One Thousand and One Nights Dormant in the Wilderness ——The Unspoken Tales by LUPA
2022.December.10 — 2023.January.15
Text by Hui CHANG
The story germinates from a desert concert: a girl wearing a puffy dress stands absent-mindedly in the desert; a child whose face is blurry runs on a vast rocky land; an innocent maiden with flowy long hair hides herself behind a waterfall; a young woman dressed like a bride in white walks towards an altar in the manner of a shaman… These are part of the latest solo exhibition of Crystal Lupa (b. 1989) – The Unspoken Tales, presented at Hiro Hiro Art Space. The artist adopts fluid impressions depicted with a non-linear language to interlace paintings and sculptures, thus allowing her iconic character – “Puer Aeternus,” freed from its previous gilded image, to traverse various natural sceneries with a truthful yet varied image in pursuit of an inner journey, telling her inner stories, while responding to her observations of and questions about the world.
1. Crystal Lupa / THE UNSPOKEN TALES / 2022 / 50 x 100cm / Oil on Canvas
2. Crystal Lupa / THE ISLAND OF WATERFALL / 2022 / 230 x 168 cm / Oil on Canvas
3. Crystal Lupa / CONSECRATION / 2022 / 65 X 80 cm / Oil on Canvas
A Rocky Landscape Concealing Eternal Memories
Majored in fashion design at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, Lupa’s art practice engages in fashion, music, painting, and sculpture. In her latest art series – The Unspoken Tales, she employs oil painting and sculpture to continue developing the narrative of “Puer Aeternus” – a character she created in 2018 – through the use of dreams, fairytales she reads to her four-year-old daughter, childhood memories, illusions from a half-waking sleep or a state of trance, etc. Following changes and growth in her life journey, she is able to create more characters extended from her projection of “the inception of self-consciousness.” These tiny figures walk or run through a world of land comprising wilderness, cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and lakes—“I often reduce human figures into tiny existence, creating long-shot views to delineate a sense of awe and helplessness that I feel about nature life.”
Over the years, creating “characters” has been Lupa’s way of approaching herself as well as the world. These characters inspired by mythologies, fairytales, dreams, the occult, and intercultural experiences appear repeatedly in her work, reflecting the artist’s multifaceted and fluid self—“I would be very clearly aware of my own states of mind, enabling them to form different rooms within my mind. Change, to me, is quite a natural state of things.”
Works like Bed in Wilderness, Sun Dyed, and The Unspoken Tales resemble Lupa’s self-whispers in dreams. She has the characters moving forward aimlessly yet lively in an expansive landscape of sturdy rock cliffs. The vivid layers of rock formation represent the wilderness of the subconscious, where all our fears are buried, as well as where the things we wish to cherish and preserve for eternity deposit—in short, it signals the most complex emotions and collective memories of the humankind.
“There are a lot of things that cannot be described by words. So, I use fictional sceneries and characters to portray the nuanced distance and atmosphere, and to record the states from a certain period, which might be bearing burdens or being helpless, feeling at ease or letting go.” Lupa said, “the term ‘勿語’ (meaning ‘unspoken’ or ‘not to be spoken’) sounds the same as ‘物語’ (meaning ‘tale’ or ‘story’). Such contradiction of meanings conveys my approach to telling earthly stories of the inexpressible or intangible through thoughts and feelings surfacing in quietude.” Sometimes, wordless silence contrarily allows one to express without restraints. The artist embeds the unsaid in her images—“the rocky layers absorb histories and messages quietly, forming a reliable support. We experience this as we continue to move through this world. Eventually, we all become part of these layers of rock.” Therefore, she leaves out the unnecessary descriptions, and concentrates on the expressive veins and textures in natural landscape, inviting spectators to activate their imagination to compare and form their own connections with the inner experiences that they have buried into the rocky layers.
Narrating the Collective Unconscious Sealed Up in the Depth
Through creation, Lupa is able to respond to the ideas of the self, complexes, shadow, and collective unconscious discussed by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung—namely, the exploration of “archetypes.” Hence, she has created Persephone and other works that feature the motifs of the Jungian archetypes.
Persephone is one of the works named after an existing character in The Unspoken Tales series. A Greek mythological figure with dual images, Persephone is both the innocent goddess of abundant harvest, and the queen of the underworld after she was forcibly taken by Hades. In Lupa’s painting, on the other hand, the queen of the underworld is transformed into a woman from an exotic country, who isolates herself behind a waterfall. “Trauma is a ritual of growing up gifted to innocence”—this is what Lupa noted down after she read Persephone’s story. Persephone, as the goddess in charge of the spring, is the archetype symbolizing innocent young girlhood. She was protected by her mother until she was kidnapped by Hades, who forced her into marriage. Since then, things in nature withered, and were only revived when Persephone returned to the world to reunite with her mother—an extreme symbol of regeneration and death. The artist incorporates her own life experiences into this archetype, stating that “fairytales and mythologies form a fictitious world mirroring reality. Through reading and creating that allow self-dialogues, one finds corresponding explanations of or ways to tease out different situations.”
The artist pushes herself to dive into the depth of her buried inner experiences to expand the unknown reachable to psychological perception into stories of the collective unconscious involving all of us. In Lupa’s words, The Unspoken Tales is her own version of One Thousand and One Nights told with quiet images—“I convert my indulgence in my own issues into an effort to offer healing and care for others.” The reason is because, no matter where we live or what generation we belong to, even if it is the remote shore of the unknown, we have probably all experienced the loneliness and isolation of self-exploration, along with the longing to pursue and achieve something.
Through the lens of human understanding and empathy, Lupa delineates the spatial-temporal scenes in which dream/reality, the abstract/the concrete, and present/past/future all become imbricated limitlessly. According to her, her purpose is “to enable those who feel what I have felt, who tend to suddenly wonder why they are at where they are in life to become aware and accept the situation without feeling alone,” said Lupa, with a smile on her face, “because here is someone feeling exactly like you.”
About Crystal Lupa
LUPA was born in California in 1989. She received her BA degree in fashion design womenswear from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London in 2012. She is currently based in Taipei, working in areas including painting, illustration, sculpture, fashion design, and music composition.
Regardless of the media, her visual language always exudes an air of Eastern mysticism and fantasy literature.
In the construction of magical and surreal sites, she has created her own context of symbols and forms. She transforms life experiences in reality or dreams into scenes and represents them with primitive, sensuous contours to explore the psychological states of the archetypal figure.
She has extended these characteristics to her compositions, giving them an arrangement like the proscenium stage to interpret the interaction between the image and the spectator.
The diversity of ethnicity and metaphor of fertility could also be found in her visual approach. She explores self, complex, shadow and collective unconscious by visualizing the inner space through art. She chooses to achieve mutual interaction between her audience and the motif through atmosphere-evoking and immersive images to further state an inner, deeper resistance within people in the social context.