CHUNG Chia-Chun solo show: Upon the boulder
2021.04.17th — 05.16th
Hiro Hiro Art Space is pleased to present “Upon the Boulder,” the solo show by Taiwanese artist CHUNG Chia-Chun (b. 1992), bringing the intertextuality between the artist’s mixed-media painting and classic literature of philosophy as a reflection on the current era.
CHUNG Chia-Chun, who graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Tunghai University, is adept at combining different painting styles on paper. In this stage of creation, he uses acrylic, crayon, charcoal, and other mixed media to present different types of space in his artworks, juxtaposing the cubist-style figure sketches with surrealistic symbol layouts and the flatness of minimalistic hard-edge colored blocks. Through the construction of a rich spiritual world in different painting expressions, CHUNG Chia-Chun subtly depicts the dissociation, absurdity, and alienation hidden in life and self-consciousness in his works.
CHUNG Chia-Chun externalizes his thoughts through color, form, materiality, and space; moreover, reflecting upon the spirituality in the current era, embodying that painting as a creative expression extends beyond words and language. In CHUNG Chia-Chun’s new works, he often refers to literary and philosophical classic books as texts and unconventionally reconstructs the conceptual scenes from the texts by his unique artistic practice. Those demonstrated in this solo exhibition “Upon the Boulder” are based on CHUNG Chia-Chun’s re-reading and impression of “The Stranger,” classic literature published in 1942 by the 20th-century writer Albert Camus (Albert Camus, 1913-1960). The concept of Lifeworld (Lebenswelt) and the questioning of existence are the propositions that the artist continues to ponder in his paintings. Between the current era as well as the classic philosophical propositions that transcend time, CHUNG Chia-Chun decided to take “The Stranger” as the intertextual object of this series.
In both “Upon the Boulder” and “The Stranger”, the two creators question and reflect on the relationship between self-existence and the social environment during a similar life stage (29 years old).“The Stranger” profoundly delineates the absurdism, the purposeless, meaningless and irrational universe as well as the many heavy blows in life that one may experience. Respectively, CHUNG Chia-Chun echoes these philosophies in “The Stranger” in his paintings by illustrating the absurd and fragile relationships that coexist in different eras, as well as the multiple and fractured states of existence. The boulders in “Upon the Boulder” refer to a Greek mythology, where Sisyphus had to repeat the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain as a punishment for defying the gods. It was initially a fable about the futility of life, but in Albert Camus’s view, it interpreted this futility of pushing the boulder up the mountain as a symbol of a human being’s “life process,” of the struggle in birth, survival, and finally death. Existence is the subject; however, the world constructed by existence becomes the “Big Other” that swallows the subject of existence. Accordingly, CHUNG Chia-Chun conveys the absurdity in the state of existence since the period of Modernism by means of painting.
Under academic training for various styles and techniques, CHUNG Chia-Chun expresses the subject, object, symbols, and background elements utilizing various characteristics of different media to present a multi-dimensional visual space. When the artist is choosing the medium, he often transfers his understanding of materiality from the medium to his painting performance. The alienated three-dimensional effect subject (face) in grey scale is portrayed by the fragile charcoal; the lively and brisk object (world) with multiple high saturation colors is flat-coated by acrylic colors, and the emotional mental state is presented by graffiti drawings using coarse crayon particles. To CHUNG Chia-Chun, the combination and juxtaposition of these attributes reveal the sense of division and alienation that is in connection to the relationship between self, surrounding, and one’s inner world.
Creating figures for all the outsiders and his inner-self: CHUNG Chia-Chun solo show, Upon the Boulder
By JHANG Huei-Huei
An emotionless and dispassionate gray-scale face appears in every colorful painting in a form of its own; he walks, sits, lies, cuts flowers, and stands trial. Sisyphus no longer pushes the boulder; in the face of fated futility, he lies upon a boulder surrounded by blooming flowers and looks up at the blue sky. In the exhibition Upon the Boulder, artist CHUNG Chia-Chun renders a reinterpretation of the classic literature The Outsider (also known as The Stranger) by French philosopher Albert Camus. The artist’s self-projection via Meursault, the novel’s protagonist, is an attempt at an everyman depiction of the outsider, who feels out of place with the society, that transcends time and space. The exhibition takes place at Hiro Hiro Art space and features 20 paintings displayed across two floors, creating a two-level space of absurdity. The exhibition will last until mid-May.
When revolting against the boulder, be careful not to become the boulder itself.
“I have much in common with Meursault,” said CHUNG Chia-Chun.
