Past 

JUN .T. LAI 2021 SOLO EXHIBITION

Date /2021/4/10 ~ 2021/6/6
Reception /2021/4/10 14:30
Artist /JUN .T. LAI

Splendent Light in Wonderland

Curatorial Statement

 

 

Text by Yu-Ling Wang

 

"Art is born from one’s soul, it is the way life presents itself, the journey of art is the journey to experiencing what life is.”

 

—Georgia O’Keeffe


 

Every great artist in history found the courage to break through and a way in their lives at its darkest—and hence achieved a brand new, higher progress in their personal journey of art. The renowned American artist Georgia O’Keeffe found a home for her lonesome soul in New Mexico, with blue sky, endless wilderness, animal remains and barren mountains as her companies; the desolate beauty of New Mexico also gave her unceasing creative inspirations.

Born in the post-war era in Taiwan, Jun T. Lai is a significant contemporary artist, her works are full of innovation and an experimental spirit, and surpass the boundary of traditional forms and media—ranging from paintings, sculptures and installations to conceptual art and public artworks. Very similar to O’Keeffe’s experience, Lai also transplanted herself to Dulan Village, Taitung in 2000. The breathtaking scenery of mountains and the ocean, the light and dawn by the ocean, the circle of seasons and the marginality in Dulan made her reconsider values of life, and contemplate local identification. An essential transformation thus happened to her artistic journey, which has built a strong personal artistic style and a splendid creative quality in her works.

 

Three Rooms and Three Themes

This solo exhibition is roughly divided into 3 exhibit rooms, and tells a narrative fabricated by 3 different series, leading its audience to muse on series with distinct themes in exhibit rooms with distinct vibes. The audience will therefore learn about, and, understand, how Lai has been inspired by the magnificent natural landscape of the east coast in these 20 years—which brought her a new hope for the century, new identification of hometown, a new life experience, and, a beautiful encounter with the passion in her heart—and so produced radiant artistic fertility and glorious, abundant creative outcome.

Island Country on the Ocean series: Having devoted herself to public art since the late 1990s, Lai’s experiences of traveling around different places in Taiwan over the years provided her a deeper understanding of the island she lives in. After she located in Taitung, the artist sensed a powerful primitive energy as she saw the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis; to Lai, who has wandered through countless foreign cities in her youth, this became her compass through the voyage of life. Hence, in this series, she represents the islandic wonderland of Taiwan through the colorful, lively, graceful forms, such as dragonfly, flying fish, flower and island. By paying attention to the perspective of islandic environment and the cultural aesthetic of the ocean area, she expresses her personal identification as well as concern to this land.

Standing in the Spring: The 24 Solar Terms series: This is a painting series Lai created after moving from an urban area to the marginal village of Dulan, Taitung. The artist sensed Nature’s changes and the circle of life in her tranquil daily life, where endless, daily life turns into momentary impermanence; she painted the light and shadow of day and night, and the colors of skies and waters with repeated layers of symbols as her pure, individual, sentimental catharsis. These works reflects a unity of spirit, soul, body and outer environment, as well as a resemblance of the imagined secret wonderland in the artist’s mind.

Shiny Love series: As the main show of the exhibition, displaying many large works, this series perfectly presents Lai’s inmost creative quality and her style in this period. By the guide of a dream, the artist found the dream wonderland in Dulan, Taitung, not only did she find a home for her wandering spirit, but also, a commitment to her soul. Therefore, a mirror sheet becomes something more than an ordinary piece of silver-plated glass at the moment when it was touched by fluid, vivid colors. While it can expand space and create illusions, it does not only reflect its surrounding and light—but the beating heart of the viewer as well. Through this intercourse between the audience’s eyes and soul, the artist communicates “Love, in it self, is power”; via her will and imaginations, demonstrates a bright beam, and, the value of love and freedom—which is also a glorious fulfillment of wonderland in the lives of the artist and the viewers.

 

 

New Media, New Forms and A New Expression

One can comprehend Lai’s profound discussion on self and spirit by attending this solo exhibition. This, simultaneously, leads to a development of both creative media and artistic aesthetics, as well as her concern for and reflection on natural environment and human energies.

The artist invented a special kind of paint, designed for dripping and tinting on transparent acrylic sheets. This paint can form the shape of dew when it dries. Like water, by reflecting its light source, it is also able to present beautiful reflection, or bring out a bright, vivid rainbow in the sky, and reflect these images in the room or on a wall. By the creative combination of this fluid medium on transparent media—such as acrylic sheet or glass—and stainless steel, The Island Nation on the Ocean series becomes a medium of Lai’s artist expression, which demonstrates the artist’s longing for a wonderland of freedom through vivid, colorful shapes.

