Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 19 News List

Letting her fingers do the talking

Lee Ai-chen creats 'visual poems' in her latest series of works, which steer clear of the traditional standards of painting

By Chang Ju-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

On a Snowy Day (2001) by Lee Ai-chen.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHERNG PIIN GALLERY

Does every painter use a brush? Not necessarily. Contemporary artist Lee Ai-chen (李艾晨) says, "no brush," preferring to use her fingers, a small ball or a sponge, and other things that she said are secret recipes. This sculptor turned painter rarely uses canvasses, preferring to experiment with other materials such as synthetic leather. Recently she has started to use aluminum plates. The results, on display in her current show, With the Luster Above, is spectacular, surprising and perplexing.

People are inclined to question whether Lee's works are paintings at all, for some look like satellite photos, faded old photographs, or machine-produced decorative prints. Despite the manufactured quality, these works are all produced by hand.

"What I want to create is atmosphere, coming directly from my feelings and emotions," Lee said. This is the reason she gives for leaving behind the concrete world of sculpture and the traditional standards of painting.

"I don't want to use oil on canvas, which everybody else uses," said Lee. "I want different visual experiences for the audience, and for myself, effects that create the kind of atmosphere I want." Examples of this quality in her work can be seen in Steaming (2001), which is full of tiny circles like bubbles coming out of boiling water. On the Snowy Field (2001) has blocks of black oil paint piled up on a white background, a revelation of Lee's memory of a snowy day with thick snow covering the grass. Silt (2001), created by applying paint with a ball, reflects Lee's impression of a deep submarine world full of algae.

Themes of nature come across strongly in Lee's work, reflecting her upbringing in a rural township about half hour's train ride from Taipei. She has picked up the images of nature and widely employs them in her paintings. Her previous exhibition, Theme and Variation, was more abstract, building on a single motif inspired by nature.

Now she adds a human touch, and tries to tell a story and build up landscapes. She quotes a poem by Tang-dynasty poet Wang Wei(王維) in relation to her current show: "I want to add some human voices into nature / It is like hearing the echoes in the forest / And seeing the shadows in the moss / It is feeling and remembrance."

Art critic Jason Wang (王嘉驥), who has been observing Lee's works, said that Lee's paintings are reflections between images from nature and her own lingering thoughts, which are visualized in her paintings as photographic images. Wang says her works are like "silent visual poems."

Lee's works will also be exhibited next February in SoHo 20 Gallery in New York.

Art Notes

What: With the Luster Above -- Solo Exhibition of Lee Ai-chen (潾映圖想 -- 李艾晨個展)

Where: Cherng Pin Gallery (誠品畫廊), B2, 245 Tunhua S. Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei (台北市敦化南路一段245號地下二樓)

When: Until Sept. 9

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