Born in 1992 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, CHUNG Chia-Chun compares himself to the outsider who lived in France in 1942, during World War II. They share the qualities of feeling indifferent and estranged from society while at the same time longing for intimacy and understanding. With these in mind, in mid-2020, CHUNG Chia-Chun began working on his new painting series, Upon the Boulder.
In The Outsider, Meursault attended his mother’s funeral without showing any indication of grief as expected by other people. A few days later, he was sentenced to death for accidentally killing an Arab man. Through Meursault, Camus vividly captured the loneliness being out of place with the stereotypical social values and, furthermore, explored the value of existence. CHUNG Chia-Chun reflected, “Camus talked about social norms, constraints, and frameworks, which spoke to me particularly. For example, the issue of morality – the notion of right/wrong, good/evil, light/dark, and so on. There should have been complexity and ambiguity in the dichotomy, but we slowly allowed ourselves to grow accustomed to these social frameworks.”
In tone with the above, CHUNG utilizes gray-scale charcoal across the series, from the starting Moral Monster to Prometheus: Resist, to illustrate and depict Meursault – and all the outsiders of Chung’s generation – standing in contrast to the colorful background made of acrylic and crayon, which is aimed at representing alienation and absurdity. “Charcoal is a very beautiful medium. Charcoal is seemingly fragile, with only black, gray, and white for expression, but it can in fact create a vigorous, three-dimensional visual effect. When placed amid a background of brisk, highly saturated colors, the gray-scale figure highlights the outsider’s incompatibility to their surroundings even more – an existential status of illusion and isolation,” said CHUNG.
However, although CHUNG Chia-Chun gave the subjects of his paintings vitalized and ever-changing countenances, their heads seem to be stuck in some kind of invisible cage, distorted into unnatural shapes, almost as if the body is bearing alienation as a result of the daily constraints of life. “We pursue transcendence – and yet we have long integrated ourselves with these challenges in life.” Chung paused for a moment before proceeding, “We wish to break away from the norms, but we can barely detach ourselves from them.”
Recognizing “absurdity” and reflecting on the reality
The young artist comprehends that “absurdity” is the lens through which he perceives the world but not the purpose of life, and that the first step to self-recognition is to recover the freedom of body and of mind.
Yet freedom is relative. There are times when we think we have freedom, but it’s only because the magnitude of constraints cast by the structures and norms are so beyond our imagination that they become seemingly abstract and indistinct, yet and those barriers still exist. As an echo to this, the exhibition piece Absurd Hero (Sisyphus) is faced against a large window inside the Hiro Hiro Art Space, with its figure reclining on top of a boulder that is beautifully surrounded by flowers and a blue sky as if sounding freedom, yet the figure’s face is bound in gray-scale, reflecting the passersby as you and me.
Interestingly, the exhibition’s display design makes reference to the narrative arrangement in The Outsider, using Meursault’s imprisonment as a divider of distinction between the first floor demonstrating Meursault’s daily life and trial process and the second floor manifesting his reflection on life during incarceration. The symmetrical contrast is also reflective of the artist’s current state of life – feeling constrained by social values.
In the work Indifference, on display on the second floor, CHUNG Chia-Chun depicts a marked contrast between Meursault’s emotional detachment towards his death and his expectation of a crowd attending his execution, albeit with hatred and disgust. “In the first half of the story, people prejudicially judged him for a soulless monster who deserved to die. He never defended himself. But in the end, I reckon that he still longed to be recognized by others.” This “recognition” is not necessarily about being seen as a lovable person but Just to be seen by others as an independent existence. As an outsider who is an independent individual, Meursault has recognized and accepted his truthful inner-self – he exists as a wholesome, truthful self that is glorious despite being alienated from society.
According to CHUNG Chia-Chun, the subjects of his paintings not only portray Meursault but also all the outsiders, which includes himself at this moment. Those charcoal faces serve to remind the viewer and the artist himself –” Never construe your personal values based on an illusory framework.”
CHUNG Chia-Chun, born in Taiwan in 1992, graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Tunghai University. Combining different painting styles on paper, he uses acrylic, crayon, charcoal, and other mixed media, juxtaposing the cubist-style figure sketches as his iconic symbol with surrealistic pattern layouts and the flatness of minimalistic hard-edge colored blocks.
“Sand Box”, Mizuiro Workshop, Tainan, Taiwan
“Have _ relationship with myself”, Mizuiro Workshop, Tainan, Taiwan
“Emotional repair”, Gather Art, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
“Mixed Gene”, Woaw, Beijing, China
“a picture of a picture”, LIGHTWELL, Taipei, Taiwan
“Gentle Distraction”, Août Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon
“UNIVERSES 4 BY SASHA BOGOJEV”, Galerie Droste, Paris, France