On Liang Ping-Cheng’s Sculptures
Intersticesexist betweenjoints,whilst theblade has little thickness.
Plentyofroomtomaneuverthethinblade between the interstices.
Artist magazine 532 September 2019
1~In contrast with the theory of classical aesthetics, contemporary aesthetics gives more room for objectivity. The perspective of observers is as important as the form of objects. It is about the self-reflection from an entity of different sensibilities. Essentially, it is a synthesis of life. For example, feelings for a color are not from the color itself. Rather, it is the materialization of inner life experience with emotional involvement. The Austrian art historian Alois Riegel (1858-1905) believes that artistic creations are an activity anchored on “the will of art” in the backdrop of specific history and up against the world. Art works are created by humans of this will. The foundation of European aesthetics theories and research methodologies have a completely different view: art history in general as the evolution of techniques. The other school argues that art history itself is the evolution of the will. These different perspectives lead to the approach to appreciate contemporary art.
2~Without a doubt, techniques cannot be overlooked in the initiation and process of artistic creation. This is the fundamental requirement and literacy required of an artist. However, the uniqueness of the ultimate work is dependent on the artist’s individuality. The sculpture master Liang Ping-Cheng is constantly internalizing this process, through years of learning and practice and the nature and intuition he has found in life. This has a lot to do with the ups and downs inhis life. His works are a connection with life. He has developed the philosophy of improvisation in
3~painting after years of creative works. He paints with memories, gut feelings and routines. He sometimes spends hours in front of the canvas, so that his visual memories can naturally flow on the canvas. This improvisation in painting is carried into the fundamental concept in his sculptures, going with the flows. Similarly, he approaches a piece of wood without predetermined thoughts. His feels of the material are like dialogues. The wood is a set of organisms, and he only makes the first cut after he has gained an in-depth understanding of the objects. The completed works are the result of the most natural conversation between the artist and the materials. This to-and-fro is the life philosophy and attitude an artist shows in his works. “Gravity Release” represents the transformation of the heaviness of wood into the beauty of flows and lightness. The process and the outcome are also a release of potential pressure the artists and the audience have on things and phenomena. Reversed Aesthetics (倒置美學)is a disposition of functionality of objects in human life. The stripping-off of day-to-day practicality reveals the aesthetics of items. This abstraction is a constant existence in our culture but often ignored. Liang’s sculptures are also developed in these contexts, the representation of personalities of materials in an objective manner so that his works are simply the forms of intellectual perspectives in space.
4~The modern sculptures in Europe over time and the will of artists in recreation have been gradually steering away from the realistic representation since the Renaissance. Cubism has changed the nature of art. The reconstructions and re-compositions by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963) inspire how sculptures understand the space and apply the cubist theory of space into their works. They realize, from practice, that the simple pursuit of appearances is not sufficient. It is necessary to express the inner motions and selves of the artist in a freer form. At this juncture, sculptures are no longer limited to objects (i.e. materials). Rather, sculpturing is a literary or poetic process
5~of abstraction of measurements, spatial sense and form aesthetics. For example, Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) maintain the original shape of sculptures, retain the original nature of materials, and reveal inner emotions by simplifying the vocabulary. The simplicity of shapes and forms uncovers the innermost nature of materials and ingredients, and bonds with creators and the audience in a natural and emotional way. This is also Liang’s creative philosophy. He often says he needs to fall in love with the piece of wood before he makes the first cut.He instills his emotions through his eyes into the inner of materials. By touching the fine or rough textures, the artist and the materials establish a strong connection. The wood itself is organic, with its growth and decline conditions written in the compositions. To start with, it should not be understood as a fixated form. However, people insist on the differentiation of the value of items with tangible shapes from the value of life in the abstract form. How to transform rigid materials into spiritual