3 OCTOBER - 21 NOVEMBER 2020
Chihhung Liu’s previous body of work is largely inspired by daily life: potted plants in the alley, serendipitous scenery, words and phrases picked up during travels, even dead mosquitoes. These minutiae manifest themselves in the form of painting, installation, or special projects. The artist translates these fragments of the everyday into a body of work coded with linguistic elements through his unique aesthetics and instincts. Each work in his interpretation belongs to a different literary genre: short story, poetry, or prose. This reinterpretation technique, in addition to connecting the artist’s body to his work — the physical action of writing conveys the emotional perception derived from the accumulation of linguistic elements — elicits an ineffable feeling, just like how the rising and falling of intonation, the shape of a character, or the permutation of characters does. Through a physical action that mimics writing, the artist transforms prosaic fragments into a form that is seemingly decipherable.
The artist does not seek to convey the meaning in its entirety, or to express the connotation hidden within these fragments of the everyday. Instead, he has designed a visual language according to his own coding system, whether to document sounds in the form of images, to arrange peculiar-looking dead mosquitoes into characters, or to translate ordinary experiences onto canvas in the form of painting. This act of translation triggers a lack of meaning, occupied by a faint grasp of what appears to have been encrypted or written in another language. Much like how one becomes awash in awe gazing at ancient inscriptions, when symbols and characters were yet to be deciphered. While on the surface it looks frivolous due to its inexplicable nature, Liu’s ciphered work evokes a sensation that far exceeds what the respective elements in the work could have brought.
Chihhung Liu: Silent and Still examines the imagery of the sea by delving into contemporary experiences. In the process of art making and writing, the artist creates space for abstract emotions within his work by maintaining a distance from his references, such as Liu’s own field research, sea shanties, and Mishima Yukio’s novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Inspired by sound waves, flashing light signals, flag signals, and codes, he investigates the ideas of time, distance, intent, and the existence of the sea. His various acts of writing, rooted in a coding system of his own, lend a literary tone to his work — even shed light on how he sees painting, on a deeper level. The shape of a character, the permutation of linguistic elements (visual or auditory), the artist’s physical awareness when he writes, along with viewers’ physical awareness when they read —together — triggers sensibility beyond the work’s narrative and meaning. This is also closely related to Liu’s painting practice: Through the manual labor of writing, he leaves behind a sense of the body through brushstrokes, allowing the viewer to imagine the way the artist’s body moves during the painting process. What he ultimately presents — filtered through the act of writing, through his aesthetics derived from painting — is a microcosm of nuanced emotions.
Silent and Still can be seen as the artist’s personal milepost, which comprises his different works in diverse mediums, from painting to installation, from project-based work to art activism. The viewer can perhaps glimpse how Chihhung Liu consciously highlights the relationship between each work, by coding and translating the clues embedded in the works, as he segues from one medium to the next in his effort to conjure the sea.
Born in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Chihhung Liu lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. His recent painting practice distills everyday experiences into a personal understanding of life where ordinary narratives are told with a nuanced perspective, while emotions and images coalesce in his work. He straddles across a wide range of mediums, such as painting, installation, moving image, found objects, and print publications. His practice revolves around materials/found-objectness/agency, the shift between mediums, as well as a connection to the local community. He has exhibited internationally, including at the Zou-no-hana Terrace, Yokohama, Japan (2019), Apartment of Art Munich, Munich, Germany (2018), Nichido Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan (2018), Taipei Artist Village, Taipei, Taiwan (2016), and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (2014).