Playback of Life Stories, Sculptured with a Knife with Details and Delicacy of Sewing Works
Author: Stone Lee
Master of Arts, The City University of New York
Founder of New Taiwan Mural Team
Former Director of Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
Former Creative Director of South Art Magazine
Published at 17:03, May 22, 2014
Liang Ping-Cheng, who co-founded “Art Group of Silly Birds” with his university classmates, is exactly a silly bird that flies slowly but steadily. After various twists and turns for decades, he returned to where he began as an artist, and never looked back.
Liang Ping-Cheng’s creation is basically wooden sculpture going with the original shape of wood. As a tribute to how wood once grew, he develops themes by anchoring on their original form. “Wings” (飛行系列), “Book & Illegible Book”, “Utensil & Anti-Utensil”, and “Mask” are his best-known works over recent years. However, the titles are perhaps just one of the cues for Liang’s pieces. “Surface treatment” is the key.
I am saying this not to mean that the artist takes the shape and form slightly. Rather, I would like to see the audience enter the state of mind and the scenario the artist creates with surface treatment, to feel and experience the sense of purpose the artist finds difficult to refrain.
The surface treatment of Liang’s wooden sculpture is best exemplified in the series “Book & Illegible Book”. Books are made of paper, binded with paper. To follow the conventional wisdom, the sculpturing of books is to slice wood into thin layers. In this regard, Liang indeed masters the different appearances of “paper”. The paper created by him with the sculpture knife is full of history, resembling the ancient relics from an archaeological site. It is as if they came out to the sun from the underworld and curled into different angles because of sudden disorientation. Some even show cracks and broken pieces due to poor adaptivity. In the context of surface treatment, papers are the surface and the body. When the artist carves out a piece of “paper”, he has basically completed the surface and the body. This suggests that the artist’s “surface treatment” is fundamentally ready. However, the papers bounded into a booklet are only a notepad, not yet books. Symbols are required on the “papers” to elevate them into “books”. Generally speaking, books are centred on texts, as implied by the title “Book &Illegible Book”. The artist is stating that these books are not the regular books, as they do not have the visible texts.
That said, the “Illegible Book” sculptured by the artist is not blank or wordless. Each textless page is full of carvings: some like Braille dots, others flowing like a river to the seas. In the waters are fish swimming against the currents. Some are like even crystalized as if lava hardened in an instant. These visual languages of different phenomena are all over the pages in an “illegible” way. These non-verbal expressions cut through the chase with streams of sights and consciousness, and of course, with the heart and soul of the artist.
Tile laying and pebble whetting are the skills for those without the title as an architect. These are toils not given much credit. Few sculptors are dedicated to “surface treatment”.After all, focusing on the appearances and going along with it are an easy option widely accepted by the society for artists. Those who choose the taxing approach without much credit are most likely consumed with lingering moods and melancholy.
Liang is known for describing himself as “nearly 60 years old, with two treasures”. This is does not mean that he is another superstar in the art market in Taiwan and the two “treasuries” are by no means monetary. Liang thinks “frustrations and memories” are his two treasures. After flamboyant years as a real estate developer and investor, Liang saw his life sink into hardship.He started anew as a wood sculpture living in the Flame Mountain of Miaoli. The unbearable difficulty in life and uncontrollable dissatisfaction with life may be somewhat settled and reconciled through physical toil and labor using chainsaws and electric knives. It is the healing effect that droves the artist to labor as a youngster with the body of a middle and old age man. The final and artistic achievement of the “Illegible Book” is a bitter, sentimental, and empathic reading.
A big rooster crows slower. Some artists mature early. But in Liang’s case, it is the destiny that has made his voice in a later stage in life. It sounds somewhat worn-out, even a bit pungent.
梁 平 正 Ping-Cheng LIANG