eternity becomes the conscious transference of artists.Liang’s work in 2018 “Shell” is created with pine wood, with an elegant and gentle color tone. A sense of weightlessness is conveyed with the retention of pine wood texture and by releasing completely its weight. “Gravity Release” in 2019 is a hollow piece of camphor, with the irregular cracks remaining as its identity. The emptiness inside allows it to generate crisp sounds like a percussion instrument. These two works both set the woods free from their original weights and create a sense of flowing rhythms. The essence has not changed because of the shapes. Rather, the depositions of different materials are highlighted. This reminds me of the texts from the Inner Chapters III of Zhuangzi, “LordWénHuì’schef, named PáoDīng, was cutting up a cow for him. Wherever he placed his hand, pushing his shoulders forward, with his foot firmly on the ground, and pressing with his knee, there would be a ripping sound as the skin pulled off and as the knife sliced, all in a smooth rhythm.The motion and the sounds were like the ancient Mulberry Forest dances, or like the ancient Blended Notes music.” Each movement in cutting the cow, whether moving the knife upward or in a swirl was going along the muscles, like the beats of music. Lord WénHuì’s was so amazed and the chef replied, saying that he was looking for Tao. “At the present time, I rely upon my insight, not my eyes. I ignore my senses and am guided by my intuition. I follow the natural lines, the great slots, passing through large spaces. I observe the innate status.” The chef established a spiritual connection with the cow, by following its natural grains and textures, all in the original status.
6~The Book & Illegible Book seriesembodies deeper contents and multiple implications. Ancient Chinese wrote in bamboo and wooden slips, silk cloths, turtle shells, animal bones, wooden plates and barks. Silk textiles and barks were later evolved into paper. Easy to access, books are everywhere and commonplace, and the use of paper is familiar. In fact, many book lovers enjoy the small of paper and ink. This series also releases the weight of the wood. Different from the conventional approach of a contrived emphasis on the measurement of materials, Liang does the opposite by expressing the flow of lightness on the wooden sculpture. The turning pages seem to come with flutter, as fast as the passing of time, yet as slow as notes of music. “1601 Non-Books非書” and “1801 Non-Books非書” are the open books on the desk, with pages flying, light and dynamic, in the rhythm of winds. “1812 Non-Book” is a book just being read, frozen at the point in time, into a soothing poem. Far too many artists treat sculpture as the restoration of the real objects by pursuing techniques of extreme realism. However, Liang is on an outlook for the personality and unique of wood, in order to achieve resonance and dialogues in the creative process. “1901 Non-Book非書” again changes how sculpture is presented. An open book is placed upside down as a stylish sculpture of pure aesthetics.This turns the nature of the object around and changes the day-to-day perspectives in life.
The work with the simplest beauty is the Utensil & Anti-Utensil series. Of course, the motivations and ideas behind come from the artist’s review of valuein life, as well as his subtle sarcasm of materialism. Our society emphasizes materials and pursues pragmatism. Aesthetics and deeper inners are often buried under the surface. Liang uses daily objects to create wooden sculptures resembling utensils, with all the functionality gone. Only the beauty of the shape remains. It is at this juncture that the audience realizes that there are too many beautiful things in life are left behind. “Tofu” looks like a plate, but its silky and smooth surface seems fragile and brittle. The Square Table looks like its name, but the four legs are so beautiful that they do not assume weight. The artist is constantly challenging our prejudices and fixations about the real world by directing us back to the ultimate and initial beauty.
7~Liang’s works are a reminder of life memories. However, this is not achieved via representations or life-like realism. He extracts the beauty of visual experience we have all shared. They are present but constantly ignored in life. The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1929－) says, “If the construction of a concept is based on sufferings created by humans, this concept can and should be called off. The call for liberation is not eagerness to eliminate sufferings or an emergent response. Rather, this is a deep-rooted value, ingrained in our life. It questions any unnecessary relations that confine us. The wish for freedom is sincere.” By observing the outer world in the daily life, it is possible to recreate and represent certain meanings. On a similar benchmark, Liang constructs a new communication method with his art, so that we have new imagination for life and the world.