Shiny Love series is made by dripping transparent acrylic paint on smooth glass sheets, and forming various combinations of paint drops and dripping texture; under the reflection of the light source, a seamless, layered, shimmering light fills up the entire space, and displays a thousand looks as its viewer move their body of shift their viewpoint. The artist created a fictional dreamland of love in one’s heart in this series, with a hope to lead audience into a poetic existential state—which brings out an inmost, profound emotion amid the delightful, vivid lights and shimmering, fluid colors—this is a fortuitous, serendipitous, unforgettable state, in which dreams and reality coexist, and creates brand new viewpoints and perspectives on both outer environment and inner self.

Lai’s art discusses on metaphysical nature and the spiritual realm, it contains philosophical thinking about material versus immaterialism, existence versus disappearance, and negative space versus positive space. She arranges a breathtaking aura with works of simple shapes and gigantic sizes; through the reflective and mirrored effects of the works, she creates a bright, beautiful, dream wonderland. This wonderland has an unexplainable charm, evoking a mystic feeling in the audience; it invites viewers to participate, eventually they also integrate into Lai’s art, and become a part of it.

The liberty, independence and unaltering love, which the artist has been always searching, shapes a broader, wider life state, demonstrate themselves in her exploration, rearrangement and discovery during creative process, bringing fluidity and liveliness into her works. These works are neither abstract nor representative; yet they are both abstract and representative—for they have formed a dialectic between abstraction and representation. They also present the encapsulation of media and their visual accessibility, allowing the parallel possibilities of the interaction between man and nature, dialogue between viewers and works, and the coexistence of audience and inner fantasies. And these are the most illustrative artistic qualities in Lai’s works in this period.

The application of creative media truly reflects the spirit of the age. Being the winner of 39th Wu Sanlien Art Award, Lai publicly said: “I consider the 21st Century an era on its pursuit for lightness, for it has been so much war and ideologies in the past century—it was too much burden. That was a time of steel and iron; yet in the future,  people will appreciate lightness, they will prefer bright colors and light.” Indeed, as our time is full of chaos and mental burdens, it is wiser to look above and appreciate the light and shadows of the sky than being troubled by unceasing worries.

 

 

If art truly is a journey of life on which one learns to lift weight lightly and become oneself, than Lai’s art has created a splendid light, which guides us to an imagination of a fantastic wonderland, that we may have a glimpse of the beauty in this Splendid Light in Wonderland.

Spring Day in Wonderland

 

Jun T. Lai’s Artist Statement             

 

 

This solo exhibition at Moon Gallery is divided into 3 exhibit rooms, and accordingly via 3 distinct series, it leads the audience to my consistent aesthetic belief and my creative context over 40 years. Within the past 20 years in particular, having moved to Dulan, Taitung, I took elements from natural landscapes of the mountain and the ocean into my own works, and so demonstrated 3 kinds of revelation from the Nature—hope of a new era, new hometown Identification and new experience of life. Through the encounter between these themes and the beauty of love in one’s heart, I could sense my artistic fertility and creativity overflow.

 

 

Island Country on the Ocean Series

 

“And, if the soul is about to know itself, it must gaze into the soul.”

—Plato, Symposium (Alcibiades 133b)

 

In my dreams, water flows and glitters unrestrictedly, the colors embrace the light’s gaze, and the soul is presented in every hidden means. Colors and lights dance and glimmer; a soft breeze listens openly, as the moonlight finds a home in the eye of its beholder.

 

It was 1985 when I started to use acrylic as a material for my creation. The transparent texture of acrylic is like crystalized water, or a sheet of light. To turn colors into lithe fairies that dance freely and independently, and find them the most appropriate expressive platform, I endeavor to express the freeness and the simplicity of colors. Hence, light becomes a visible thing because of its medium; through light, the spacial limits of materiality are wiped out, and in the two-dimensional medium appears a transcendent dimension. Boundaries are abolished and gravity conditions cancelled. Because of the presence of light, the materiality of the carrier disappeared; light and shadow are no longer just circumstantial, they are now completely interwoven together with the carrier. And thus a new, spacial aesthetics was born, which has subverted the unity and the staleness of subject, and cancelled the gravity of this material world—when light and shadow become swift objects, and unbounded, limitless beings that exist in an actual moment of time.

