“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night . . . You – only you – will have stars that can laugh!” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince)
[P]ainting used to be conditioned by certain “religious possibilities” that still gave a pictorial meaning to figuration, whereas modern painting is an atheistic game.
So, why apostles? Actually, I can’t really say for sure... But what is certain is that they are not a new subject. In fact, they are a concept and a symbol that was overused long ago. When I decided to use apostles as my main theme, I asked my friends what they thought of when they heard of the Twelve Apostles, and they all replied: Of course they were evangelists the New Testament, what else?
I’m not a believer, nor am I particularly familiar with the stories of the New Testament evangelists, but they quite naturally evolved as the theme of my exhibition. Perhaps it was related to my past experiences visiting churches in Europe? Seeds that are lost or carelessly sown in the process of life can often sprout shoots when you’re least expecting it, or in inexplicable ways – that is, if the seeds don’t die! Ultimately, I took these things I encountered at different times in my life and stuck them together. Of course, I realize that apostles have a strongly religious air and symbolic significance, and it is a term of great gravity, but I don’t want to falsely requisition any meanings or symbols belonging to them. I simply want to borrow a little bit of their special presence, and make them a little lighter, a little softer. As each of them stands on their own sphere, each has his own realm (just like the planets that the Little Prince visited), looking out into the distance but also forming a world unto themselves.
If painting is a quest for order, I am searching from minute variations within order, like a slight touch of warmth in a picture. Especially in this exhibition, the symmetry of the compositions and the exhibition space have strengthened the sense of serenity. Perhaps this is influenced by the symmetrical images of church architecture. And the various apostles, standing on globes of different colors and shapes, slightly taller than the viewer, are like the statues of prophets or apostles standing on either side of the main entrance to a Gothic cathedral, looking down on the people entering the church. The viewer looks up at them, and perhaps this alteration in vantage point may produce a sense of exaltation. Interestingly, I recently learned that in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, 2015 is the year when “the Angels” attack earth. I wonder if my apostles will have a different kind of impact?
Every day I attach less and less value to intelligence. Every day I become more aware that only by going beyond it can a writer regain something of our impressions, that is to say, attain a thing in itself, and the sole substance of art.
I recently reread The Little Prince. I’m quite ashamed to say, I seem to have become one of those “very strange” grown-ups who “never understand anything.” In the last few years, I’ve tried to not overanalyze my art, to learn to make art without too academic a mindset, and as much as possible to say things that I myself understand. Maybe we all rely too much on intellectual experiences. Maybe excessive analysis and interpretation increases an artwork’s “gravitas,” but conversely it can also weaken our ability to perceive attentively. Therefore, I try as much as possible to let my artworks absorb external communication, as an excellent form of protection. But if an artist can sincerely bring together his own observations and experiences in his art, connecting every dot into lines and planes, no matter how flimsy and fragile they are, they will gradually be able to hold weight, and appear before the beholder with grace. Whether the apostles are apostles, whether this cross is the true cross – frankly, this has no direct bearing on appreciating an artwork. “Yes ... The house, the stars, the desert – what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible!” Perhaps invisible things run deeper.
Language extracts us from the sensible world and spares us from having to experience or reexperience or mimic a thing, an affect, so as to be able to imagine it. The aim is to short-circuit experience; it is thus that the concept comes into being. We still have this preconceived idea that intelligence requires abstraction.
When I stand under the ultramarine night sky, or sit in the chapel looking up at those neat rows of stars, do you believe an apostle could be there too, gazing at us? Or if I dress up neatly to introduce this Asteroid B612 to you, will you be more likely to believe in it?
extracted from “Lai Chiu-Chen, Asteroid B612 at the Apex of the Vault”