Landscape Art in the Mudslide Era
Written by Huang Chien-Hung
Associate Professor of Graduate Institute of Trans-disciplinary Arts, Taipei National University of the Arts
Chen Cheng-Po intertwined rich colors ontocanvas to sublimate the backdropand moments of a “locale” (ex: “Chi-Du Iron Bridge”, “Tamsui High School”). Apart from stylization, Chang Chi-Hua repeatedly tried to recreatethe scenes of his homeland on a canvas.On another end, Liao Chi-Chun used a matrix ofcolorful brushworks to outline vivid landscapes thatarealmostentirelyengulfed by dazzling sunlight (almost blindingthe audience’s vision) (e.g.Cloud Sea-Alishan, Tamsui Mountain and River). Regardless of their generational background, these artists all share a passion for the temporal and spatial contexts of their respective era. Currently, the situation of contemporary painting in Taiwan is representative of the entire contemporary art scene in Taiwan: after being distorted by aninstitutionalizededucation and globalized system, it is hard to restart a conversation,or verify aninterlocutor and theme.
However, by simply opposinginstitutionalizededucationand globalization, oneactuallycorroboratesthe fallacies ofinstitutionalizededucationand globalization. The tendency to quickly engage ina “negation”leads toa lack ofperceptionin Taiwan. Because of this, we are made more aware ofChen Cheng-Po,Chang Chi-Hua, and Liao Chi-Chun’sunique meansto resist this kind of pseudo-modernform of “negation.”Their era was not asinnocent or peacefulasours. Even after receiving amodernist education, the landscape works created by these artistswere not a copy of late 19thcentury Europe extravagance, nor of the awe inspiring American landscapes of the new world, which had themes inseparable from empires (homogenization of individual meaning by a worldly rationale).Instead, it is “differentiation” which permanently demonstrates the gap between individuals and phenomena: our marginalized position does not stemfrom geographical difference outside the wall of empire, but from hierarchic differenceswithinit.
In other words, when viewing theseartists’ constantly differentiated landscapes, oneshould reinterpret the interference of unclear ideaswith reality (the land), such asthe caseof Marcel Duchamp’sNude Descending a Staircase or Peter Eisenman’s“diagram architecture.”In summary, the use of perceptual power to intervene in landscapesthatcannot be identified and the capture ofa “non-visual”visibilitywithin a painting are neglected aspects in Taiwanese landscape painting. The Globe Silence series recently developed by Chou Tai-Chun capturedthis aspect, initiating a universal theme and developing a delicate and unique relationship between individuals and worldlyimaginations. According to the artist, Globe Silenceis inspired by the landof Taiwan,which has beenloosened and rattled byconstant earthquakes, fake news feeds,recurrentTV and online footages, andblatant turmoil. Thishas beennecessary to hispractice of painting.
Fromthe various complex experiments evident in Chou’s works, onecan conclude that the artist did not mold his perspective from hisinner self. Instead, he projected his gazeinto a black abyss that lies between the landscape of cyberspace andreality. By mixing all kinds of visible interfaces, he created a unique network withinthis dark realm. Thus, we can see fluorescent green lines in Globe Silence 001, a place where the artist set his eyestocreatingacross the void between sea and land. Globe Silence 004andGlobe Silence 008are like high altitude measurements that take place in a dream. Globe Silence 006interlaces perspectives from different distances. It is a mixingof fragments from different coordinates. Tiny marks left on the surface by the artist are just like accidentally uncovered bodies foundin virtual space. Unlike previous works thatresidein a stateof meditation, Globe Silence 022 and Globe Silence 026are compositions of chaotic mosaics. Yet, because the images are composed of flat acrylics, onecannot breathe or respond amidst the visual chaos. It is another level of silence developed by the artist. On another end,from Globe Silence 029,Globe Silence 031,andGlobe Silence 03, the artist interlaced various visual elements, letpaint flow, and includedcomplexbrushwork, creatingpatchesof colors and images that collapse into atime and space thatis impossible to control. Thisopened a dialoguebetween different environments and theircontexts.
The 921 earthquakemarkedthe first in aseries ofmudslides in Taiwan. How does one depict post-921Taiwan? What does the act of depicting post-921 Taiwan mean? Chou did not indulge in the resulting feelings of anger andsorrow, nor take any clear moral stance.Rather, he carefully explored, and tried to figure out what kind of world had emerged in Taiwan sinceSeptember 21, 1999. The 921earthquake is like asymbol thatsignifiesTaiwan’sentrance intoan era of“creative crisis.”The liquid described by Bauman has unveiled itself on thenow unstable land of Taiwan.
Meanwhile,clouded by bitter in-fighting,politics have neglectedthe environmental degradation, while promoting the concentration of capital, accelerating levels of inequality, and throwing society into a state of endless anxiety. In Chou’s paintings, landscape has become the stage for aa theater of destruction. Landscapescreated using such apainting technique are expressed in the form of a transcendental topographical map, which touches upon every realm and era ofglobalization. It is a perfect expression of modern colonialism felt by the consciousness of Taiwan
How are paintings reconnected to real world images? This might be a tough question the artist proposed to himself. Because of this, oneshould not interpretChou’s painting from the perspective of asingle inner subject. At the same time, Chou’sGlobe Silence series presented a new direction for painting in Taiwan. This new direction refers to the obscure or chaotic experiences of being part of aglobalized world. Although suchexperiencescan be represented through painting, doing so will not lead tonew possibilities. Instead, the connection between a visionand the body has to be rebuilt through painting. And, thisnew relationship alludes to the notions,“painting is a medium” and“a new communication platform.” Throughsuch gaugingand expressions, the authenticity of an artist’s cultivation andtheirgeographic reality need not be validatedwith a pile of rubble.Rather, the fallacy of internationalization (globalization) induced by external entities (international community) has to be abandoned in favor of immersing ourselves in such relationships.The authenticity of Taiwan dwells amidst the differentiation of such a network. Landscape works of Taiwan (especially thosecreatedby outstanding artists) are never a “Dasein” landscape, and our landscape has always been hidden in the globe silence.