There is no a happy life. The very best one can achieve will be a heroic life.
About Ping-Cheng Liang’s Four Seasons - 鄭乃銘 CANS 09/2009
Taiwan Contemporary Art IVCansART News No.56 Sept/2009
Ping-Cheng Liang is a heroof life after all.
However, what this hero aspires after is neither wealth nor a vast territory but being the master of his own world. Rather than hardships of drifting and homelessness experienced, the most precious thing in one’s life would be keeping theoriginal aspiration unchanged after such hardshipsand strive without cease to be yourself. Ahero like this would radiate broad-mindedness from the innermost.
Thebeginning of prose poem ofXin Qiji’s “Melody of Forever in Happiness” reads“Overlooking the eternal presence of rivers and mountains,never discovered again is the heroism once seen in Emperor Sun Quan. Those waterside dancing halls, singing podiums and places of romantic interest have long been destroyed in storms,”and a clear exposition of this would be evenif “back in the days of armored horses and metal halberds, what imposing was their vigor that could prance thousands of miles like a tiger,”a hero is unable to bring the wheel of time to a stop but bound to become advanced in years with tracks and traces left behind to be battered by the wind and the rain. However, although there exist regrets and painful recollections in Xin's passages, nothing seems to be feeling sorry for himself. After the distinguished and admirable past was washed away by the wind and the rain, one would fully understand the confidence and ease Su Shi depicted in his prose poem “Pacified Storm,”“Looking back over the bleak passage survivedand the return in timeshall not be affected by windswept rain or shine.”Such a state of mind will inevitably make me think ofPing-Cheng Liang, the person himself as well as the context crated by his artworks.
When talking about Ping-Cheng Liang's art, we must talk about the person himself.
Liang tends to flee from home! And such two run-aways happened to mark the start of the peaks in his life later on.Bornin Pingtung, Taiwan in 1958, the artist was found talented in art in his childhood and began to receive focused training under the instruction of a Taiwanese senior watercolor painter HeWun-Ci. Based on Liang’s recollection, though talented in art; however, his scholastic records of other courses were poor. After graduation from Dao Ming Junior High School in 1973, he failed the entrance exam to high school as a matter of course. He went to a cram school preparing for a second trial to the exam in the following year. But the problem was that he spent more time lingering out here and there than staying in the cram school.“I learned all sorts of bad habits during that period,” said Liang. To him, the outside world was indeed more attractive than textbooks. To the surprise of many, he fled from home. After running away for seven days, Liang was found by his mother in Cishan, Kaohsiung County. Liang returned, became well-behaved and finally was admitted to Department of Advertising Design, Kaohsiung Vocational High School of Commerce after taking the exam. Liang failed the entrance exam to university after graduation from high school and decided to become a conscript and do military service. After his discharge from the army, Liang passed an exam and was admitted to Fine Arts Department of Chinese Culture University.
“I don't know how to describe the thoughts in my mind at that time. After entering college, I suddenly had a strong desire to study. Perhaps, it was because of many teachersin our department, such asJun T. Lai (Lai Chunchun), Guo Dawei, and Rita Chang (Chang Yuanqian) were young and just finished their studies to begin the teaching career. I feel that it was those teachers who helped to open a door for me, a door to art.”said Liang.In1982, Liang and several fellow students founded an artist group “Stupid Bird.” In the following year when he was a sophomore, Liang won the 8th Young Artist Award organized by LionArt Monthly, a well-known art magazine in Taiwan. After his graduation in 1985, he taught at Fu-Hsin Trade and Arts School. To educate and train talents wasreally an attractive job to him butthe system made him hesitate while hestill had a deep passion for artistic creation. Such mindset kept encouraging him to travel abroad. In 1989, Liang set out on a study tour to Studio Art Program at New York University. He handled skill subjects at ease but the language and academic subjects became thorny problems again.As a result, according to Liang,the life outside the classroom beckoned him strongly and he would rather spend time outside the school to experience aesthetics of everyday life which was far more inviting than classroom rules.
During 1991 to 1997, Liang was back in Taiwan taking up ordinary jobs in interior design and architectural planning as his profession and achieved tremendous success. Unfortunately, hit hard by recession, his business turned sour and Liang began to suffer both physical and mental pains. Liang gave a sigh and said, “The most unbearable would be to face those who had helped me. Such qualmswere really painful and made me extremely jittery.” Liang sent himself into exile. His second running away from home was during this period.Wandering from one place to another,Liangeven spent the night in parks. This time the one who “relieved” him was his wife, a beautiful woman with wisdom. His wife never gave him up and finally discovered him in high mountains after going alone through untold hardships.Such profound love was the key to the turning point of Liang’s transition.
Even with a calm facial expression, Liang could not conceal disconsolation and being hard on himself when recollecting the past.He told me that he has a good friend in Kaohsiung andduring his exile, he once came to Kaohsiung and called that friend. The friend was in an important school meeting. Thrilled to hear Liang's voice,the friend said, “Where are you? Stay where you are and wait for me. I’ll come to see you in 20 minutes.” When they met, the friend took out some money and said, “This is my proctor fee in the morning. Here’s 2,000 for you and I’ll keep 1,000.” Liang became speechless instantly! The friend was also one of his close relatives who had sponsored him. Even thoughthe friend’s promotion opportunitiesin career might have been spoiled by Liang,the friend never complainedand did not hesitate to share with Liang the funds on hand.