 

Ultimately, I have turned my focus on Taiwan as I make local mindset and environmental concern main themes of my works. Like the life of a dragonfly which lives under the water in its aquatic larval stage, till it can finally fly into the sky after eclosion as an adult dragonfly—I consider this process a metaphor for Taiwan. As the island of Formosa on the Pacific Ocean, Taiwan also awaits its emergence, that it may break through the current repression, soar into the realm of freedom, and play its full part in this world. Taiwan, the island of Youth, is surrounded by the ocean , which expands our imaginations. Using coated stainless steel and solid lens as media, with paints dripping on them, I attempt to make the Ocean the object that is being seen in my works, whilst the land—that is, the island—is the subject, in which perspective we see. By this perspective, and by arranging faint display lighting and atmosphere at the exhibition site—via overlaying a light on another, mirroring the key lights or scattering them—I attempt to hint at the identity issue of an island nation on the ocean.

 

I first participated in making public art in 1988, and I have since then acquired a deeper awareness of the reality of—and dreams about—our existential state. Living in a nation on the waters, we strive to connect, reach out and, simultaneously, gaze into our own identity. In the clouds we look for a context where we belong, forming our aesthetics of the ocean realms amidst energy transformation and a connection to a context on the waters. As I search for freedom and independence by arranging colors and lights, this natural aesthetic of de-ideologicalization is thus shown. Through this process of refining my artistic languages—which serves as my spiritual redemption of the current existential state—I seek this aesthetic of the ocean realms, in a context on the waters. Existence and alteration are like the journey of life—as if one floats slowly on the waters; during wanderings and searches they may look up at the stars, look at their own reflection, or shift their focus and pace, when one gazes at the world with a unique perspective, as if they are seeing their own naked body.

“Light is treated not so much as an inert factor as a living element, fully capable of entering into and of assisting the cycle of metamorphoses.”

—Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art (Vie des formes)

 

Shiny Love Series

These painted dots shine and express themselves. The sun rises because of love, the air smells fragrant because of love. Because of love, one may exist in another’s mind; and because of love, the universe unfolds itself for my sake.

 

Constantly, an artist’s exploration of their media and their personal development of taste lead to a journey of their inner soul, and eventually, to a consciousness of and meditations on the condition of human life as well as humanistic energies. In my works over the years, color serves both as a main subject and a medium. By using the language of colors, I demonstrate a spirit of freedom and the idea of light, placing emphasis on the intuitiveness and expressions in the colors themselves, and bring the audience a visual delight and comfort for the soul. I created Shiny Love series by tinting and dripping transparent, acrylic paint on smooth, glossy mirror sheets, which formed numerous combinations of paint drops that tightly gather and shimmer under the reflection of light—and thus produced the images of colors and lights which display a thousand different looks as their audience moves or shifts their viewpoint.

 

These works are neither abstract nor representational; yet they could be simultaneously abstract and representational. For they present the dialectic between abstraction and representation, and simultaneously show the encapsulation of media and their visual accessibility. By this dialogue between visual perspective and mind, Shiny Love series communicates an idea of meliorism with aesthetic value—that love, in itself, is power.

 

Standing in the Spring: The 24 Solar Terms Series

Standing in the Spring: The 24 Solar Terms is a series I painted consecutively after moving to Dulan, Taitung from an urban area. This series reveals an aesthetic universe of both body and spirit, between daily life and our outer environment. The diverse variety and the marginal features of Dulan—which consist of fluid, unrestricted, independent, and striking characteristics, and an aura of island and the ocean area that deeply fascinates me—beckoned me to come at the beginning of the millennium. Not only did this boost a Bohemian energy and personality in me, it also kindled a vivid thought in me: to connect with this local culture of island and the ocean by building a home of a new era, that is, my own wonderland of artistic creations. Everything in Nature operates organically according to natural law and the way of universe; what I do is absorb in it and follow its lead. The core of these paintings is a pure, personal catharsis which reflects the picture of wonderland in my own mind.

 

I decided to take this residence opportunity in 2007 because of Dulan's heterogeneity, diversity and marginal quality. As American feminist scholar “bell hooks” said, “A margin is more than a site of deprivation. It is also the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance… It offers to one the possibility of radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds.”

 

Therefore, I present a fraction of new worlds in Standing in the Spring: The 24 Solar Terms, which is like a spring day in wonderland.

 

Jun T. Lai

March 1, 2021