Traces of Drawings
Tracks of Intercultural Journeys

Wang Pin-Hua

When we contemplate how "painting" started, our thoughts are naturally led to "drawing," a child’s play-like, instinctive and unconscious scribbling, which somewhat resembles painting in process; yet it appears more free-styled and impromptu compared to oil and acrylic paintings which employ complex tools and pigments. In the development of all human civilizations, looked at from a wider social perspective, I believe that "drawing" as used in our daily speech yields meanings as rich as its expressive qualities presented in visual media.

According to the traditional concept, "drawing" refers to certain quick lines sketched on paper by painters or sculptors for them to contemplate, before beginning work on actual paintings or sculptures. Therefore, "drawing" becomes a record of thoughts before an art work actually takes shape: it is traditionally presented on paper, and may be more broadly seen as a simple, monochromatic and non-affectational form of expression. Whether it be a draft-like study for forms or sketches jotted down as inspiration surfaces, "drawing," according to the concept of visual arts, has a quality of making "forms" gradually take shape and contains essences of speed, contemplation, development, uncertainty and change in its meaning. It has qualities of temporal multi-dimension and the immediate presentation of movements and states of mind. Hence, on a deeper level, "drawing" becomes a very intimate form of expression of the artist’s senses and mental states, and it is especially valuable as a direct manifestation of these phenomena, without being subject to additional processing and manipulation.

As an immediate mental record, "drawing" reflects the swiftly changing thoughts and complex perceptual activities within the artist; it is intense, direct, natural and impromptu. The artist’s initial vivid visual explorations, like thoughts embodied through visual expression, are first presented as "drawings," with hardly any superfluous adjectives or verbosity. This is why, when we look at an artist’s "drawings," we inspect traces of his/her paint brushes to discover the artist’s mental activities and to feel the precious passages of his experience. We are allowed to speculate about and imagine the moment when those mental activities were taking place only through these messages, which are meaningful yet difficult to perceive. The strokes of a "drawing" are always made in an instant, delineating an image that is difficult to reproduce; yet we can seemingly feel the inner emotions of the artist through each and every piece of this visual vocabulary with vivid and varying possibilities, conversing with each other and inviting us to portray the imagery inside the artist, which evokes within us boundless imaginings and a lively urge to, in turn, express ourselves. These distinct senses of immediacy and manifestation of life experience are what makes "drawings" so fascinating.

The exhibition "Traces of Drawing –Tracks of Intercultural Journeys" invites three exceptional artists with intercultural backgrounds to engage in an artistic dialogue through the unique trails revealed in their respective works.

Abstract painting is the principal style of representation chosen by all three artists; each makes good use of the qualities in materials and colors that are peculiar to painting to embody calm, delicate, compressed and heightened states of mind in their work, resulting in styles that are highly mature and distinctive; which, in turn, has made the exhibition a brilliant convergence of elements of painting and spirituality.

Coming from the United States, the geometrical structures in Lloyd Martin’s oil paintings convey moods that are composed and solemn. Cool colors and geometrical qualities indistinctly reveal the complex, delicate and changing sensate touches through the paintings’ composition. Without any overstatement but with a clear delineation of the differences between objects, Martin transforms the tension created by the difference between cool and warm colors into a gentle and solemn force; his style has a light touch but a bright, warm texture. The drawings of rectangles presented in this exhibition reveal the same spirit, but the tone appears much more relaxed, and a roaming state of mind spreads out along the smooth and colorful lines. An easy-going and lively independence of attitude, rarely seen in his oil paintings, unexpectedly comes to light through the leisurely lines and the composure ever-present in the pictures.

Under closer observation, in the oil paintings released between the years of 2004 and 2006 we see from time to time lines that look like frames with similar widths, dividing up the space or creating layers of space in the pictures; and continuous elements of painting appear in almost all of his works. With these frame-like lines, Martin creates a seemingly wider structure or multi-layered space by dividing and reconstructing the images, making the paintings extend far beyond the boundaries of the pictures. Meanwhile, each of these pictures has its own individual space while still bearing a strong sense of continuity, which leads the viewer to speculate that, if these pieces were "puzzles," then, by rearranging and combining them, whole new series of pictures could be created. This quality again destabilizes the meaning of those sharp frame lines, which look "drawn" or "pasted," turning them from delimiting "boundaries" into connections "uniting" multiple spaces, thus linking various spaces with very different attributes.

The exhaustive employment of frame lines has made the distinct style of segmentation and arrangement in the oil paintings become the multi-meaning extension of this unitary vocabulary. It is, in fact, a sense of freedom in segmentation and reconstruction, well hidden behind a solemn style and mood. This "sense of freedom" is more obvious in Martin’s drawings through the aforementioned roaming lines in the pictures and the color layers which constantly pass over all boundaries and edges. From this style of drawing, we perceive a stronger sense of "writing" than that expressed through oil paintings. This type of "writing" is like a free and lively record of the vagaries of the artist’s emotions, or a kind of bright "poetic" mood, revealed through lighter, more penetrating and textured pictorial expressions.

