Monday, October 26, 2015

Metaphors for Survival

“Historical markers and tombstones are really not all that different.”
Su Wong-Shen

Infused with a bleak sense of humor the Taiwanese artist Su Wong-Shen paints scenes that comment upon the society with in which he lives that betray an earlier infatuation with abstraction.

Whilst studying at the Fine Art Department of Chinese Cultural University in the latter half of the 1970’s a visiting American professor introduced Su to the hard edge abstract and minimalist styles of painting. With further inspiration from the study of western abstract artists it was a style Su worked to develop whilst ever mindful of the real world.

When Taiwan’s oppressive military rule came to an end in 1987 Su’s interest and consequent depiction of the changing social order began to appear in his work.

As the Taiwanese curator and art critic Chia-chi Wang states in his essay An Aloof and Melancholy Eye -- The Art and Solicitudes of Su Wong-shenSu himself has said he did not wish to express his own individual critique of Taiwan’s political happenings in any overly direct manner and thus chose to use the cats and dogs as a metaphor.

It is a metaphor that over the ensuing years has grown to include other members of the animal kingdom.

As Su has said “My use of cats and dogs to symbolize people was initially relatively clear, later becoming just ‘animals’ and not specifically representing as cats or dogs.” 

Su’s interest in abstraction lingers in his current works through his often adoption of a birds eye point of view that does away with faraway skies and horizons concentrating the view on the “land” below. Upon which his actors interact in a social theatre of survival amongst the often historical human landmarks that shape the stage for their performance.

As Su has observed “Both[historical markers and tombstones] are a kind of totem to a seemingly bygone memory. The significance of these markers may be a kind of gratitude and they may have a kind of mystical effect or perhaps provide a path toward emotional reconciliation.” 

Su’s current retrospective exhibition Animal Farm is on show at Taiwan’s Taipei Fine Arts Museum until the 14th of February 2016.

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