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
1~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.
2~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.
3~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.
Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan《大寫藝》
Liang Ping-Cheng: Nova Art of Additions, Newly Created in Taiwan
Author: WANG Fu-Tung 王福東
M.A., School of Arts and Design, Eastern Michigan University
Associate Professor, Tainan National University of the Arts
Editor-in-Chief, Art Critique of Taiwan
General Editor, Lion Art Monthly
General Editor, Supplement, Pacific Times, California, U.S.
Editor, China Times, U.S.
Half bean sprout 2013 Camphor 430x 175x70cm
Original Art World , Sanyi, Miaoly, Taiwan
Square Chari 2008 Zelkova144x45x36cm
Half bean sprout 2013 Camphor 430x 175x70cm
On September 5, 2012 whist I was still enjoying my summer holiday last year by browsing Face Book for overseas classmates in the U.S., I noticed a post from Liang Ping-Cheng. He showed a piece of wood almost “as gigantic as a carrier”. The YY Artist (Liang’s nickname his friends call him by) said, “I will sculpt until I drop”. I saw this message from the other side of the Pacific Ocean and was so moved.
Like a Moth to a Flame
1~At that time, I already started the writing of “Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan”. When I saw the achievement of my classmate Liang on Facebook, I hesitated to press Thumbs Up. I just looked at his stout figure and thought my goodness! There are not many dedicated artists like him these days. Many people run away from the art world because of difficulty in making a living. Liang remains as committed as ever, like a moth into a flame, without regret. I was so amazed and impressed when I witnessed his achievement, even from a foreign land.
I was already thinking that I needed to include Liang’s wood sculpture in my book “Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan”. After seeing how committed he is as an artist, I had to quickly write up this article.
The story about Liang starts with the year 1982 when he and his classmates in Department of Fine Arts, Chinese Culture University founded “Art Group of Silly Birds”. Other founding members included Yang Chi-Fu;Lee Min-Chung;Yang Ren-ming; Akibo Li; Sun Lichuan and Ray J.C. Liao. According to an interview with Lee Min-Chung, the name “Silly Birds” was Liang’s idea. During the sophomore year, a press media wanted to interview YY. At that time, he felt that he needed to give where he lived a name, so he came up with the name “Silly Birds Villa”. However, the idea of “silly birds” was from YY’s experience when he served in the military in Penghu. He often watched sea birds take off against gusty winds in winter. He felt these birds were so stupid that they had to take wings by going against the winds. Later he had come to a different interpretation. This was about “braving on”. So, he told himself that he should be like a “silly bird” in the pursuit of ideals in art.
Seeing things in different perspectives
No wonder YY posted on Facebook “I will sculpt until I drop” in front of a piece of wood “as gigantic as a carrier”, as I described at the start of this article. It is with this dedication that his works stood tall in the InSian Gallery in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008. Liang’s sculptures are noted for grandeur and magnificence. Some extra-large pieces are placed horizontally so that people who pass by on the other side of the street can see his works standing firmly at the center of the InSian Gallery.
Liang’s style is neither classical nor lavish. However, his wood sculpture and wrought iron works are intriguing to look at from different angles. This can be described with the quatrain from the poet Su Shi’s Inscription on the Wall of Xi-Lin-Si Temple:
“Looked it from across, it forms a ridge.
But from the side, it becomes peaks.Far and near, high and low, each look is different. The reason I do not know the true face of Mount LuIs because I am standing right on this mountain.”
When Hu Lancheng, a romantic scholar in Shanghai in the 1940s, was courting Eileen Chang, he quoted this poem in celebration of Chang’s writings. It was the sentences “Looked it from across, it forms a ridge. But from the side, it becomes peaks” that touched Chang’s heart. It was with this artistic admiration that Hu finally eventually took Chang’s hand. It was no wonder that Chang went back to Wenzhou to visit Hu after their divorce. This story illustrates the power of looking at things from different perspectives. The same method seems very suitable for us to examine Liang’s works, full of majesty and dignity, so powerful that both Jay Chou and Fei Yu-Ching couldn’t help but sing “peak after peak, to the skies”.
Since the early 1980s when Liang was in university, he was already an avant-garde and highly involved in the Silly Bird movement. Whilst he tried to make a living in architect, art is in his blood. Sanyi, the home of wood sculpture, was once Liang’s breeding ground for electric saws and sculpting tools. In fact, he started his career as a wood sculptor by removing elements. Even back then, he had his own unique approach. Since Huang Tu-shui, there has not been techniques like Liang’s in the history of fine arts in Taiwan. As far as the use of wood as the medium, Liang started a new chapter of his own.