Home and school education never taught what friendship was, but rightat themost dismal moment, Liang felt the depth of friendship, and it was the first time he learned that dismal did not necessarily mean desolate. “Today, to recollect those daysin the past, I’m sincerely grateful for experiencingsuch failures.I used to be selfish, narcissistic, and striving only for myself. I did not know how to love others. But the sudden failureswere so painful that I didn't even have the leftover strength to yell. The reason for self-exile was, after all, inability to face pangs of remorse and I was still thinking of myself. Difficultiesweretangiblesetbacks while lessons learned by such reverses were intangible. It was at that point I found out the happiness that had long been ignored by mewas not gone with the changes. It was a blessing to me though I never prayedfor. I have started to change completely my attitudes toward things and people around me because I suddenly realized that my ‘obstinacy’ in the past was too great.”Liang, though failed in business, with the consent and support from his wife, finally had his long-cherished wish to move to Sanyirealized.All the outside troubles at this junctureturned to be profuse motivity for his art creations. At last he could feel free to sow the seeds of his dreams in the piece of dream land that he is most familiar with.
Liang stayed in Sanyi for 10 years. Though withwood fragrance and woodcarving sounds fluttering in the air, Sanyi is not a place that would nurture creativity but a cradlefor skills and an area where people can easily be indulged in success achieved through skills. Liang's aspirations for art creation would not beeasily accomplished in such a place and this would be the reason that caused his unhappiness unknown to others.Having beenstrongly attached to sculpture, Liang never thought of other possibilities. However, what Liang was not aware of wasthat something would lead to a new transition to hislife has been waiting for him in the corner.
Foundations of Liang's aesthetic preparatory training include his skills in watercolor painting and advertising design plus experience in interior design and architectural planning, which allow his watercolor artworks to exhibit strong design intentions. Based on my personal observation, Liang’s creations during the Sanyi period are rich in such flavor thanks to these foundations.In 2001, Liang started to combinewoodcarving with lamps to produce many utensil-like carving installations. Creations during this period can only be said with a bit fun. When compared with traditional Sanyi woodcarving products, Liang’s works are with a little more deliberation, but full of annoying self-assumedinfallibility.During this period of his creations,each of theready-made light and the wood sculpture stands aloneon its own showing lack of mutual integration.
In 2002, Liang launched the“Flying”Series, in which, the issue of “weight-reducing” wasaddressed. Volume and heaviness have always been issues in the sculpture art and how to show off skills without heaviness in visual perception will challenge artist’s material manipulation and skill exercising. In the “Flying”Series,Liang depicts with wood the wavering of plants he perceives in the nature and digging-out was the method he usesfor weight-reducing and alleviation of wood heaviness. Such a skill in artistic language has become one of the main features of Liang's art. I noticed that in this series of creations, Liang has revealed more about what he actually thought in his mind. With thorns exhibited in his artworks, Liang has disclosed the inharmony in his interpersonal relationships tothe society while his restless aspirations for flyingcould also be seen despite being difficult to deal with. Loneliness was obviously the portrayal of his state of mind at that time. However, in creations during this period, artist's extraordinary attempts as well as uncompromising creation essence uninhibited by the environment were no longer hidden. Starting 2005, Liang has become more prominent through his artworks in “Illegible Book” Seriesand “Utensil & Anti-Utensil” Series.In 2006, the “Book & Illegible Book”Series has entered a completely purer and clearer level, and his unique artistic language has also become more mature. Strictlyspeaking, the first year of Liang’s art shall be considered starting from this time. In 2007, Victor Ou (Ou Xianzheng), founder and owner of Taipei InSian Gallery and an important judge of talent in Liang’s artistic life, visited Liang in Sanyi. Impressed by Liang’s artworks, Ou suggested he move to Taipei. About fifteen days after this meeting, Liang’s whole family settled down in Taipei. With the shift of his base for life and art creation,Liang has established cooperative relationship with the gallery. Compared with other artists who were still in uncomprehended and ambiguous relations with galleries, such a relationship has allowed the seedsLiang sowedon his artistic dream landto germinate.
I am pretty much enchanted with his “Whisper in Forest”Series created during 2006 to 2008.Froma general point of view,creations in this series are inspired by natural creatures. To be honest, as a wood sculpture creator “trained”in Sanyi, to carve birds, objects, figuresor plantswould be by no means difficult.What Ipraise the mostwould be Liang’s ability to set aside traditional customary practices of treating such subject matters. Even the style of a commercial artist from the axe marks was removedto allow representations of artworks tobe back to the artistic sect of visual lines and exhibitcharacteristics of line letting-out and drawing-in of ink-washingpainting butwith an architecture themed as surrealistic fantasized beasts. Strictlyspeaking,artworksinthis series are of greater wood heavinessthan those in the “Book & Illegible Book”Series.However, they seem to be more rhythmic among the ups and downs of lines.In particular, with the exquisite sculptureskills Liang displayed, charm and grace of leaf veins and cuddled-up pupae are depicted.Should this part be over-treated, customary slipperiness in Sanyi wood sculpture will be resumed. The approach Liang adopted is to enliven and convey through skills the fineness of emotion rather than carve the subject in a precise and sophisticated manner.I think that although this is not the flagship series chosen by the gallery to promote, these simple creationsmanifest Lian’s interpretation ability and rich artistic emotion of the artist. I believeamong all Liang’s artworksthis should bea subject that allow the imagination to extend infinitely.
