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Travelling across Worldly Theaters - Shih Yung-Chun's Fictional and Realistic Life

Author : Victoria Lu RongZhi

Graduated from Taiwan University of Arts with a major in fine arts, Shih Yung Chun had gone into his career in art since 2002. His grounding in painting was far more solid and substantial than his peers. Most young artists were craving for Installation Art rather than settling down their focus on painting. Among this generation, Shih Yung Chun was an exceptional artist, and his works stood out from the crowd. Over the past twenty years, Conceptual Art had ruled Contemporary Arts in Taiwan. Although Shih Yung Chun was marginalized in the field of arts because of his talents, he did not retreat from his mind on painting. For years he delighted himself by leading a quiet life, recording every little thing in his seemingly dull life with a camera, and scrabbling his thoughts and feelings in old books and notebooks. As time went by, he had accumulated an impressive number of random notes and photos. These became his well of inspiration. 

He picked up some bits and pieces after examining and reading over those books, journals and photos. These fragments are full of the anxiety, fear, paranoia and grumbles he had experienced in life. By utilizing these elements, he composed one absurd, hilarious but thrilling allegory after another in the form of paintings. In the process of painting, he had made himself a playwright, a director, an actor or a set designer, willfully representing the stories he could not carry out in real life. Idling around in his fictional world, Shih Yung Chun seems to live a more colorful life. He transcends the limitations and frames that were hard to dodge in real life by art, and this is the reason why viewers are able to get surprises and reflections from Shih Yung Chun’s paintings. 

The uniqueness in Shih Yung Chun’s works is the sense of vicissitudes of the fleeting time. Shih Yung Chun not only skillfully lays out three-dimensional spatiality in a two-dimensional space; further, by using techniques of abrasion, mosaic, color-gradation and rubbing, he creates an association to fourth-dimensional space. He discards the vivid surface of reality; instead, he deliberately digs the fear from blurred memories buried in humanity. Such bewildered gloom is hidden deeply inside every horror in the middle of the night. It emerges unconsciously yet can never be totally grasped, much less captured of its clear contour. Shih Yung Chun conceals his fanciful interpretations in the vagueness of the most trivial things appearing in his works, setting up irrational plots we often overlook in real life. This coincidentally corresponds with the interpretations of dreams from the surrealists in last century. From his unique perspectives, Shih Yung Chun expresses “life” in various quirky and grotesque ways. “Painting” is his exit for fleeing from reality. Here, he is able to rationalize every fantasy and fictional creation. The thrilling plots hidden under ordinary materials in his works are more like the mystifying tricks in horror movies, and are more deviant than from the surrealists’ dreams. 

From 2009 to 2011, Shih Yung Chun had been using his everyday scenes as materials. He usually cut these familiar scenes into pieces, isolated some elements, and then reorganized them. The intentional de-familiarization and the alien transformations of common surroundings are indeed stunning, while it draws us to explore further. Shih Yung Chun also tends to paint in different themes to make several series. For example, from his “Life Demonstration” in 2009, “Daily Rules” and “Reading Habits” in 2010, “Soap Opera” in 2012, “Zakka” in 2013, to the latest “Toy Sets For Daily Lives/ New Arrivals” in 2014, Shih Yung Chun develops his works from smaller single paintings to larger series. He produces approximately twenty works a year, and the sizes of the paintings are increasing. In 2014, his collections were able to cover an entire wall. 

In this era of networking, cloud computing and big data, Shih Yung Chun’s art is a new archetype of Total Art. From hundreds and thousands of photos, he develops inexhaustible contents of narrations so that he can travel across the fictional time and space he has created on his own. From 2014, Shih Yung Chun began a new approach. He places and directs the people, the objects and the contents as a theatrical scene that is close to reality and photographs it. After that, he creates a corresponding painting according to the recorded snapshots. However, these puzzling situations rarely occur in real life. So he cleverly redefines “real” every day, and only he can unrestrainedly travel in and out between the fictional and real world. However, it is not enough for Shih Yung Chun to create two parallel works of photography and painting. He goes a step further to play with fantasy and reality. In front of his giant painting completed in 2014—Delicate Vintage Shop Project. A – Interior Veledrome, he placed the real bicycle and motorcycle appearing in the painting at the exhibition. In the foreseen future, we may see Shih Yung Chun realize his theatrical installations at the upcoming exhibitions, by virtualizing camera recording and restoring time and space via paintings and installations, creating an infinite loop.

Shih Yung Chun juxtaposes the “reality” in photography as a comparison to paintings. Nevertheless, what he pursues is completely different from those Photorealistic artists in the nineteen-sixties. Photorealistic artists tried to present the stiffness and the mechanicalness of painting and the inevitable flat space in photography. However, this is what Shih Yung Chun struggles to break through. He arranges images that generate dramatic effects, and then creates the realistic effects beyond three-dimensional space. He successfully extends the representation of reality of painting from the snapshots of photography, and even extends further to restore the real installations by combining ready-mades and paintings. This “travelling” feature compiles Shih Yung Chun’s “Total Art” soliloquy. 

In the younger generation, Shih Yung Chun is an artist with great artistry. Having gone through forty years led by Conceptual Arts, Contemporary Arts is now encountering the moment of reformulation. At this moment, Shih Yung Chun’s art seems to be outstanding and alluring. He is not only a storyteller but a sorcerer; he enchants ordinary days with enigmas in life. In the process of dramatization, stories are mingled with reality and fabrication. Who on earth can distinguish fact from fiction? Humanity’s endless fascination of dramas comes from the fear of chasing the truth in a deceitful world, and this is exactly the orientation and motivation for Shih Yung Chun in creating his works. It might also be the true reason why he why he indulges in this fascination.

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