Splendor in Simplicity
Ping-Cheng Liang’s Sculpture and Aesthetics by Emerson Wang
Artist magazine 539 April 2020
1~The nature of humanity as the deepest level of self-consciousness reflects the ultimate mystery of human survival. The German philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804~1872) explains the biggest difference between humans and animals lies in consciousness. Rationality, love and will power constitute the completeness, the highest strength, and the absolute nature of humanity. This is the reason for our existence. (1)Artists often deal with issues pertinent to the nature of humanity.
2~Throughout his years of creative journey as a sculptor, Ping-Cheng Liang has been constantly exploring the texture and content of wood. He describes his time in the studio before cutting falling in love with the wood. He views life as the ultimate object a creative artist must face with. The process of feeling and understanding the material is paying respect for life. Going with the flow is about following the nature of wood in the sculpturing process, rather than destructively changing its content. This is the reason why the inner of the material often illuminates in his artworks. The series “Mask” showcases the beauty of figurines with the shape and the texture of wood.
3~Transformation and representation must integrate into the artist’s conscious re-creation, instead of directly exposing its original look. First, the specific reference should be reduced. Both in painting and in sculpture,portraits are likely to provoke associations for a certain character. Audience tend to directly and unknowingly project their personal experience to these works. This runs contrary to what Liang’s intention to express the inner of the material. The presence of a mask can mitigate excess, emotional, and subjective involvement, by restoring the nature of the material and the essence of the artistic creativity.
The female figurine in the “Mask” series is neither personificationnor a ready image. The material itself is treated as the body of life. Liang merely lays bare the beauty of wood with an artistic form. The rising torso, proportional breasts and hips, and soft spine curvature resonate the time-honoured classical beauty of the human body. The facial expression is deliberately faded in order to give way to storytelling. Masks are not to cover or change the identity or to hide the facial expression. Rather, they convey multiple and comprehensive meanings for the image of a head. I do not think Liang intends to discuss the authenticity or hypocrisy of the character, or the conflict between spontaneity and performing.Liang is showing the beauty of life with different shapes.
The artist’s creative desire and idea are the embodiment of his times and the articulation of his personality. Alois Riegl (1858~1905), a scholar of the Vienna School of Art History, analyzes in his book “Stilfragen” how artists present the world in a natural and scientific way, i.e. with senses and sensitivity. They create a will to art, Kunstwollen. Rieglbelieves that both high art and low art exhibit “Kunstwollen” as shown in the evolution of styles.To be precise, the change in forms are driven from within the forms. This can be referred to as a reference to the appreciation of Liang’s work. The shape created with the material is the outcome of the inspiration the artist draws from the shape of the wood, a material of life. The key to the interpretation of artworks is how the artist successfully express his artistic views by using the material in the combination of visual and tactile factors.
2019 不鏽鋼 300x300x190cm
2019 不鏽鋼 300x300x190cm
2019 不鏽鋼 300x300x190cm
4~The depth of the human soul is real, as much as the appearance. The world of collective consciousness is also objectively real. The outer expression of collective consciousness is shared values and formalities in the cultural world. To Carl Gustav Jung (1875~1961), the deepest and inaccessible level of personality is the accumulation of the personal memories stored in subconscious. Collective unconsciousness stores the experience ofhomo sapiens and prior hominid species. This is the charm of Liang’s works, from the primal beauty of the material arising from the personal soul and integrated with collective emotions. This expression technique transcends the pure aesthetics of form and once again reveals the splendor of life in simplicity with an abstract concept.
