Like Entering a Transformed World - Islands from the Above - Wu Hsichi Solo Exhibition

Powen Gallery
Jun 5, 2020 8:48AM

Written by Chen Kuang-Yi (Doctor of Philosophy in Contemporary Art History, Paris Nanterre University / Full-time Professor, Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan University of Arts / Dean, Fine Arts College)

The fundamental assumption of a creation behavior is that human is provoked by the desire of creating “form” and “significant form”. This type of behavior is common to all human beings. It is totally independent of art development and cultural backgrounds. Each individual has the ability to practice their creativity, and freedom of creation exists among the nameless public and professional artists. Thus, Jean Dubuffet, 1901-1985, had strongly advocated using “L’art brut” to combat the ossified art of fine art museums. The L’art brut, according to him, is “all kinds of products (…) which show great creativities of self-generated characteristics. They have nothing to do with the general conventional art or culture cliché, and the artists are some totally unknown figures who are not from the art circle[1].”

Several exhibitions[2] held since 1932 are sufficient evidence to prove how this type of art was valued during the development process of the Western Contemporary Art, and they are considered to be qualified enough to combat the academism’s cliché. Is art exactly a complete aesthetic product, or it is a posture of an individual facing the world? Coincidentally, Robert Goldwater defined “Primitivism” as “An attitude productive of art, its results are bound to vary according to the creation background[3]” in the masterpiece published in 1938.

Wu Hsichi loves drawing at a young age under the influence of his family, but his family had never tried to cultivate him to be an artist. Thus, after took on various kinds of “proper jobs”, he was back to where he started after many twists and turns. Yet, he had already paid the price such as giving up his family business, suffering from poverty, even facing death threats. Does the value of Wu Hsichi’s art depend on whether it can also combat the rigid academism? Will self-taught to be a master and a tale-like background facilitate self-generated characteristics and great creativity among his art? I believe Robert Goldwater pointed out very clearly that this type of art creation does not emphasize styles and accomplishments, but the attitude, and the effect produced under a background of a particular time and space with this kind of attitude.

Looking back to his self-taught process: perhaps the knowledge of “visual color mixing” was learned from studying art catalogs with additional practices. Wu Hsichi’s first exhibition in 1998 showcased “Pointillism Series”, although it did not entirely follow pointillism’s principles, one was able to clearly see the mysterious process of forming a plane from a dot fascinated him. But he gave up the Pointillism style and switched to abstract painting with composition since he was afraid to be seen as a “Seurat follower”. Beginning from 2002, he turned to abstraction lyrique and conducted a large number of tests with mediums and techniques. These early artworks, rather than to be treated as self-generated, they are some kind of game of imitation and mediums, or catharsis of abstract expressionism.

To appreciate the artworks completed after 2016, they broke out from the cage of “self-taught” and entered a transformed world of “self-generation”. It is a posture of unconfined nor forced: he chose crayon which is rarely used by artists. An interesting note is that in those smaller realistic paintings are full of lines which he interpreted as “constraints”; it accidentally reveals his desire of breaking out from those constraints. After 4 years of quenching, his unique crayon arts began to shine a vivid personality: thorough and exhausting study on mediums, glamourous and fashionable color setup, overwhelming line structures, rustic and innocent shaping games, a variety of view angles, uneven size of casual ratios, all combined together to construct a fantasy land that is out of the world and yet down to earth. “Islands from the Above” seems to be a weightless city in the sky, it is like an unknown realm but also like a familiar theme (especially the constant reappearing Guishan Island)? Unlike the “Silent Landscape” before, people and objects occupy a rather large area of space in the picture. They are part of the landscape’s composition, but also like outsiders jumped out from the scenery, are they human or god? Mushroom-shaped or spore-shaped plants, and animals such as birds bring us toward nature where is full of primal power. But window frames symbolizing car windows, architectures in a small manuscript, and flying machines all bring us back to a city where is full of technology.

It is exactly when he breaks out from the inner and outer constraints and realizes art is no more than the daily life. Wu Hsichi presents self-generated and great creativity. He enters a transformed world with a care-free posture to cleverly and smoothly merge objects which contend with each other. It is an attempt to break away from the cliché of the art circle and presents a whole new sensation to us.

[1] Jean Dubuffet, Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, tome 1, Paris, Gallimard, 1967.

[2] 1932 “Modern Primitivism” in Paris, “Commoner Masters of Reality Depiction” touring in Paris, Zurich, and New York from 1937 to 1938, “Twentieth Century Primitivism” in 1942, etc.

[3]Robert Goldwater, Le primitivisme dans l’art moderne, Paris, PUF, 1988, p. 18.

Powen Gallery