In contrast to fantasy and imagination in the “Whisper in Forest”Series, the “Book & Illegible Book”Series and the “Utensil & Anti-Utensil” Serieslookmore concrete and narrative. From a perspective of the overall creative context, it seems to me that creationsin these two series,the subject of “Utensil & Anti-Utensil,” in particular, show signs of design that Liang excels in. Although Liang has addedintegration of different materials into his creations and deliberately broken the established images of existing utensils,once the standardized mental picture of a utensil is broken,deconstruction of shapes or practical functions with an ambiguously resisting yet welcoming attitudewill not be enough.The concept of “object” in the essence connotation of utensilsshall first be removed followed by endowing with the abstract philosophy of “deity.” Liang is now in the first stage, but I personally feel that he has not yet entered the second stage. This is just like Chinese gardens with broadness and subtlety of the landscape incorporated while Japanese gardens with naturalismdrawn into graveldisplays. Both have dealt the issue of preserving formswhileabstract philosophy of the nature is addressed as well. I hope Liang, during his art creation, shallmake choices of his own when and how to keep or discard “obstinacy.”Art creationsare inevitably to show self-characteristics of the artists. However, the artist shall not be bound by self but exhibit broad-mindedness in the creations. It takes wisdom rather than strength to decide when to keep and when to discard the self.
Inregard to the “Book & Illegible Book”Series,I would like to analyze it from a different angle. Although storytelling is a bit over-manifested in this series,Liang has given much more of his mind to this subject when compared with other artworks. Since his childhood Liang has not achieved much success in studying. Knowledge is by all means what Liang has been aspiring after, but such aspiration is more of a process of climbing hills and mountains. Despite this, the knowledge Liang acquired from social experiences and interpersonal communications has become good grounds for him to rely on. When tangible books are considered to be intangible wealth of knowledge, one may see the accumulation of time and realize that knowledge is not easily obtainable. This would be one of the implicit spiritual connotations Liang would like to convey through this subject.I have two personal insights after “reading”the “Book & Illegible Book”Series, loneliness and wandering, with time as a space to contain these two. What Liang has presented in this subject include books and pieces of paper, but a close look may reveal that they are more of dried leaves in the nature, browned as if scorched by the passing of time. Liang treated these book pages to make them look like transparent cicada wings. At this moment, time becomes a transparent wing and one can see the past loneliness and have a glimpse of agitation and perplexity in the future. I notice that in the subject of “Book & Illegible Book,” Liang always added mild worries to it. When one has become knowledgeable, one may have higher standardsfor instinctive moral sense. For Liang, his life was once glamorous but became dreary shortly afterwards, and he might have sufferedmore from the wandering of his state of mind than physical injuries and hardships. ThoughLiang can talk about his stories in a relaxed manner now, behind the passing of time, the past vicissitudes have become tattoos on his body! One may regard books as ladders of time, water loss, yellowing, falling and wandering of life,and perhapswhat he has been striving forwould be the clarity and transparency to let go his hold of himself.
Liang’s“Mask”Series during 2007 to 2008 are still based on the natural formsof plants, cocoons and fruit cores while horns and wings in the masks mainly come from germinating plants in the real world, or new life forms out of metamorphosis of existing creatures. Masks, of course, can be regarded as a personal farewell bid to old days,aspirations for new generation, and, of course, a disguise of one’s genuine innermost world. Liang has been livinga life of a hermit in mountains and his creations are completely based on transformation of the natural world. However, what he depicts are actually his mind, his memories, his redemption and his aspirations while the nature, at best, is a platform for his representation.
When explainingboring and digging-out in his wood sculpture, Liang said, “Upon seeing such a heavy piece of wood, I become very unhappy. I dig it, bore it through and make it lighter, and aesthetic feeling appears.”Based on his statement, this is gravity release. But I would put it in another way. In my opinion, such a repetitive creative language comprising physical labor and concentrate attention, is redemption of his obstinacy.Digging-out means reducing weight and boring refers to tolerance. Schopenhauer Arthur (1788-1860) once said, “There is no a happy life. The very best one can achieve will be a heroic life.” Rain or shine in a life may be regarded as accidental, but it is actually inevitable. ForLiang, I think, his heroic life is that his wife never giveshim up or feels disappointed with him. At the timehis wife retrievedhimfrom his run-away, his heroiclife began to come into being slowly while his happiness started at the time when he was able to make creations forhimself.
To me, an artist who can live and create with all his heart is a blessed person.
Ping-Cheng LIANG 梁 平 正