5~The female body of the series “Mask” is a return to the soft and beautiful image of Mother Earth. The shape of her head looks mystical. These are not the anti-form or anti-material elements in the contemporary art. Rather, they are merely the creative techniques seeking to convey concepts. For Liang, sculpture is a will to present the beauty of shapes, more than just touching upon functionality. Many art historians and critics discuss formalism at length. The French philosopher Roland Barthes (1915~1980) argues that forms act like thoughts. They reinforce the intentional functioning via close exploration of objects. The variety of shapes in Liang’s work, from the torso to the head speak of his understanding of life. Roland Barthes and another scholar Guy Scarpetta (1915~1980)elaborate on forms, “There is no need to discard, prematurely, the term ‘formalism’. Any attack on it often comes from conflicting with contents. As far as I am concerned, talking about formalism is not forgetting about the contents, because contents will be pushed back at any time. The key is not materialism. The focus should be whether it is possible to respond to and safely assume a large amount of information. Formalism is more than shapes. It is corresponding extensions and in fact questioning of contents.” (2)
The series “Angel's Heart” is a showcase of pure aesthetics in form. Contemporary sculptures have more materialist expressions than prior works. This is partly because of the structure feedback from the world we live in. It is also a result of the implantation of humanism via material forms. The transformation code of this duality raises the question of current and living existence, transcendence of thoughts and materialization of the society today. This can be termed as “spiritual materiality”. It is like Liang’s creation of a heart-shaped sculpture, from delicate to gigantic, from wood to stainless steel. The weight of the material becomes light, as if it has taken wings. The shape is the key to the connection among the artist, the work, and the audience. It is through the shapes that transform the stereotype about the material.
In the concept of materiality, the image of a heart is a clear expression in form. What moves the audience is more in the abstract, sentimental level. The communication between souls does not come from languages. It touches the inner emotions, as presented by the sculpture. Liang’s large pieces open the gate to the viewers by creating a visual sense of the inner world that cannot be imaged. The reflection on stainless steel mirrors the space and even brings the views into the sculpture by providing gazing of the surroundings and perspectives of selves. The inner implications are distinctively oriental and pertinent to the 21st century when re-thinking about the living environment. This series emphasizes the artist’s personal concern.
From “Mask” to “Angel's Heart”, Liang presents the inner and outer of humans, and reflects the rational thinking in the environment and the emotions of the psyche. The artist constantly talks about “love” in his works. Anchoring on the humanity-centric spirit of both series, “Whisper in Forecasts” is an extension of Liang’s compassion.
6~All the lives are originated from where and belong to somewhere. These animals come with a plethora of shapes, familiar but mythical and surrealist. It is a breakthrough of fixated formats. Compared to prior works, this series is teaming with celebration and respect for life. The innards of time and life can be felt everywhere, and this creates organic and vital aesthetics. Even with different animal images, Liang’s creative context remains the same. He follows the grains and characteristics of the material and transform them into various curvatures. More importantly, he integrates fauna (the shape of the sculpture) and flora (wood as the material) and balances between dynamics and stillness. Two life forms are converted into a new life in his art. Their rhetoric is not alone. It is a chorus calm and loving.
Liang’s work is also known for friendliness with the audience. The touching and feeling of these sculptures are essentially re-affinity to love. Life is plain and humble, yet crystal and clear. All the splendour in Liang’s art comes from simplicity.
(2) Roland Barthes, “Disgressions,” in The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962–1980. op. cit., p. 115
“We should not be too quick to jettison the word ‘formalism’…attacks against formalism are always made in the name of content…The formalism I have in mind does not consist in ‘forgetting’…content…content is precisely what interests formalism, because its endless task is each time to push content back…It is not matter that is materialistic, but the refraction, the lifting of the safety catches; what is formalistic is not ‘form’ but the relative, dilatory time of contents, the precariousness of references.”
1~Styling or form as the defining image of sculptures has been in place in art history for over ten centuries. However, this is increasingly blurry as contemporary artists continue to explore new paths and seek to steer away from classism. By balancing between shapes, sizes and structures, artists seek to skillfully express their styles, internal and external, in order to present a fully integrated layout. They want to instill life into works. Given the ingrained relation and, in fact, inseparability between spatial designs and abstract concepts,sculptors endeavor to create the tangible shapes and looks in the spatial scenarios beyond control. The best example is “Bird in Space” by the Romania/French sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876~1957). The purity of shapes is pushed to the extreme. However, these works can only manifest the unique life they have been endowed in a thoroughly liberated space. The audience must view from 360-degree perspectives, to connect visual fragments into a complete image of sculptures in space. No single picture or angle can interpret the imagery of these artworks.
