Past 

Relocated Memories

Date /2017/6/3 ~ 2017/7/2
Reception /2017/6/3 PM3:00-5:00
Artist /Peng Hsien Hsiang

Relocated Memories- Notes for the Solo Exhibition

I have lived an ordinary life that I work on my paintings in my studio every morning and return home at evening, planting vegetables on the top floor and having dinner at the same time. My daily life is as simple and ordinary as not an artist. However, none of artists is ordinary, as I begin dialogues with the self-eternity during the creation process in the simple and daily life. Some of the dialogues are cultural reflections, contemporary thinking and self-doubts, which converge into the belief of my creation. The introduction for this exhibition focuses on the thoughts that I had when painting these art works and the imaginary dialogue with the audience. I will try to interpret several pieces of the art works in the exhibition that can roughly represent the core creation idea of my recent works in the exhibition.

 

Omen

Like apocalypse, a sharp cross light shoots straightly from the top of the mountains, falling on the coffin-shaped transformation of Taiwan. The background is as dark blue as the night and the mountains are as unreal as phantom. I tried to draw something heavy imprinted on the island, like bearing a cross.

 

Oblique River

There is a river flowing in the dark scene where two flash falling down, like two splits on Chinese landscape paintings, implying the cultural gap.

 

Quasiantique Landscape

By repetitive rubbing the most of pigment, the painting reveals the landscape just like the rivers and mountains in the traditional Chinese landscape paintings Two sharp light fallowing through the dark background (the black planet). The unreasonable conflict is necessary because we cannot lie ourselves that we can use the traditional methods to draw “landscape” paintings.

 

Morning Start

The horizon is at nearly a quarter of the painting where a morning star hanging in the breaking dawn. The L-shaped building emerged in the morning mist like an abandoned civilized city, and an unreal lake on the top. When it is breaking down, everything is going to vanish.

 

Squared Cloud & An Isle

An isle and a square lie horizontally on the dark black sea with four light spot calling for the relevance of each other. The mysterious and unexpected features of night remind me of the possibility of parallel space in landscape.

 

Obscure Sun

In the darkness, there is not just black or without any sun. There is emotions and even romance. The brightness nearly exists in the painting, just a small glowing light or some clouds lying on a corner of the painting. When the time goes by, four light flashes seems random but they already defined the existence of the parallel space.

 

Squared Isle’s Dream

There is a mirage on the upper part of the painting that seems like mountains, rivers, clouds, or nothing just a blurred abstract. There is something on the bottom of the painting that is a white square with sharp edges, called “squared isle.” That’s why I named the painting as Squared Isle’s Dream. The title of the painting is just to offer the audience a perspective to understand the painting. However, there could be another way of interpretation.

 

Blue – Shadow

Blue is an association friendly color that can be associated with the sky, river, ocean and even emptiness. I used the old jeans blue to create some kind of ancient atmosphere where some black parts represents the breaking style of the landscape standing to wait for the vanish of the civilization.

 

Years When Nil Was Still Heavy

I had no title for the painting before I hung the painting on the wall for a while. A black clump lied between the mountains and the land in the painting. I asked myself what the black clump is? “Could be nil… nil of our years.” Indeed, I feel the nil is less heavier in recent years.

 

Rectangular Landscape

A black clump appears on the painting with some light shining on the back to create the possibility of a landscape, so the painting is called “Rectangular Landscape.” However, as the audience see the painting, they can imagine how the geometric form becomes landscape if there is no tangible objects. Is this the suspension or scenery that the artist left to the audience? Or just a black clump?... I intentionally created blurs between scenery and abstract.

 

A Walker

Audience would see the mountains and rivers at their first glance but they are like the scenery in their memories. The more the audience want to remember the scene, they would feel like they don’t remember it. Why the classic landscape painting becomes so unreal? How much our culture has changed us? Well, the artist did not give the answer but drew two shadows walking fast across the painting.

 

Concealed Light

This is a dark painting that we can barely see the scene but just few flash trace of light and the moon sinking on the other side of the river. The scene looks reasonable; however, as the audience look again, they can see something unreasonable. I have been trying to incorporate the classic Chinese atmosphere into oil paintings in an attempt to drive the audience into the ancient context. But, there are unrealistic and non-classical painting elements intervened at the last moment, like flash trace and light spots, to push the audience out of the context, leaving the audience to rethink the implications. The gap of viewing is intentionally created that I hope the viewing of the painting can become a speculative process.

 

Broken-hearted Land

I did not name most of the paintings when I finished the paintings. But when this piece was done, I knew I would name it as “Broken-hearted Land.” There is nothing on the river, my broken-hearted land is at the land of the river. The audience can try to imagine if it will be great for everyone to have their own sorrow place.