Jason Chi, the youngest artist, is also the initiator of this exhibition. Because of his studies in the US, he is constantly traveling between the States and Taiwan; few can be more familiar with the sentiments of journeying and homecoming than Chi. Since he grew up away from, and now spends most of his time outside of, his hometown, when he does go home, his home and its environment have changed completely from his memories of them. Since the home of his distant memory has forever disappeared, the only solace he can find is within himself. The sentiments derived from the twin epiphanies that "now is all there is" and "everything is changing" are often revealed in his works. The progress of his painting, from his early career, is revealed through the geometrical structures and the initial delicate and sensate strokes; later through the arrangement which covers up the pictures; and the final presentation which evolves into traces and senses of colors that look almost like "lights." The sense of spaciousness, a result of all the elements mixed and harmonized in the pictures, reveals its inner light through light colors, or manifests its subtly varying traces through freely moving lines. His early works often employ lineal elements as the main structure, and amongst the oblique lines in the principal structures, he leads the viewer to notice more complex and delicate thin lines revealed from the bottom layer, analogous to the contrast between the heavier main rhythm and the complex and nimble concerto in a music piece, displaying his own distinct painterly vocabulary. Besides interweaving and varying the main and subsidiary structures, the other crucial vocabulary set in his works is the presentation of misty "colorful lights." Graceful and charming lines or flourishing and colorful dots, floating in the space of numinous, colorful lights, add mutable and free emotional elements to the pictures. However, their random roamings, appearances and disappearances provide these painting elements with a primitive and sprawling latent force. In this uncertain space, all kinds of imagery and passages composed of colors and shapes create more opportunities for themselves to transform and develop, their random interplay enhancing each element.

Dots and lines freely scattered and spread out in oil paintings appear even more promiscuous and random in drawings, forming a sense of tangibility within absence and texture within lightness. In the early works of Chi, which draw on the principles of western painting traditions, every single stroke of the brush is an integral link in his well-knit compositions of dots, lines and surfaces. His drawings, on the other hand, are filled with flowing curved lines and colorful dots that appear so emotionally charged that there seem to be fragments of feelings and perceptions wandering amidst their flowing motion. They turn the paintings into presentations of a sequence of time that is loose but continuous, a movement through space that is condensed yet vast, and a mentality that is both relaxed and focused.

In his works, the influences from the two distinct cultures of East and West have apparently fused into an integral whole. However, in this exhibition, through a "drawing" he used to retouch daily, Chi reveals further traces of a light, elegant and exquisite oriental aesthetic informing his paintings. His experiences of "light" and of a life in transit between the East and West, lead us to another participant of this exhibition.

Having lived abroad in France and the United States for over 30 years, artist Paul Chiang has always found art to be the primary expression of his interest in spirituality, clearly demonstrated by the sense of the meditative that runs through his works. Since the beginning of his career he has always presented in his work, as he earnestly pursues in daily life, the pure sentiment of an artist and the ideal of an unflagging pursuit of art. Therefore, the viewer can perceive, hidden behind the expression of "light" in his works, is a seemingly more distant and powerful luminous source, which may be traced to a particular cause - a mood distinct from the graceful sense of light presented in Chi’s works. Most of the paintings are thick layers covering earlier works, which leads us to wonder if the shapes and colors he has decided to keep in the pictures – that is, the most basic vocabulary of painting – are those he has already re-examined, reviewed and even rejected. In the end, what remains in the painting is a presentation of "light;" and its source which has nothing to do with real or natural light, but is instead a positive solution, arrived at through deep introspection, to the question of what should exist in his art. Therefore, in some of the paintings, all kinds of peculiar textures are created through layers of images stacked on top of each other, leading the pieces to present qualities that seem almost alien, which reflects the artist’s minute rumination over living and life.

What is unique about this exhibition is that the works displayed are not paintings the artists have spent a long time working on; instead, what is presented here is the testing ground of art – the artists’ studios. From the colorful traces on corrugated paperboards, abandoned by the artists after they had finished working on particular projects, we can almost trace back to the pieces that were created there. Objects such as artist’s shoes or paintings on glass or wood, unwittingly created by artists while experimenting, have all turned into reflections on the art works, and what is even more valuable is that these objects present the uncontrolled traces inadvertently left by the artists, and the viewer feels as if he/she were present at the scene of creation.

From the calm, grave mood of the paintings created by the artists, we see how an artist interprets the texture and light of objects with his/her keen mental vision. Through the production of paintings that embody a timelessness and latent spiritual energy, the artist fuses the subject, the medium and the spirituality of painting, as if a strong force saturated him/her and the objects; and the "light" in the paintings is realized through this strong force. On the other hand, in the artist’s studio, this sense of saturation is undoubtedly modified by unseen forces – the traces left by the strong temperament of the artist, filled with the unconscious movement of life – into a "work field."

The peculiar artistic quality of "drawing" is vividly presented on paper through the distinct visual vocabularies and contexts of each of the three artists, while the uniqueness and profundity of their styles and their own engagement with art allows the familiarity, accessibility and swiftness of "drawing" to leave residues of their "spiritual practice" throughout the works. Thus, for these three artists, with their minds roaming across cultural boundaries, across stages of life, and between the past and the future of their own unique existences, "drawing" becomes the most direct channel available to the viewer for tracking the traces of their minds.



素描之跡  跨文化遊踪

文 / 王品驊







從美國遠道而來,美國藝術家Lloyd Martin,在油畫中體現出的幾何結構,具有沉穩嚴謹的氣質。冷調的色彩及幾何性,使得複雜細膩變化著的感性觸覺,以一種內斂的質感隱隱從幾何構體之間透露出來。毫無誇飾,彷彿僅是呈現事物之間坦然的差異,讓個別冷暖色彩之間形成的張力,轉化為一種溫和儼然的力量,這種繪畫況味,如同一種淡泊卻明亮有暖意的精神質感。在這次所展出的紙上方形尺幅的素描作品中,同樣將那樣的精神體現出來,但是顯得較油畫筆調輕鬆許多,有種心靈的遊走狀態,藉著色彩筆觸的流洩感漫遊開來。畫面中意態悠遊的線條和一向有的沉穩質感,竟透出一些些油畫中較少浮現的輕鬆活潑的自主態度。