After abstractionism introduced new concepts, how does sculpture as an art differentiate itself in the contemporary vocabulary? The meaning of sculpturing is no longer singular. Many breakthroughs have been made in contemporary sculpture. Capacity and form alone can no longer define sculpture in a comprehensive manner. Since the 20th century, industrialism has taken the world by storm and this has sweeping effects on the way artists work, more so for sculptors and with painters. The measurement and presentation of steady objects in space are no longer the only way of sculpturing. In fact, tiny lines as if in painting walk through the skies become a way of sculpturing.
The British sculptor Henry Moore (1898~1986) created a new language in the world of sculpture, by making his works speak with the environment. Influenced by the ancient Indian stone sculptures in Mexico, Moore’s figures are prototypes, without any reference to a point in time or space. They arouse a sense of awe. The most important element of his works is the organic shapes, i.e. the texture of objects and the preservation of the raw materials. By boring mysterious holes and hollows, the bulky sculptures create a rhythmic sense of space.
The abstract sculpture by Barbara Hepworth (1903~1975) is closely related to nature. The flowing lines of her work are inspired by the long and winding coast lines and hills with ups and downs. Hepworth’s sculpture is irregular but warm and gentle. She liked to place her works in open spaces such as parks and forests. Even displayed indoors, Hepworth’s pieces were accompanied with pictures of greenery or parks on the walls. The holes and voids in her sculpture aim to divide the space into inside and outside, so that the audience can see it through and see the world through it. This is also a reflection of the selfhood of her work. The ancient Greek aesthetics are extended and manifested in the balance and harmony of Hepworth’s sculpture.
Interpretation of Life Philosophy by Ping-Cheng Liang with Sculptures by Emerson Wang
Artist magazine 539 April 2020
2~The U.S. sculptor David Smith (1906~1965)pushed the envelope of sculpturing by integrating industrial techniques and materials into the open space. He created the first nut-and-bolt soldered sculpture in the U.S. by cutting and assembling a complete array of stain sheets and cast metal pieces into an impactful psychological field. His work “Hudson River Landscape” in 1951is full of explosive vitality. The artist leaves behind the traditional “solidness” approach of sculpturing over the thousands of years by tossing up metal and steel, as if painting in the air.
The development of art gradually leads to new forms and structures in the context of time periods, the society and cultures. In addition to the application of Western theories, the artists in Taiwan develop their creative paths and concepts amid the diversity of local factors in the discourse of sculpture history and the process of creation. This includes the selection of materials and the philosophy of contents.
Ping-Cheng Liang’s first series of wooden sculpture “Gravity Release” is coming home to the fundamentals of media, by speaking with wood. From the grains to naturally grown curves, Liang gouges the wood, releases the gravity and reverses the mess. In the context of the social culture, the artist seeks to deconstruct and decentralize, consciously and unconsciously, by hiding into his works. “Book & Illegible Book” creates a floating and lightweight picture for wood and the image of Zen, flowing with oriental philosophy. It is beautifully balanced and in harmony. This series is the starting point of Liang’s invention of “inversion aesthetics”. By restoring and revisiting eating utensils throughout the history to their purity, “Utensil & Anti-Utensil” inspires reflections on the beauty in our daily life.
3~The development of “Mask” series brings Liang to the core of humanism. Agama Sutra says, “Fools do not practice pure deed, cannot sever ignorance, have endless cravings until their bodies wear out and die; then they are reincarnated in another body, trapped in the cycle of rebirth.” The mask is a symbol of the awareness and the desire to fight the body.“Angel's Heart”is the manifestation of the world view in the name of love and the compassion for all the four seas. “Whisper in Forest” is the extension of love for life to all the creatures. A fantasy of shapes symbolizes the openness of heart and the listening for the voice from many universes.
Sculpture is the way for the artist to practice his life philosophy.