Szumin KUO

Szumin KUO

Born in Taiwan in 1964, Szumin KUO received her Bachelors of Architecture in California Institute of the Arts and later, Masters in the same discipline in Yale, USA. Although Kuo didn't find much pleasure in her architecture career, she admits the training at school nourished the sense of space and logical thinking which help bringing ideas to artwork. In addition, Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando's style influenced Kuo's take on light and shadow as a student, and later results in her abstract form that is usually open-ended.

According to Kuo, her metal sculptures resemble a world to get away from the hustle and bustle that is full of complicated interpersonal relationships. Known for consistent simplicity, Kuo's works are created through the process that "is similar to writing a poem where precision and concision are required." Her preferred medium is metal, especially iron and stainless steel. To Kuo, iron is the most vibrant form of metal, as the rust reveals the time and environment the work has been though. Stainless steel, on the other hand, bears a silver color that is closest to colorless. Through rusting, welding, painting and coloring, the artist plays with form as well as texture in which case metal is incorporated with a sense of architecture. Kuo often contrasts the interior and exterior of stainless steel works by applying glossy and matte finish respectively to show reflection of light while manifesting the existence of the artwork. Also, with spray paint, in primary colors in most cases, can be found in iron sculptures to represent emotion, contrast of light and dark and the artist's longing for freedom.

Made of solid metal yet seem to be able to float, Su's sculptures are as if they were in outer space. "I'm often attracted to open spaces such as desert and universe where I can free my mind and imagination." The sculptor invites the audience to explore the ever-changing, illusory space carved out by light and shadows within the created object and to experience the multifacetedness of her work.

1964     Born in Taipei, Taiwan


1992-1994     M. Arch., Yale University, CT, USA
1987-1992     B. Arch., California College of Arts & Crafts, San Francisco, CA, USA
1982-1986     BA. French, Tamkang University, New Taipei, Taiwan
2001              Started SK Design Studio
1997-2009     Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Tamkang University, New Taipei, Taiwan
1997-1999     Chien Associates Architects, Taipei, Taiwan
1995-1997     Skidmore, Owings & Merrill International Ltd., San Francisco, CA, USA
1994-1995     Buchanan Associates Architects, New Haven, CT, USA
Solo Exhibitions
2015              "Szumin KUO – Inner Space", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan
2014              "Transplantation – Taitung to Tainan", Inart Space, Tainan, Taiwan
2013              "Metamorphosis", Taitung County Museum, Taitung, Taiwan
2012              "Interplay", Fang Suo, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
2011              "Interplay", Gallery 100, Taipei, Taiwan
2005              Open studio show, Taipei, Taiwan


Group Exhibitions
2012              "Asia Contemporary Art Exhibition", Spring Gallery, Basel, Switzerland
2010              "In Stock" metalsmith group exhibition, Fabrik, Taipei, Taiwan
2008              "Concerto" metalsmith group exhibition, Howard Salon, Taipei, Taiwan
2006              "An Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry",  Transmissions Gallery, Berkeley, CA, USA

Peeping into the Unfathomable Myths of the Universe

By Rita Chang

Bewilderment was the first impression I had when seeing Kuo Szumin's artworks for the first time. I had problem distinguishing the outside from the inside, the front from the back and the top from the bottom. However the metal sculptures resembling tied chains were solid and steady, they emitted the power of silence. They seemed bringing in messages from a distant universe through the remote past or an inexplicable future to the time being.

And my first impression of Szumin was "crystal". She has delicate features and naturally tranquil disposition, and her clear eyes showed how much she yearned for the knowledge of the unknown. I had hard time to picture she is the daughter of Prof. Lin Wen-Yueh, a writer and literary scholar I admire so much. Wouldn't the children of writers be more sophisticated? After knowing her better I feel Szumin's character is better represented by her art, stable but not stagnant, quiet but curious, not easy to understand but is very amicable.

These iron and stainless steel sculptures were welded in factory according to the artist's computer graphics. The following works include the artist's own painting, coloring, rusting or rust removal, scratching and polishing. Szumin usually started these tasks in the metal factory. Why a woman so fair and so tender would select such cold materials and bleak forms for her art? Except the geometric shapes, we find no other clue to know better about her art. The recent history of art flashed in my mind, I thought the structuralist artists must be closest to Szumin's world.

