January 23, 2015 - Taipei Fine Arts Museum - Chen Shun-Chu
January 23, 2015

Chen Shun-Chu

Chen Shun-Chu, Reincarnation: Flowers for Coral Stone Mountain, 2014. Canvas, ink, acrylic, 127 x 190 x 7 cm. Photo: Liu Hsin-Yu. Private collection.

Chen Shun-Chu
Coral Stone Mountain

January 24–April 26, 2015

Opening: January 24, 3pm

Taipei Fine Arts Museum 
No. 181 Zhongshan N. Road Sec. 3
Taipei 10461

T +886 2 2595 7656
F +886 2 2585 1886
info [​at​] taipeibiennial.org


Curated by Mei-ching Fang

Chen Shun-Chu is representative of mid-career artists who came to prominence in Taiwan’s post-martial law period. Images for his intensely emotional artwork come from his own family. In the 1990s he started making mixed-media work with photographic images, which introduced freshness and rigor into the Taiwanese art world with its restrained style and subtle connotations.

As Chen’s first major retrospective held in Taiwan, the exhibition will include photographs, photo installations, and hand-painted fragments of old furniture from the 1990s to the present. The retrospective is named for coral stone, a natural building material found in the Penghu Islands, to express the artist’s complex feelings of attachment for his hometown and family. Settlers arriving in Penghu several hundred years ago developed knowledge of local materials, thus gathering light and porous coral stones from the ocean to build structures that would withstand the powerful winds that frequently lash the islands. These structures still stand today, protecting descendants of those first ancestors from Penghu’s cold winds and burning sun. The exhibition is arranged chronologically on the third floor of the museum and charts the course of Chen’s rich career. For Chen, the irregularity of the small coral stones seen in Penghu reflected the ups and downs of family life in his hometown, and their network of pores suggested the interconnectedness of memories.

Penghu is actually not mountainous, but piles of coral stone are a part of the islands’ imagery as Chen’s rich memories of his hometown suggest. The coral stone of his childhood was intimately linked to his feelings for his hometown, and after moving to the main island of Taiwan to attend university, dealing with each boat ride back to Penghu intensified his nostalgia. As it happens, all of Chen’s residences in Taiwan, from Yangming Mountain and Shenkeng, to Xindian where he eventually settled, were in mountain areas. Living in the mountains and breathing in nature revitalized Chen and gave him the necessary energy for a fresh start, and the mountains supported him and nourished his creative spirit. In his final series of work, he piled coral into towering altars to praise the vitality of art, and combined silk screening and acrylic paints to make offerings of flowers, fruit and beans while extending the possibilities of art.

Chen began his journey with photography and received many awards for his outstanding talent while in college. Later, he produced his photographic series Image and Imagery about the 1980s on the 64 islands comprising the Penghu archipelago, On the Road presenting autobiographical extracts from 20 years of the artist’s life, and The Remnant Vision in 2011, which is about longing and regret. These works involve the uncommon scenery Chen encountered in his wanderings, as his camera accompanied him on distant artistic journeys. With photography, he found inspiration from life and used his rational and solitary vision to reveal emotions hidden within objects. Black and white images accumulated on photographic paper as Chen explored revelation throughout his cool and isolated quest. He was detached yet tolerant as he waited and pondered, observing the things he saw on life’s road. It seems Chen followed his impulses, which made the content of his work broad and often obscure, but as a traveler, he relied on his own aesthetic judgments, and with a camera as a tool, captured elegant memories as they would come.

Still, a single medium offered insufficient expressive opportunities for an artist such as Chen who made bold breakthroughs. In 1992, while rummaging through several decades of old family photographs and precious fragments of old furniture, Chen discovered poignant subject matter among these layers of space and time. Each fragment of old furniture leads us to a past encapsulated in time, and each thin piece of photographic paper emits alienation and a thirst for warmth. Chen created his work Family Boxes by hand-painting and restoring meaning to each piece of furniture containing dead insects, cotton thread and light bulbs. He selected old photographs of family members using his profound sensitivity, and then blended intangible memories of past lives into an entirely new aesthetic dimension.

Chen broke through the restrictions of documentary and portraiture to actively develop the potential of mixing photography with different media, and successfully enriching its language. He captured variations and correspondences between space and time, extended the language of the medium and intensified visual aesthetics while actively seeking a new context in contemporary art and photography. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is presenting this solo exhibition to extend Chen Shun-Chu’s artistic expression and language to his fellow citizens. Moreover, with this review of the artist’s creative trajectory, the museum carefully formulates contemporary photography as a fundamental media, and the use of mixed media, space and the environment in an experimental, explorative fashion. The exhibition not only extends the concept of creative photography, but also enriches the possible uses and significance of images. Chen Shun-Chu saw the future from the past, but his work will show us the past from the future.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum
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