Key to the Contemporary
Liang later developed “pluralism”, by combining different mediums and duplicating iron pieces. This was a great leap from the art of deletions to the art of additions. In fact, his deletions also come with a sense of additivity, by incorporating other materials, such as “Gravity Release” with a video, a golden mask with “In face of the Moon at Mid-Autumn Night中秋夜以此對明月”. The pluralism of heterogenous materials and iron duplications showcases Liang’s Nova Art of Additions. It is worth noting that the transition to new materials, particularly white iron and stainless steel, is a stark contrast with the Chinese artist Zhan Wang’s work, known for philosophical dialectics and formalist beauty. Zhan uses Western techniques and modern materials to reconstruct the East, particularly with the literature tradition of Chinese sculpture. This is the reason why Zhan’s is said to release the Chinese spirit and open a new vision in the history of Chinese sculpture.
In comparison, Liang’s own duplication of his white iron pieces contains more than the metaphysical essence similar with Zhan’s. What is more is Liang’s down-to-earth metaphor of the society in Taiwan. In other words, Liang’s work is abstract in style, close to stream-of-consciousness and almost surrealist. His many “devices”, such as Triangular Kamit (三角卡咪), “Whale Tail, Tiger Stripes (鯨尾虎斑), 801 Consciousness意載體, “This Is Not a Chair這不是一把椅子”, “This Is Not a Table這不是桌子” and “Book & Illegible Book”, are all surrealist. In a complete contrast with Juming’saxe-cut style with a touch of simplicity and straightforwardness from the farming villages of Taiwan in the 1970s, Liang’s work reflects the status of the mind and soul rendering in layers of post-industrial effects in Taiwan.In addition to wood sculpture, he also expresses the chills, glooms and darkness of stainless steel wrought with white iron. In Taiwan’s cultural integration and transition from the agricultural society to the commercial and industrial economy, Liang found the key to transform from traditions to the contemporary. He opened a path that fills in the gap from the historic discourse by Juming in Taiwan since the 1970s. Meanwhile, Liang also demonstrates the strength to defend both Xiang Jing and Zhan Wang from China, who represent “undermined humanity” and “light touch sculpture”, respectively.
In sum, Liang did not choose the realist path created by Juming. In both quality and quantity, Liang’s work is Nova Art of Additions, new and indigenous in Taiwan.
Poetry of Life and Shape:A Reading of Liang Ping-Cheng’s Sculptures
Professor of School of Arts Administration & Education, Central Academy of Fine Arts
Artco Monthly & Investment
No. 322, July 2019
270x90x55 Stout Camphor 2007
Tension of Minds and Objects
1~How shall we read Liang Ping-Cheng’s artworks? In face of artists with such rich contexts, what perspectives should we use to achieve a deeper level of insight? Appreciation, understanding and evaluation are the three integral elements of the aesthetic experience. There are several key aspects I think we should never overlook: the exploration of the artistic nature, the echo with the history of Taiwanese sculptures, the development of the contemporary sculptures, and the illumination of individualist, unique and creative expression.In other words, an outstanding artist always gives us a profound picture. Between the artist himself, aesthetics and the history of art, what has he done, and when and where does this all become fascinating? There is roughly a secondary axis following the evolution of post-war sculptures in Taiwan. It is the realism extracted and refined from the beauty of objects and the extension into the abstraction in details and with substance of shapes. This is then developed into pluralism, introduction and liberalization of materials. Throughout the process, the mind, will and aesthetic aspiration of the author becomes increasingly important. Captivating sculptures always come with a soul. They are the objects closely connecting the artist and the self, the world and the materials. Perhaps this can be described as the dialectics between minds and objects. It is such dialectics that empowers the innovations of post-war sculptures in Taiwan. For this, Liang has showed as an intriguing response. He has opened a road full of tensions, between his language of shapes and heart of spirits, and enriched with his own objectivity and color.
Liang’s life story is no doubt dramatic. This is fundamentally connected with his creative works. The nutrients his life journey has empowered him and become a priceless treasure for his works. He went deep into the mountains to find inspirations in seclusion. His family was so worried that they were looking for him. This was an episode that demonstrates his commitment and devotion. Born in Pingtung, Taiwan, in 1958, he lived throughunconstrained days of youth and finished his study in New York for wider horizons. After that, he experienced a bumpy ride in the society. This, however, gives Liang’s journey as an artist the necessary weight and texture. A sharp artistic mind will always find a way out. In 1998 or so, his encounter with wood sculpture on an unplanned trip to Sanyi was a turning point of his creative journey. This was as much as by chance and as by design. Since then, Liang released his artistic training and gift on wood sculpture, through and through. After a few years of exploration, he developed a more open space for wood sculpture in Taiwan, rich in the language of expressionism.