To answer my own questions, I overturned my bookshelves to search for theories about the structuralism dated back to the 1920s. Following cubism, structuralism asserted that art should be independent from visible things and should take shape through the abstract ideas in our mind. Art belongs to an invisible territory, but conforms to the laws of the universe. Many manifestos and essays have been written during this time to express the artists' ideas and ideals about art. Structuralist sculptor/poet/literary scholar Naum Gabo pointed out that artworks: "...have gone beyond the chaos of daily life and beyond the ash of the past to stand in front of the gate of the empty future." Structuralist artists proposed five principles for their art, they were:
1. No "color" but "hues".
2. No linear graphics but strength to form directions and dynamics of lines.
3. Volume doesn't matter but depth does.
4. The holding points, curves and surfaces structured in accordance with forces are the major concerns in sculpturing.
5. Creating kinetic rhythms instead of setting up fixed, dump sculptures.

Following these principles, structuralist artists were infatuated with the wonders of the structures they created, which have deeply influenced the spatiality of our world and approached our conscious. The legacy of structuralist artists gave us more substantial feelings about "spaces", bringing us closer to our experience of light and sounds.

Szumin's sculpture represents the aesthetics of structuralism, she captures "spaces" and, like a poetess highly sensitive to words, she never ceases to look into the possibilities of passing on abstract concepts through her art. Szumin uses metal-— inorganic materials-— to seize the spatial orders that we failed to see. Each facet of the metal implies a space, and each piece of the artist's sculpture suggests near ten facets and many spaces, depending on the audience's imagination. The abstract forms of hard metal have successfully enhanced the aesthetics of the materials.

Same to other structuralist artworks, techniques such as how the surfaces are presented don't affect the nature of the materials. Artists' touch such as Sscratching or polishing is the artist's minimizedal handling, but it decides the nature of the spaces it refers to. The spaces shaped by the tied chains are the results of forces or force fields, and the minimalist forms of the artist show her profound thoughts and inspirerelate us to concepts about physics such as "transcendence", "string", "relativity", "dimension" and "brane". The seemingly stable structures are actually created through many enhancing or counteracting forces happening to be connecting one other, which is why Szumin's sculptures are so intriguing. So many force fields constitute the spaces with tension, and when we are about to be thrown out from the three-dimensional space, we come to the gate of the forth dimension so we are able to peep into the graceful universe beyond, which is called by the artist as "Stone in Outer Space".

To me, Szumin's reticence and modesty are great virtue to an artist. She believes that the audience should be inspired by participating in art. She chooses abstract forms to provide more space room for the audience to imagine. The static, calm and profound "Stone in Outer Space" brings the audience beyond space but lands at the constant. I am more curious about what will be the artist's next step: Will her art maintain such tranquility and peace that seldom seen in the rebirth of art? How the artist is going to face herself during the rebirth? I suppose that's the reason why all the audience would like to follow the artist's journey with me.

Szumin KUO─Inner Space

Author / Szumin KUO
  • Language
  • PriceNT$ 500
  • Publisherthe eslite corp.
  • Size21(H) x 18(W) cm
  • Publication Date2015/03
  • ISBN978-986-90581-5-5
Szumin KUO─Inner Space

"Inner Space" featuring five series of her sculptures: "Inversion", "Metamorphosis", "Meandering", "Germinating", "Inner Space" and "In the Air".

According to Kuo, her metal sculptures resemble a world to get away from the hustle and bustle that is full of complicated interpersonal relationships. Known for consistent simplicity, Kuo's works are created through the process that "is similar to writing a poem where precision and concision are required."

Made of solid metal yet seem to be able to float, her sculptures are as if they were in outer space. "I'm often attracted to open spaces such as desert and universe where I can free my mind and imagination." The sculptor invites the audience to explore the ever-changing, illusory space carved out by light and shadows within the created object and to experience the multifacetedness of her work.


Solo Exhibitions
2015   "Szumin KUO – Inner Space", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

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