 

Daily Work

In this solo exhibition, I put twenty small-sized pieces of art works that I painted in my studio the most frequently on a wall. No matter how I feel when I worked in the studio, I asked myself to keep the habit to draw these small-sized paintings as my daily work. The audience can easily find the connection between the paintings and my oil paintings. But, these are not draft. I did not draft before I draw oil paintings. I always directly draw on the boards even when I don’t have any images in my brain. Due to my spontaneous way of painting, I believe it is very important to regularly work on the daily routine, which allows me to keep precision and abundant experimental basic skills. This is also the preparation before creating all the art works.

 

After creating the series of “Night Landscape” in 2015, I began to plan the works of this solo exhibition. I told myself that “more darkness, I want to draw more dark.” Thus, “Relocated Memories” can be some kind of extension series from the “Night Landscape.” The dark, night Chinese landscape paintings have the same strain. However, as the audience see the paintings, they can find I used a lot of sharp light traces that I described as “the sound of splitting silk” to symbolize the fracture of the ancient painting tradition. This is contradictory to the ancient painting silk that I intentionally created within the painting texture. I regarded the contradiction is necessary. In my era and reality, the literati paintings and Chinese culture are finally a fraction of the time no matter how the nostalgia reminds me of the old memories.

 

 

                                   

 

                                                               By PENG Hsien-Hsiang in May 2017, before the solo exhibition

Daily and Origin: Reflections on Relocated Memories-Solo exhibition by PENG Hsien-Hsiang

By WU Chao-Jen, Assistant Profession at the

Department of Fine Arts, TUNGHAI UNIVERSITY

 

Daily       

 

Anyone who are a Facebook friend with Peng Hsien-Hsiang will notice that he always posts photos of dinner made by his wife, WU Yun-Feng every day at around 7:00 p.m. Instead of luxurious dinner, these dishes were made by the seasonal vegetables planted on the roof top of their house. “The husband plants vegetables and the wife makes dishes” has been called the daily of Mr. and Mrs. Peng by the Facebook friends. As we admire Mrs. Peng’s great cooking talent and Mr. Peng’s diligence, we are curious why they can create mouth-watering dishes when both of them are full-time artists and educators at the same time? Mr. Peng, as always, replied at ease: “We have been keeping a habit of saving on food.” By literal meaning, they prepare some dumplings (they plant chives on the roof top), wontons, and spring onion oil when they have free time and frozen the food in the refrigerator. Mrs. Peng’s family escaped from Guangdong and then relocated in Hong Kong during the culture revolution period in China, and Mr. Peng is a Hakka from an agricultural family in Miaoli. For the Hakka of agricultural family, the ideal life is to work on sunny days and to study on rainy days, and to work early and return till late is the daily routine. Saving on food in case of need is the experienced conclusion of the diasporas of the Hakka people.

When Peng entered in the Department of Fine Arts, Tunghai University in 1988, he never thought he would win the Taipei Award and hold his solo-exhibition in Taipei Fine Arts Museum before his thirties. When he studies in Tunghai University, it was the time that Chiang Hsun was actively provoking art education ideas. From the interview with Mr. Peng, in addition to Chiang Hsun, Huang Hai-Yun, Wu Hsueh-Jang, Ni Tsai-Chin, and Shiue Bao-shia have affected Peng’s art learning. More importantly, those lecturers provided different lecturing content when introducing the German Expressionism (e.g. Anselm Kiefer), and the Mexico revolutionary artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957). The libraries of the department of fine arts and the main public library had become the essential channel for Peng to access international and domestic art information, such as the imported painting albums and “The Great Treasury of Chinese Fine Arts (60 volumes)” newly-released by People’s Fine Arts Publishing House. These painting albums and volumes had enriched a young man eager for knowledge. Peng’s first choice of college major was Chinese literature. And, when he was in college, he read “The Nobel Prize Collection,” the Japanese literature of Yasunari Kawabata, Mishima Yuki, and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Eileen Chang’s writings, The Red Chamber Dream, Asian Culture’s books, and the translated Eastern European and Latin novels by Reading Times. The Department of Fine Arts in Tunghai University focused on the cultivation of literature during Chiang Hsun’s period, and so to be seen from the reading choices of Peng.

The Taiwan society had become more open after the abolishment of Martial Law in 1987. However, there was no Internet and few accesses to international information. When “Solar System MTV” broadcasted high definition foreign movies in Taipei and the VHS video tapes provided by the lecturers in the department, Peng could have chances to see the classical works by Bergman, Fellini, and Chaplin. These massive visual and literal messages were difficult for a young artist to absorb thoroughly and immediately. I believe that these images and words were formed behind the scene and frosted in the deep subconscious for later days. So, in his solo exhibition of Origin in Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1997, the giant-sized ancestor painting “Hsiang Zhou Gong” seemed to be related to the series of politician criticism by Wu Tien-Chang in the 1990s. But substantially, according to his viewpoint, he was affected by the large-sized mural paintings by Diego Rivera more directly. Besides, Li Chiao’s “Cold Night Trilogy” and the works by the Hakka writers, Chung Li-He and Wu Zhuo-Liu lied the foundation for him processing “the Han affection over the Hakka people” (called by Peng).