For Liang, the mutual realization between minds and objects is surely a confrontation of materials. He mentioned that during the first few years, he was immersed in wood sculpture without attending to anything else. The creative environment in the countryside, the solitude of his studio and the unknown elements of novelty all helped. After 2000, his experiment and practice gradually paid off. In the terminology of forms, he liberalized the possibilities of wood. He no longer relies on a single meaning, clue or image to organize his works. Rather, he turned this around into a traditional narrative, by making each detail, texture and commonality perform for the works. Without hesitation, he walked towards the materials, trees or wood, and befriends them, in order to uncover their inner life. Creation is more than innovation. It is archaeology of the materials. Trees survived the elements in nature and their materialized memory was awaken by art with Liang’s hands. Years later, he concluded his unique approach as “going with flow”.The innate attribute of the material becomes the fundamental rhythm of his works and dazzles the audience.
Interestingly, the sculpture art in Taiwan since the 1990s has been on the search for its own contemporary path, without losing the depth in aesthetics and sentiments. Liang’s work at this juncture highlights its value in the course of history. Forms and materials acquire new life from him and redefine the current landscape of sculptors. Different from figurative ingenious carvings, his initial series “Gravity Release” allows the material to express itself to the full. Wood as a medium retains its momentum, and the material is restored to its primal state. The artwork becomes more of a dialogue. The elegance of the shapes, different shades of textures, grains intertwined or extended, and the artist’s detailed efforts all come together, into a poem unique between Liang and the mediums. With infinite echoes, the sounds and melodies hidden in the wood are opened by the artist for you and me. In fact, it goes deeper into the secrets of the nature. With the artistic sincerity, Liang quietly contributed to the historic transformation of the sculptures in Taiwan from the mountains in Miaoli, away from the hustle and bustle of cities, and became one of the best artists of our time.
A Symphony of Emotions and Mediums
Liang became known at an early age, by winning the Eighth Lion Art New Artist Award in 1983. His later chapters in life are what makes him different from other artists. His integrated and synthesized his life experience for more than ten years into a vibrant power of creativity. It can be said that the lessons in life play a pivotal role in his art world. It is with this learning that he can honestly communicate with materials. Between wood and Liang is almost a process of seeking out for each other.
In the series “Gravity Release”, wood is transformed into a curvy and light existence, from solemnity to grace. The trees are brought to the audience, as part of the nature’s cadence and never straying aloof. We also witness the change of the artist’s mind and thoughts. The letting go of gravity creates a unique image of the mediums, as if at the beat of sea waves. It is also a journey of the artist speaking to himself. From the heart to the hands, and to the physical involvement of sculpturing, the world of wood and the world of Liang merge into one. Beauty is thus created.
The depth of life experience is often the cornerstone of an artist’s acuity. A sharp sense to perceive the world is a prerequisite. As a fighting artist, Liang continues to discover his relationship with the materials. It is challenging and even somewhat existential. The objects formed by nature echoes with the world in which the artist lives. The subsequent series “Book & Illegible Book” displays at the same depth the source of power behind the medium. What is important is that Liang does not reduce his work into a symbol. Instead, he allows his work to become an organic world, beaming with meanings.The artist explores the meaning of life through the gradual formation of imageries and shapes. Each contact with the medium can be described as an expedition for meaning of life. Going through the chapters of life with a sculpture knife is not only the excavation and exploration of meanings, but also the writings by the artist with all his heart
Dialectics Between Senses and Scrutiny
In the series “Book & Illegible Book”, each wave and curl seem to embody some secrets of survival. At times, they look like butterflies about to take wings. Going with flow in sculpturing can be interpreted into a sensory and intentional experience, working together with the power of the ideas. Liang’s work does more than just breaking free from the inherent heaviness of wood and metal. More importantly, he expresses the close connection between emotions, the body and the mind. Each texture of his sculptures comes with the mark of deep thoughts. This should also be one of Liang’s creative signatures.
