Taiwanese artist Li-Chen at MOCA and Asia Art Centre, Taipei, Taiwan
A preview of new solo exhibition by Li-Chen: ‘Being: In / Voluntary Drift’ at MOCA Taipei presented together with Asia Art Centre, with an exclusive interview with the artist.
Entering the showcase into a series of gigantic sculptures, visitors then traverse a number of intimate rooms that encourage open-mindedness and meditation. The design, conceptualised by the curators of MOCA, highlights Li-Chen’s highly spiritual and philosophical works. The tour is divided into four sections — Arriving, Leaving, Entering and Exiting — and encompasses the development of the artist’s techniques, exploring the core meaning of his creative philosophy.
In this exhibition, Li-Chen seems particularly focused on social and international contemporary issues, such as the present-day way of life amongst modern technologies, his empathy with the subject matter reflected in his most recent works. Yet, the artist also praises the strength of ordinary people amidst uncertainties and catastrophe, in a series of works that emphasise human nature.
In a witty approach, the artist invites his sculpture audience to interact with him in their own journey; the mouth of the figure ‘Hollow’ becomes a frame for the viewer to take photos of themselves (visitors actually queue to have their photo taken); ‘Holy Light’ invites the viewer to either go around a spotlight or stand under it, and in ‘Emergency Exit’, the bravest of visitors can slide down a pole leading directly to the ground floor.
Art Republik sits down with the fascinating and mysterious artist Li-Chen on the opening day of his show, to discuss the exhibition, his recent works and the relationship he has with his art.
How do you feel about this show organised in your home city? How is it different from previous solo shows?
When I stepped into the art world 18 years ago, my first solo exhibition in Taiwan featured works tackling social issues and contemporary life experiences. However, back then, I felt that the audience did not respond to these concepts and ignored the social aspects and criticism that I wanted to raise. They didn’t understand the ideas that I tried to convey because viewers thought my art was detached from reality and purely spiritual.
In this exhibition, things are different because the curators have given a clear explanation of my artistic development and the concepts that lie beneath the artworks. The “other side” of my work is revealed. The sculptures in this exhibition convey the social and emotional issues that preoccupy society today, and I believe that contemporary audiences are better able to interpret and understand these ideas.
I’m delighted to be able to bring this exhibition to life today with the MOCA Museum. I appreciate very much all that the researchers and the directors of the museum have done to help audiences better understand my art. Through this exhibition, they also helped bring to light my earlier works in order to give a clearer picture of my artistic personality.
We’re familiar with the shiny ink-black surface of your bronze sculpture. In this show, you also exhibit a lot of mixed media works. How do you choose your material?
The medium of clay is very similar to flesh — its colours and characteristics are reminiscent of human skin. Wood is like the skeletal structure underneath the flesh. I think that both clay and wood best fit the ideas I am trying to conceptualise in this exhibition, ‘Being’, as well as the spirit of my work. I don’t choose different mediums just to be original; I believe that each material holds something unique that can help convey ideas that I am trying to explore.
What specific thoughts are you trying to deliver through the use of fired clay?
Most of my clay sculptures have cracks and breaks. These represent scars, wounds — the flaws of human nature. We are not perfect. Most of these cracks are found inside; they are natural and the essence of human nature. I believe that every individual has their own story in their scars and memories. And flesh will eventually decompose. This is why I use clay because it shows the unique qualities of human nature — its imperfections, its limitations — as well as the fleeting nature of time.
You seem very enthusiastic about your new work, ‘Holy Light’. Could you tell us more about this installation?
This work is made for this generation, for today’s people. It is a contemporary work. These days, it feels like this world is turning faster and faster; we all are constantly racing to keep up with the Internet and the latest technologies. With this installation, while you can choose to walk around the light and simply observe, I encourage spectators to walk into the light. People who choose to stand under the spotlight are immediately greeted with a storm of wind and lights. When you enter the light, everybody can see you; it’s much like what everybody does when connecting on social media when you expose everything you do to followers.
A lady who is dressed in a luxurious outfit, wearing a lot of carefully-applied make-up, will be rather surprised when standing under the ‘Holy Light’! She will be struck by a strong wind and sudden noise. It would be hilarious to watch this person get all messed up (laugh)!
What about the ‘Reflection of Mind’ displayed in a room filled with mirrors? Is it inviting the viewers to partake in self-reflection?
The way human nature works is that we are actually afraid of facing our real self and being lonely. This is why everybody uses social media these days. By connecting with others, you feel your own existence.
Do you use social media yourself ? Are you on Facebook?
You once said “I see my works like children, and as a parent I have to keep an eye on them”. What is your relationship with your artworks?
It is a very good question, because there is always something a bit painful about setting up an exhibition. The process of creation, the emotion and attachment, is really like giving birth. And then you have to hand your children over to somebody else. It’s like adopting out your own children (laugh). However, as an artist, it is something I have to face. At the same time, there is an exchange in the process; when people acquire my works, yes, they adopt them, but in return I receive money.
Li-Chen’s solo exhibition will run until 27 August 2017 at MOCA Taipei and Asia Art Centre, Taipei, Taiwan.
This article was written by Léonore Vitry Becker for Art Republik.