Thu, Jan 24, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Sculptor explores reality of history

By Ho Tseng-han and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sculptor Yang Pei-chen points at threads on one of his carvings of old books at the “Tranquil Vastness: From Memory to History” exhibition at the Yu-Hsiu Museum of Art in Nantou County’s Caotun Township on Thursday last week.

Photo: Ho Tsung-han, Taipei Times

Realist sculptor Yang Pei-chen’s (楊北辰) exhibit “Tranquil Vastness: From Memory to History” is a reflection on history as an artifice of the senses, Nantou County’s Yu-Hsiu Museum of Art said on Monday.

The exhibit, which is to run until May 19, features Chen’s past work as well as the recent History Series No. 1, which is comprised of a dozen carved wood replicas of manuscripts dating to 1702.

The series was inspired by the Dazu Rock Carvings in China, which he toured when he was a visiting professor at the Sichuan Fine Arts Academy in 2017, Chen said.

The exploration of personal memory found in his past work is applied on a grander scale to historical memory, as the formation of all memories, be they decades or centuries-old, should be seen as problematic, Chen said.

He bought the manuscripts in an online auction and recreated their form in wood, which took him two years, he said.

The manuscripts are written in Latin, Old Dutch, French and Italian, Chen said, adding that he considered having them translated, but thought better of the idea.

“Their content had little to do with my creation,” he said. “I am not creating history, but rather a sense of historical authenticity.”

“When I carve the fissures of parchment into the wood, I think about what caused the fissures. Who last read this page? What does it actually say? The solution to those mysteries eludes us, and that is what gives them charm,” he said.

Other pieces in Chen’s oeuvre — including a life-size wooden sculpture of his ankle boots from college, his wife’s high-heels and former minister of health and welfare Yaung Chih-liang’s (楊志良) briefcase — are also featured at the exhibit.

“The shoes are the material evidence of a person’s existence, a faithful record of their gait, movement and weight,” he said.

The exhibit’s organizer, Zhang Wei (張未), said history presupposes some events or people as more important than others and its raw material is fallible human memory.

“History is an artificial creation... Is it history we put our faith in, or just the feeling of authenticity?” Zhang said.

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