Perhaps because of his nature, or as a result of refinement over the years, Liang’s work always comes with a sense of transcendence and a classy and blue temperament only possible after astute thinking. A lingering touch of romantism and the endless thought about life experience give Liang’s sculpture a strong personality. His series “Mask” combines wood sculpture with stainless steel or juxtaposes brass sculpture with stainless steel to stage a brilliant experiment of innovations in medium in the world of contemporary sculpture. The marriage of heterogenous materials constitutes the focal point. Liang seeks to narrate and touch the human nature in this creative work of extremely high integrity. He attempts to find the self, completely free, beneath the worldly-wise mask.
Self is a complex thing. We often need to understand and define ourselves through masks. The “Mask” series remind us that we should turn around and revisit ourselves. The observant audience will find that most figures in the series do not have a clear face. The contemporary relevance of Liang’s work is greatly highlighted here. He never simplified the complication of sculpture by trimming it into a form, beauty, meaning or concept. Instead, his creativity puts all these elements together and instills new souls to the artworks. Finally, the series “Mask” points to a deeper level of ethical consciousness and asks what the most appropriate way of living is, for us.
From a sensory touch to ethical consciousness, Liang’s work stands out from those created by his peers in Taiwan. In this context, senses are more about aesthetics. They are the artistic fulfilment to encompass the world. The essence of natural materials and the substance of human survival “meet” in Liang’s pieces. Each carving is a testimony of the dialogues between the artist and them. From “Gravity Release”, “Book &Illegible Book”, to “Mask”, Liang puts himself into his works and confront the living materials and his life story by going with flow. The worldly sadness and the sorrow have become the ingredients of creativity and transforms into lyrics with true meanings. Liang does not push for the only but remote truth behind masks. Rather, he ponders on the deeper and more sincere way of life. Whilst he tries to reveal the diversity of true colors in life, the question of ethical nature flows into his creative process and adds an important dimension of humanity to the contemporary world of Taiwanese sculptures. With the medium and craftsmanship and through self-reflection and gaze, Liang’s works continue to march towards new hopes and horizons. This journey of revisiting the profoundness of human nature perhaps began on the day in 1998 when he walked into the mountains in Miaoli and felt touched by the wood sculpture. What he didn’t know on the day is that he would travel on this creative path and into the history of contemporary sculptures in Taiwan.
Gazing into Humanity and Existence
2~The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas said, “Real life is not there, but we live in it.”  Of course, real life is the moment and the process we live. Liang’s works share this attitude. Whilst he awakes the true nature of medium, he feels about self even more. This thinking is what makes sculpture one of the closest art forms to existence: the change of the mind, the body and the medium merging into one. The existence of humans remains the starting point of things unfolding gradually. In the series “Utensil & Anti-Utensil”, Liang comes up with the innovative concept of aesthetics in inversion. He wonders how to restore many practical objects in life into their true status of beauty into our world. The constant removal of functionality allows continuous flows of purposefulness without purpose. There is an abundance of fun in exploring between Utensil and Anti-Utensil. It is also accessing the core and source of the aesthetic activities. With years of work from the late 1990s to the 21st century, Liang’s art pieces are increasingly confident and imaginative. The animals in his recent series
2009 Cypress&Camphor 58x50x167cm
2009 Stainless&Bronz 48x48x140cm
2009 Stainless&Bronz 48x48x140cm
2009 Cypress&Camphor 58x50x167cm
“Whisper in Forest” are semi-figurative and half-abstract, as Liang shows his innocent and fun side. Wood carving transformed with stainless steel instills a powerful visual. It is in fact more of a fable about humble truth. The shape of animals is a reference beyond images, trembling with the mind of the artist. His recent series “Angel's Heart” uses the image of a heart to enfold sharp emotions, pensive rationality and great expectations about life. Our artist still looks ahead, in the face of his own creative desires, and gazing into the infinite connection between humanity and existence.
Liang chose sculpture and in truth, sculpture chose him. His strong personality, unique style in forms and persistence throughout his journey as an artist have built a solid relationship with the medium. The moment of his personal choice and the critical change of the contemporary aesthetics come together into a flow of tensions in Liang’s works. He also gives a new beat and sound to the sculptures in Taiwan. A sculptor as the poet for shapes and forms of spatial art, Liang has opened a wide filed at a meeting place of minds, objects and imageries.
 Levinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1969, p.33. Chines translation from Chung-Hsiung Lai, 2014, “Looking for Him in the Crowd: Ethical Insight of Venue 眾裡尋「他」：列維納斯的倫理洞見〉，Humanities and Social Sciences Newsletter Quarterly, 15: 3, page 60.