Joy and Sorrow in a Tiny Room - My Understanding of《 95014 》

Lin Ping

When artists write and paint within a given space, how far would artistic imagination take her/him? When artists create on canvases that is smaller than her/himself, is the boundary between art and real life difficult to cross and communicate?

During my visit to Jason Chi's studio in April, I saw the site where "95014" was created. The space was illuminated by natural sunlight pouring in through a large window. A small painting with barely visible brushstrokes and weight caught my sight immediately. The canvas, precisely measure and designed, did not try to convey anything except the traces of time and light flowing upon it. He mentioned this room was his earliest working space. In my opinion, it is a space in which one does not dwell upon petty thoughts, but rather reflect on one's inner feelings. The space allows one to interact and converse with the outer environment. As I toured some more rooms, I noticed all the walls were covered in the same neutral white yet each room has its own distinct quality. In one room, a desk is strategically placed in the corner. In another, a movable wall, meticulously designed and planned. By its owner's choice, opening or closing the wall not only determines the size, but also creates a sense of space and a changing of atmosphere.

There are works temporarily displayed on the walls, desks, and floor, framed and ready to exhibit on the gallery wall. Like his other designs, even the lighting on these works has already been considered. But it was the whirling dust and butterflies in the pictures, full of charm, seemingly adrift in a space pure as snow, rising and falling in an ever-changing rhythm that was quietly calling to me. Each painting has its own borders and frames, but they all fit so quietly into the simple boundary formed between wall and wall, wall and floor- as part of a larger structure. What is left, or rather, what remains to be sensed, is that the pictures are permeated with subtle shades of joy and tiny threads of sorrow.

When faced with the dilemma of creative thinking and visualizations, every artist chooses between setting a clear goal and working towards it or going through daily works without much purpose. There are intricate differences between these two creative methods. The former emphasizes on cognition, analysis, retrospection, judgment, consistent ambition and unswerving vigor. The latter is filled with accidental creation, sensation, flow of consciousness and intuition. This approach without specific desire, reflecting the touchable form of life that is filled with accidents, danger, paradox, conflicts, and irrationality. These two distinct characters of space or two distinct methods of creative process are discernable in Jason Chi's studio. With his professional training in architecture and design, structure, precision, visual logic and order have become the "backbone" of his creative work. But when he held his notebook and threw out a few words related to creative imagination, what I found was, "truth, reality, life, vision, plural diversity and blurred boundary" - in short, a vivid life experience.

Stylistically close to that of his school days, the works before the end of year 2000 were filled with spontaneity of everyday life and observations of human society- brick walls, architectural blocks, barriers, pavements and rhythmic images of the city. Through the impenetrable layers and textures of time, one can only squeeze through the gaps between shapes; like in a march, life proudly taking on geometrical order and measurable speed. But in the year 2002 exhibition entitled "Rebirth," gone were the geometric imageries and instead the canvases were filled with densely layered color fields. It was said that the huge canvases were made to accommodate the industrial dimensions of the exhibition space (Taichung Stock 20), forming a peculiar environment that encloses the body. Flying butterfly-like figures, lightly leapt through the subtly changing atmosphere as if one can feel the touching rhythm of nature. The uncertain state of flow and whether consciously or unconsciously, these imageries transmitted the ever-moving and flying characteristics of the organism. Thus, making the viewers forget the outer frames of the canvases and only remembering the limitless flow of vitality. The simple trellises formed a firm basic structure, like construction scaffolding or Platonic ideal shapes, had been hidden in his paintings. During this stage, the trellises disappeared and were taken over by spaces of inactivity and containing. In the 2003 exhibition at IT Park gallery, the butterfly-like shapes made up by color lines suggesting volume and speed, dividing and multiplying, spreading quickly all over the surface of the paintings, implied the depth of the space. No matter what you saw- four-leaf clovers, fans, nods of five-color cords, rising plump balloons or hyacinths floating with the wind, or even the bounce of a badminton birdie as it was jokingly referred to by his badminton friends. These circular forms, meeting and parting formed an infinite extension of landscape making the term, "lyrical abstraction", an appropriate description to his works at this stage. But, it makes one wonder, what inner process did he go through? How did he come to create his two vastly different stages that took him from geometry to organism, from clarity to ambiguity, and from orderliness to chaos?