 

Origin

 

When I discussed Yu Peng’s (1955-2014) solo exhibition of “Survivors, Immigrants, and Hermits,” I used the word “Hakka Eccentric” to describe Yu Peng’s creative feature. The word “客(Ke)” means the Hakka people and also implies “a lonely stranger in a foreign land” by the poet Wang Wei in the Tang Dynasty. When Peng Hisen-Hsiang processed the Hakka issue, he continuously thought about the so-called “the Han affection.” From the history viewpoint, besides the complex anthropology, the Hakka people also refer to unwilling migration (such as wars and survival concerns). Therefore, the Hakka people are known for their “conservative” characteristics. In addition, considering the Hoklo and Hakka Fighting during the history of early development of Taiwan and the difficulty to obtain cultivated land (that requires extra cherish), the Hakka people are characterized as diligence, plain, crisis awareness, and solidarity. These characteristics are affected directly from the history, culture, and social structure. For Peng, the traditional four categories of people of scholars, farmers, artisans and merchants means the challenge between his career choice of artisans and the traditional agricultural-oriented value. In the ancient Chinese society, painters must acquire a scholar or officer’s identity (through an imperial examination), otherwise, they are just craftsmen.

“Artists” seems to be highly elegant title that the Hakka elderly could not understand and would regarded as a lazy person who was reluctant to make contributions. In the norm of the agricultural society, labor means production. We certainly cannot ask the elder generation to understand the complicated dialectic of Marx’s “base/superstructure.” However, if Peng’s desire is to create and liberate, he would challenge the most sensitive values of the Hakka people – labor, diligence, production and making the family be proud of him. In these twenty years, Peng married with his wife and settled down and have taken some part-time jobs and creation works. For the twenty years, maybe it is the theme that the solo exhibition – Relocated Memories tries to process.

 

Analysis and Reflections on Relocated Memories

 

Most pieces of Peng’s works in this exhibition are themed at landscape. Some have the shape of mountains but floating on the air or isle on the water (such as “Rectangular Landscape” and “Landscape in Black & White”). And sometimes, the shape of an isle is geometrized as a sharped coffin or boat. This type of acute edges can also be seen in the lights flashing over the sky in many of his paintings. But, Peng’s paintings have more emotional performance than rational geometric process. At the first glance, the blade-sharped lines reminds of the minimalistic Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) who cut apart canvases. The white-spaced lines by Peng are the implication of light, just as his comments on “Omen” from his “Exhibition Notes”:

 

Like apocalypse, a sharp cross light shoots straightly from the top of the mountains, falling on the coffin-shaped transformation of Taiwan. The background is as dark blue as the night and the mountains are as unreal as phantom. I tried to draw something heavy imprinted on the island, like bearing a cross.

 

In the last 20 years, Peng has been thinking the abstract question of Eastern paintings in his creation. During the interview, I am surprised that he mentioned the impact of Dong Yuan’s works in the Five Dynasties. Interestingly, the critic Shen Kuo (1031-1095) in the Song Dynasty had commented on Dong Yuan’s work as “you can only see blurred images at a close distance, but you can see the landscape at a far distance.” As Peng received complete academic education, he must understand the challenge when the western abstract art enter into the theme he would like to process. Then, between the identification and abstract, he as always chose a low identifiable, simple, transforming style to handle the landscape paintings.

 

According to Peng’s description, he almost goes to his studio like going to work. His daily routine is to draw on his sketch album. For example, the twenty pieces of “Daily Work” are the selection from his daily sketch. Like the athletes work out in gym every day, his daily works are spontaneous but have inspired the techniques, layouts and colors of his works. For the creation techniques, he prefers to oil paintings and uses his hands to paint on canvas. He can leave the paints for most of time and get closed to the creation way of a “tactile artist” (this description was created by Peng himself). The audience may notice that since his last solo exhibition “Night Landscape” in 2015, he prefers to use light painting way to handle the scene. He also admitted that it was affected by Liu Jin-Tang (1894-1937). The lightly painted canvas can be associated with the traditional landscape paintings in an imagination way, easily producing the implication of flowing to mitigate the heavy and stagnant feeling of dark scene.

 

Conclusions

 

Confucius said that “At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.” As I observed from Peng’s creation progress, I saw his determination and resistance to battle with life and living. In the solo exhibition of “Relocated Memories,” he used a lot of “‘the sound of splitting silk’ to symbolize the fracture of the ancient painting tradition (“Notes for the Solo Exhibition”).” He intentionally drew the “silk light effect” of traditional paintings, and such contradiction represents his sense of identification of Hakka people (as the first born son but do not want to inherit the family business), as well as his art exploration began in his college years. Peng’s works always show senses of sadness and heaviness. And, maybe it is the light from the sky symbolizes the presentation of energy and power. I do believe the energy and power in Peng’s works are not from any religious or imaginary orientations, but from his ordinary daily life.