After months-long renovation, Tina Keng Gallery reopened last week with an exhibition by Yao Jui-Chung: Brain Dead Travelogue, an autobiographical narrative that echoes traditional shanshui painting techniques with an absurdist twist.
Eccentric and peculiar, Yao forges singular paradigms for painting that illustrate his unique sensibilities and common candor. A series of radical performance art paves the way for his artistic journey. Now conscious of the end of his days, Yao reflects on his earnest and passionate art practice of 20 years that feels like a fleeting dream. Brain Dead Travelogue, through a contemporary narrative depicted in ancient techniques, portrays the famed mountains and immense waters in traditional shanshui painting that epitomize his two decades in a lifetime adrift in a creative wandering.
This exhibition highlights multiple large-scale new works of the artist. The eponymous 12-meter-long work Brain Dead Travelogue (2015), where Yao looks back on the ten representative works of his performance art done in the past 20 years, including the nude urination in Territory Takeover (1994); serving the army in Recover Mainland China — Do Military (1994-96); the levitation and standing at attention in Recover Mainland China — Action (1997); raising both hands in surrender in The World Is for All (1997-2000); the handstand in Long March (2002); the goose step in Phantom of History (2007); the salute in Window on China Theme Park for March Past (2007); waving in farewell in Mt. Jade Floating (2007); raising the right hand and shouting slogans in Long Live (2011) and Long Long Live (2013). These scenes have been incorporated clockwise in chronological order into a long landscape painting. At the center of the fifteen-panel painting is Yao clasping a nosegay and giggling, with his wife and daughters arriving with lunch boxes in the lower left corner, suggesting that his frivolous days of youthful wandering are never to return.
The work Life Is but a Dream (2015), 474 centimeters in height and 321 centimeters in width, depicts milestones in the eight major stages in the artist’s life: one-month-old Yao in his mother’s arms; him climbing the Central Range Point with the Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) Hiking Club; graduating with the 8th graduating class of TNUA; his military service with the 5th Air Force Maintenance and Supply Group; finding true love after 12 failed attempts but having his outdoor wedding doused by torrential rains; the joys of fatherhood with the births of his two princess-like daughters; and a self-portrait at the Illusion with his beloved 19-year-old cat Mocca. An intimate diary in painting form, the piece captures the bittersweet vicissitudes of Yao’s life, poignantly felt by the artist himself.
A survey of the series of work over the last two decades reveals a consistent retention of the golden landscape style, as well as attempts to inject new genres and techniques into traditional shanshui landscape painting. The “spring silkworm spinning texture technique” developed in the early days has been replaced by the “stiff brush scrubbing texture technique,” introducing decorative painting styles that have long been ignored by literati painters. Comic book dialogue boxes and panels have been incorporated to transcend limitations of traditional narrative. Through his art practice, Yao navigates the collapsing boundaries between Chinese traditional painting and Western aesthetics that dominate the art world today, constructing a magnificent landscape of mountain ranges and peaks around which viewers traipse. As viewers saunter amidst the grand terrain, their disposition faintly cultivated, they are allowed a moment of blissfulness, gazing upon the vast horizon of seemingly thundering silence.
tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, sun 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tina Keng Gallery, 1f, No.15, Ln.548, Ruiguang rd. Neihu Dist.