Behind Chi's seemingly smooth upbringing and extensive academic and professional trainings, there were some difficult transitions and choices. Confronting his identity as an immigrant in a foreign country during adolescence, living abroad for 15 years without ever going back to his homeland in Taiwan, and the reality of foreign and native cultures' coexistence and symbiosis, can make it difficult for a young heart to find solace, and the objects of nostalgia hard to manifest. For years, illness and accidents had been routine. Without optimism, a resolute attitude, and courage to overcome obstacles, how is one supposed to deal with the conflicts of life? Some say that Jason Chi's works are much more mature than his age, but one can disagree and see that maybe his creative works have restored him and gave him back the youthful energy he might have missed.

Many terms commonly used by abstract or constructivist artists can be found amongst the titles of works in this exhibition. One can easily think of them as transitions between energy and material, or the visible and invisible, or a kind of musical eurhythmy that manifests a structure hidden in the movements. But there are other works, entitled "World," "Universe," "Seasons" and "Journey," that concretely reflect values of life and attitudes towards living. Chi says that he didn't understand Paul Canne when he was a student, but now he is fascinated by his works. Eva Hess, Brice Marden and even Joseph Beuys' thinking as form drawings were once his point of reference. Opening the books on Agnes Martin, there are comments marked densely all over the pages. What attract him are no longer frames that represent reality but the larger picture, the reality outside the frames. Therefore, in the studio, the butterfly-shaped marks seem to have evolved through the stages of life, starting with layered extruding and accumulating, to juxtaposing with geometrical memories, and finally to scattering about and withdrawing into relatively condensed paintings; lines are concealed and divided into dots, as if they were molecular activities seen through a powerful magnifying glass, or maybe they are represented by cosmos filled with stars.

Through my visit, I have also learned that Chi not only plays competitive badminton but has long been immersed in the joys of Cuban salsa for quiet some time. I suppose between his traces of bodies twisting in space, the mature tenderness acquired through life experiences, that he displays in his paintings, and the dancing he loves, are correlations that are difficult to dismiss. In addition, there are a variety of small-sized paper works displayed in the planned exhibition that correspond with the rectangular canvases. In comparison to what he refers to as sexy oil paints, the charcoals, inks, pencils and other types of tools bring out plays of semi-automatic lines. Though in the process one can observe serious contemplation, the sliding curves remind one the body's unconscious resonance - each prance leaves its trace; it is time's extension into space, the visual evidence of existence. Be it complex or simple, they naturally reveal the precision and clarity seen in the manner of Zen paintings.

Having visited the site of "95014", I tried to search for clues about this set of numbers. Is it an important and crucial date? Is it the birthday of a lover? Is it an identity number or secret code to a special account? Is it the numbers of hours passing during a ten-year span? Is it the numbers of drawings he made since childhood? He mentioned that he will be going back to his residence in California after the exhibition. After eight years of comfortable living in Taiwan, it made him realize how much he missed traveling. He did not say directly that he misses "home". But with a smile on his face, he reveals that this set of numbers is the zip code of Cupertino, California, his residence is the states. Indeed, the subtle shades of joy and fine threads of sorrow are hard to hide.



斗方中的欣喜與哀愁 - 記《95014》的認識

文 / 林平







從這一次的展出作品的命名辭彙中,依然有許多來自抽象和構成藝術家的慣用語詞,極容易令人想像的是一種能量和物質、可見與不可見的轉換現象,一種隱藏在行動中的結構,一種音樂性的律動。但是有另一種稱之為「世界」和「宇宙」、「季節」和「旅行」的名稱,卻具體而微的反映出一種對生命的價值觀和生活的態度,或如前所述,一種鮮活的生命經驗。紀嘉華說他當學生時不懂塞尚(Paul Canne),現在卻對他分外著迷。Eva Hess、Brice Marden、甚至Joseph Beuys的思考即形式的素描作品,均曾經是他和自我對照的參考架構。翻開愛格妮絲馬汀(Agnes Martin)的書頁,佈滿密密麻麻的眉批。吸引他的不再是代表理型的格子,而是格子框架以外的真實存在。因此,畫室現場中,蝶形記號如同經歷了生命的高峰,從濃密擠壓、層疊蘊積,歷經和幾何記憶的對照並置,最終擴散消退在相對縮小的畫幅中;線性的規範隱匿化約成點狀的耕耘,彷彿用高倍放大鏡看到的分子活動,或許其實是滿佈星辰的宇宙。