See Trippy Taiwan Through the Eyes of Sun Pei-Mao, a Highlight of Hong Kong Art Week

Mar 16, 2016 7:29PM

Sun Pei-Mao’s fantastical neon works fuse the traditional with the modern. Though the Taiwanese painter graduated from Taipei National University of the Arts just three years ago, he has already won various awards and exhibited extensively in solo shows across his home country. Now, with Yiri Arts’ exhibition at the Art Central fair during Hong Kong Art Week, the rising star brings his stylistically cohesive, unsettling paintings to one of the art world’s major international events.

Throughout his relatively short career, Pei-Mao, 25, has focused on figures embroiled in epic battles or mythic forays. Tigers, horses, and the specter of death feature prominently in his work, while the monochromatic color schemes or odd, limited palettes—neon greens, ochers, bright yellows—give his scenes a woozy, hallucinogenic quality. Often, modern characters exist in the forefront against backgrounds reminiscent of traditional brush paintings, as in Dreams are heaven (2012), in which a businessman in a perfectly pressed suit lies prone on a field of rolling hills. Though Pei-Mao most often paints in acrylic, these nods to his country’s rich artistic history are lovingly rendered. The references are both signals and shadows—backdrops onto which his bizarre characters are placed.

Some sinister, some delicate, the paintings on display for Art Central represent a wide range of Pei-Mao’s works from 2012 to 2015. In one of Pei-Mao’s earliest paintings, You are whom I am whom you are (2012), an artist and a bare-breasted woman in a nurse’s cap are depicted in a ghoulish, high-contrast graphic style. Their moment is captured in reds and greens, while the rug and wall-sized paintings behind them recall the art and architecture of Taiwan.

In recent years, Pei-Mao’s work has more subtly played with the inversion of traditional themes. The triptych-like Wandering the Garden (2015) depicts an array of stags, lily pads, and mythical creatures wandering an otherwise typical Taiwanese garden—or perhaps three separate gardens from three different eras. All the while, the pink and aquamarine palette feels like an opium-induced Art Deco dreamscape.

—M. Osberg

Yiri Arts’ booth is on view at Art Central, Hong Kong, Mar. 23–26, 2016.

Follow Yiri Arts on Artsy.