; it’s in these details we have the charm and character of the artwork. Actually, going through the whole process ultimately gave this work a different artistic expression.

CHIN: So the work integrates a film of your niece and the ink and wash paintings you painted on glass?

MA: Yes. The background music is played by her. It’s a piano tune that she wrote herself. Very sweet. To come back to your point, no, I don’t think one needs to view it as an obstacle.

CHIN: But in reality, this pressure for works to have a level of recognizability will always exist.

MA: I think that nowadays we are all rather lazy, including myself when I look at other artists’ work. I too hope to understand in an instant what the artist is doing. But I feel that, as far as I’m concerned, the most interesting artists are those who keep me guessing. The less I understand, the more I want to see the artist’s work. Of course the premise is that the work is good. I think there has to be a balance; that is to say that there continues to be things to be explored, while maintaining a continuous thematic language.