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Hsu Yung Hsu: body * transcending.

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HSU IS A PERSON WHO HAS NEVER STOPPED living and has never stopped creating. He can be called a teacher under a national education system, or an athlete, or even a music performer but I prefer calling him a producer of life. Playing different roles at different times, Hsu is concerned about the relationship between self and body. He is unable to employ the mind-body dualism of Rene Descartes who resolutely separated the body from thinking. In the creative experience of Hsu, he breaks the materiality of body. What do the body and the self look like that he has reestablished? This is a journey of exploration, and his journey starts now. His work is both complicated and direct. Unlike his early works, these pieces seem to have content that is more abstract. From the experience of the collateral existence of creation and life, we can see the insatiability of the artist. He shows us something that has not been fulfilled and is lacking in him. This enables him to have continuous productivity.

To a clay artist who had not touched clay until the age of 30, his life experience in his early years did not allow him to abandon and separate from his earlier work. However, the transition from the past to the later days has been fruitful. Before touching clay, Hsu's roles of athlete and music performer had left their mark. When Hsu encountered his physical limits during his career as an athlete, he needed to retreat from the stage. However, he did not let the curtain fall and he did not consider it the final point of his personally fulfilling life. Instead, his feelings for life made possible this physical extension of his vitality. From Hsu's exploration of his life, he found that those varied past experiences were merely like blueprints. Hsu started exploring the limitation of the objectives of life. This kind of existence and self-possession led him to uncertainties and true exploration.

Life no longer marched to any absolute destinations. It was open. The process of creation seemed like the course of life, with its results--the work--more soul-stirring and profoundly affecting. The artist's probing seemed to be an adventure. His trudging through life and his travelling over mountains and valleys became another concern in his creative process.

After Hsu began to work with clay, his work space, his materials and his mobility became paradoxes that he faced. From the stability of the past the artist started entering an unstable state. He had no substantial income. He could not predict the future of his work. In such a rhythm of life, Hsu intended to use the mystery of art and the grasp of instability to interpret the uncontrollable. Choosing clay as the material for his work could be called a coincidence. However, he perceived that it was similar to the material of life, having the same malleability with the same ideas but with different approaches and possessing the softness of uncertain states. It seemed that Hsu intended to extract something from the clay models.

His early work was more representational. From 1993 to 2000, his works with the titles of Dance, Drama and Seat were mostly shaped by clay rings or coils. In the very beginning, he used sketches or drawings to design his works. Later on, he no longer planned in advance.

Then the works reflected the inner feelings of the artist who was coping with the reality of society and investigated the variety of people living in society. For example, in the series of his works, Seat, completed in 2000, he integrated the images of man and chair by a sitting gesture, forming a simple sculpted seat. The tall and perfectly straight geometric lines explain our multiple positions and roles in society. After venting about social bondage in multiple layers, he started to look inward, seeking the emotion that was in his heart. His works turned to concern for being and self. They turned to a kind of metaphoric spatial vocabulary. He moved from the enclosed forms and his works now opened outwards.

The gloomy and dark earlier works seemed to be rooted to the ground or exhibition space and focused mostly on their large scale. They gave a feeling of suppression and invasion as sometimes present in the spatial vocabularies of the works of Minimalism. However, when investigated, his sculptural style was like that of landscape artists with simple dialogue. Turning back to Hsu himself, we saw him set off from his concepts and let his feelings emerge. This work does not emerge from the concept of limitations. From these simple and elegant works, gigantic power is sensed. What he challenge is not just the idea of limit, but the power of life breaking through. Since 2005, new experiences have had an effect on this artist. The ideology, "I think, therefore I am", could no longer satisfy Hsu's eager hunt and insatiability towards life. What thing could life give him? What thing could he give for himself? The theme of his making began to change. "I am; therefore I think." Using the body as the main subject, he began working. Such a process seemed like a dialectical process of 'self'. The material of clay was taken as an extension of body and the making became an extension of life. The tenacity of the clay material and other people's prejudiced impression of the fragility of clay are similar to the characteristics of life. Through the thinness of a work and the relative greatness of it and through the extreme instability in the work, he challenges the limits of the body. As mentioned by Hsu, destruction and damage became a part of the completion of a work. Without destruction and damage, going beyond could not be achieved. Through other materials, he again deconstructed the saying, "body exists while being taken as a substance", heightening the level of body. Once the artist entered a situation in which heart was the dominator and a process that contained spirituality, the material and the body came together, giving the work innovative meaning and creating its own epistemology. Clay led the artist to re-explore his own body to soothe his uneasiness. He did not have a new form or style but brought his exploration to a new way of creating. Through barehanded kneading of clay, the artist felt understood the material as body. As stated by the artist, "It was like a relationship with a lover". Apart from having been the producer of the works, the artist served as the producer of life. He kneaded and modelled repeatedly, overriding the spiritual situation of the body and took part in a psychological situation that seemed like rope dancing. New experiences were continuously surging and new feelings were experienced.

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Experimentally, the artist made memories reappear. Then he started handling a new issue about whether memories could reappear again. Whenever Hsu entered his workshop and started kneading clay, he took photographs of his work and appreciated them himself. He tried his best to recollect his feelings of that time. As a result, the non-reappearance of memories once again became a kind of new experience that could not be predicted. As he worked he revealed folds and an understanding of past experiences. Such courage to challenge anxiety is admirable.

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Hsu's way of working was not to produce subjective or objective artistic works, but to bravely give himself to clay and to life. When Hsu became involved with clay, although he intended to challenge and negate that old saying, "after a work enters the kiln, it is passed to the hands of the kiln, waiting for the joy of opening the kiln", he gained a new understanding of body consciousness. It is like the ambiguity of the inseparable relationship between a 10-month pregnant mother and her son, or like the paradoxical relationship and intimacy between two lovers. Hsu Yunghsu actively and courageously took action to challenge the sense of body.

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This act abandons self in the face of creation. It challenges the boundary of the body and establishes new sensory knowledge.

Hsu Yunghsu was the 2008 recipient of the Mino Prize in Japan.
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Author:Ke-Wei, Shih
Publication:Ceramics Art & Perception
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Dec 1, 2008
Words:1372
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