Critics’ Picks

View of “Yao Jui-Chung,” 2017


Yao Jui-chung

Tina Keng Gallery | Taipei 耿畫廊
No. 15, Lane 548 Ruiguang Road, Neihu District
February 18 - March 26

Since 2007, Yao Jui-chung has been developing a distinct style of shanshui painting that challenges the literati’s cultural authority on the genre. Using ink pens, acrylic paint, and gold leaf on thick handmade paper, the artist emulates the motifs and compositions of master landscape works but instills them with a set of aesthetic principles that subvert literati dogma. While traditional landscape painting values simplicity, restraint, and the mediation of the painterly subject’s pure essence, Yao’s shanshui celebrates decor, minimizes negative space, and features a fleshy mountain style that resembles anatomic muscle tissues (reminiscent of his 1997 figurative drawings). In this exhibition, he presents twenty-four new shanshui paintings that continue to imbue classic landscape forms with absurd and whimsical sensibilities.

The paintings hang on color-coordinated walls, creating a lighthearted undertone that complements the show’s overarching narrative theme of daily leisure. The central piece of the exhibition, Eight Days a Week, 2016, is a panorama of forested land in which a dozen influential members of Taiwan’s arts circle—all friends—play mah-jongg, bathe in saunas, and perform other idle activities. In an adjacent room, the series “Baby,” 2017, presents vignettes from the artist’s family life, composed to resemble the silhouettes of his daughter’s favorite cartoon characters. While it is not unusual to depict idyllic life in traditional shanshui painting, Yao’s confessional portrayal of middle-class pleasures exemplifies a daring shift in his artistic temperament. Better known for his conceptual interrogations of historical grand narratives, he has created a new body of work that intimately reveals himself as both an artist and a family man, as someone who finds inspiration in cool, intellectual provocation and domestic comforts. Through the act of drawing, Yao honestly mediates on paper the possible union between art and life.