Yi-Chen HUNG (1971-2011) studied from 1991 until 2002 in the United Kingdom for her BA until PhD in Fine Art. During her studies there, she often returned to Taiwan for holidays to learn traditional ink painting. In her early creative period between 1994-1995, many of her work tried to capture ink painting’s charm in oil painting. Chinese traditional landscapes and flowers were sometimes hinted in works from this phase – especially the motifs of plum blossoms, orchid, and bamboo– as well as the fluid characteristics showing an eclectic style melding both Chinese and Western Abstract Expressionism.
After 1996, HUNG escaped the imitations of traditional painting style and elements, and regressed back to pure abstraction as well as developed a unique language. While rooted in abstract expressionism, she experimented with the construction of the frame by breaking the flat plane of the painting. During this time, impasto was incorporated into her style. After 1998, she was able to superimpose another layer of a stretched canvas onto a stretched canvas. It was in this period that she would simulate squeezed oil paints on both layers of canvas and create an unusual effect of overflowing edges. Not only that, she would mold this extra layer of canvas further into various three-dimensional structures that seem partly attached yet not quite so, so that the painting is no longer confined to the plane.
“Transgress and Reclaim” refers to the curator’s analysis and conclusion for HUNG’s works since 1997. “Transgress” refers to the artist’s need to update and create “painting” - to go beyond daring yet not destructive towards this medium. As mentioned above, she had already been developing alternative insights to painting while still studying her MA from the Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom, trying to breakthrough the limitations of merely creating manifestations or re-presentations on the canvas. After 1999, based on her foundation in easel painting, she started to reconstruct the relationship between the canvas, paint and frame, rearranging the different elements by both deconstructing a painting in terms of its physical framework as well as extending the conceptual spatial structure. Ever since then, her paintings were no longer limited to the flat canvas, but opened into another degree of three-dimensionality that can also be considered architectonic.
After HUNG returned to Taiwan in 2004, in addition to the dismantling and reconstruction of the canvas, pigments, and structural frame, she began to experiment on “replication” from a new perspective towards painting so as to discuss the “essence” of art. First, using fiberglass (FRP) as a material, she copied her own canvas works and juxtaposed them with the “original.” By doing so, she challenged the visual ability of viewers to distinguish between the original and replica. By 2010, she was able to mold acrylic paint to “re-present” the surface and texture of canvas, and then transplanted the layer of paint upon the canvas. To HUNG, “replication” is not about mass production, but an expression of pure concept that is not only deemed as original, but infused with more meaning because of its philosophical nature. In this instance, “Reclaim” stresses HUNG’s ultimate concern in the relentless questioning of the nature of artistic creation, exploration, and rules.
“Transgress and Reclaim: Yi-Chen HUNG, Selected Works 1994 – 2011” organizes many of HUNG’s works that she held onto before passing away. In addition to her works created after her return to Taiwan, there will also be a small portion of works from her student years spent in the United Kingdom. The earliest work in the exhibition is dated 1994 when she was a college student, and the latest are three works from March 2011, which were already sent to the factory for manufacturing before she passed away. While this is not a complete retrospective, the exhibition provides enough on view for us to have a glimpse of HUNG’s creative trajectory and context to confirm her excellent and outstanding artistic achievements, however brief.