Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Finding what you like in Lee Ai-chen's work


At Daybreak, by Lee Ai-chen, oil on aluminum plate.


Most reviewers of Lee Ai-chen's (李艾晨) oil paintings find it easy to indulge in personal reveries, chains of free association and even lyrical prose. To evaluate, comment, or just to describe Lee's works, one has to evoke the whole range of one's own memories and often come up with a review more of one's own life than of Lee's creations. Such is the charm, or tricky influence, of these plates smeared with monochrome cumulus of ambiguous shapes.

Silver Lining (吉光片羽), Lee's current exhibition at Cherng Pin Gallery (誠品畫廊), has gathered 28 works by the 31-year-old artist created since 2001, when she last exhibited in Taiwan. All done on large-scale aluminum plates, Lee's new works are in the same atmospheric vein of her earlier works that have induced lyrical ravings from her viewers and critics.

At first glance, Lee's images are easily mistaken for blown-up details of negatives of faded or unfocused photos, or cells seen under a microscope, or satellite pictures of the surface of an alien planet. The list of possible subjects goes on. Viewers faced with the non-indicative colors and seemingly representative shapes shown on a photograph-like flat and glossy surface are almost certain to project their own subconsciousness onto these abstractions.

The effect is enhanced by the size of panels, all larger than a person. The triptych Black and White (暮皚) is placed on two adjoining walls in the gallery corner. The contrast of overwhelming white and unfathomable black works its magic to conjure up images of invisible thoughts for the viewer. While saying that different viewers see different things in a painting is usually an unthinking remark, in the case of Lee's works, it's more than appropriate.

"Silver Lining Ai-chen Lee Solo Exhibition" will run til July 20 at Cherng Pin Gallery, B2, 245, Tunhua S Rd., Sec 1, Taipei (台北市敦化南路一段245號地下二樓)

Lee herself apparently sees a lot of nature in her works. Aquatic Mountains(山海觀), Snowing (飛雪), The Submerged Sky (水中天), On the River Bank (在河之洲) are some of the titles for her works, which encompass a variety of natural phenomena and landscapes. It was not until a painting was finished, however, did Lee took up her role as a viewer and projected her own imagination onto the panels to give them names, in much the same way ancient Chinese scholars gave names to stones of curious shapes and streaks that they came across in nature.

"The first inspiration for my work came from a vision of tar, which contains many different tones [due to the] little stones. When I looked at it, I felt dizzy and hard to focus on a single spot. This visual experience attracted me. I knew it was caused by the countless spots and subtle different tones," Lee wrote in her notes for an exhibition in New York.

Trained first in sculpture and then in painting, Lee tends to "treat the canvas itself as a kind of material, and I want viewers [to be] aware of its two-dimensional reality -- flatness."

Lee has a freer approach to oil and created these variations of spots and tones with everything but brushes. Often, she wipes off excessive paint with her hands, leaving a touch of intimacy on the otherwise "distant" panels.

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