Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Wilson Shieh - Sum of Bodies

Message at the doorstep: Confession of an image maker.

Panda the Carnivore [熊貓食肉獸], 2008 at left and Mary 
the Princess [瑪麗公主], 2008 at right. Oil on canvas.

Paintings in detail.

He started up in the local art scene with illustration-styled portraits of sitters either from folklore or pure imagination.  Like the early Middle Ages portraitures these paintings, invariably full-figured, did not depict much on individuality.  No attempt was made to reveal the personage behind.  Nor was there any background painted to relate a situation.  The painted images are flat and without shadows.  There were hardly any facial expressions on his subjects and anonymity was sought as if the message, if any, can be read through the signifiers of their costumes and gesticulations.  They are perceived in the same way that stories were told in medieval paintings.  His modus operandi of portraits is a means to address notions, not personalities.

Eileen Chang and Her Characters [張愛玲與她的人物角色], 2009, 
Acrylic on canvas. (Seven characters from her novels)

Where did you die? [你們死在何處?], 2010, Oil on canvas 
(Paper dolls of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury)

Painting in detail.

Teresa Teng’s Island Country Love Song Vol.1-8 
[鄧麗君島國情歌第一至八集],2011, Acrylic on canvas.

Self-mockery on his inspirations from ink-painting.

The Teasing Game

The paper doll representation of actors and singers in recent years has earned Wilson Shieh 石家豪 (1970-  ) public attention, the celebrity status of these personalities are obsessed by the local community no less than their counterparts in the US.    Those finely drawn outlines of facial features, the colour fill-ins of pink flesh and the immaculately drawn garment are still there to be recognized as his generic style.  With no exception, the images depicted carry the traits of Aphroditus, their genders are deliberately blurred.  Most of them are highly charged with erotic overtones; and signs of flirtation can be detected from the bare flesh and overt femininity.  Yet a sense of detachment prevails, everything is unattainable.  There seems to be a tantalizing sense of sexuality construed by the painter to tease the audience.  The images he creates are icons in their own rights, emitting more energy than the portrayed subjects.  In this sense they are iconoclasts subverting the real personalities from within.

Nostalgia is a pervasive obsession in this city of
 redevelopment rush and China assertions.

The Cultural Life of Wilson Shieh 
[石家豪的文化生活],2010, Acrylic on canvas.

Painting in detail.

Jimmy Somerville Bronski Beat [吉米.桑莫維爾 布朗斯基節拍], 2010.  Colour pencil on cardboard. (Extract from a set of 16 under “The Cultural Life of Wilson Shieh”)

I.M.Pei [貝聿銘],2010.  Colour pencil on cardboard. (Extract from a set of 16 under “The Cultural Life of Wilson Shieh”)

Salty Summer: Big Girls [鹹暑鑑之大女], 2012.  Gouache on silk mounted on watercolour paper.  This is my favorite series on fixations on sex – his work par excellence.

“Je est un autre.”  Arthur Rimbaud

The concept of the Other is a preoccupation that permeates in his recent works. The work that best illustrates this mindset is seen from “The Cultural Life of Wilson Shieh”, in which the artist assumes the roles of Feng Zikai-the cartoonist, I.M. Pei-the architect and H. Murakami–the novelist, among other establishment figures.  On the other side, Le Petit Prince, Michelangelo and Jimmy Sumerville clearly underscore minority groups, if not his sexual orientation.  Shieh has confessed to be troubled by the body he inhabits.  Like his paper dolls with outfits representing a host of personas, he was ready to experiment with identities in different phases of development. They are masks that carry the alienation of the Self he cursed, and likewise a means of inter-subjectivity he longed for.

On the question of identity in a broader sense, do we not, as contemporary man, confront with?  Subjected to innumerable influences from outside, the full constituents of the self including the appearance, personality, beliefs and fears continually recast themselves in the course of experience.  In this age of media explosion, we learn to play roles and react according to situations.  Unwittingly or otherwise, we are accustomed to mould ourselves and be molded by others into stereotypes.  Shieh’s portrayals of personalities ignite the indulgence of character-switching within us, surpassing the classic notion of The Other asserted by Rimbaud.

Satire, especially parody, has become a powerful means to air discontent which is well received by the public.

Video of sketches on the Statute of Democracy, the sculpture associated with the Tiananmen Square Massacre – this version inserted with Shieh’s bespectacled face.

“Hong Kong is a Chinatown” [香港係條唐人街](drawing at top) is a social commentary on the changing identity of this city under the influx of mainland tourists.

Inadequacy of pictorial?  His attempt on writing 
in future is promised.

Eight Modern China Political Leaders in School [八公返學], 2012.  Colour pencil, crayon and collage on paper.

Painting in detail.

Return to the title of exhibition: Wilson Shieh…Sumbody, a reflection of symmetry between the self and summation of bodies.  The message, beyond the multitude of identities, belies the interactions of an individual against the collective mass.

New Order

From the exploration of Self and the Other, Shieh is tempted to address social and political issues, the pressing problems many identify with since the sovereignty of Hong Kong was reverted to China in 1997.  Notwithstanding the ideological differences that are hard to be reconciled, the cherished assets of what make this community a unique entity is slipping by the day.  From the demographic mixture to urban scenery, from value system to collective spirits, the city is changing from the core within.  It is an urgency that drives his new venture.

Art soothes the soul, but politics shapes behaviour and ultimately rules supreme.  On this score, Shieh realizes the limitation of art if art is manifested to express none other than itself.  It is towards satire or even political narratives he would converse with public.  However, in the premises where art is fused with political issues, there are minefields to be trodden.  “Eight Modern China Political Leaders in School”, an unnecessary attempt to bring the pictorial into three-dimensionality, is a done deed and at this juncture, may be allowed to evade from further criticism.  It tentatively marks a path, where he joins some other local artists on a more vocal participation of art on politics.  In all, this is an opportunity to stir the idle minds and a potential force to shake the pacifists.

Wilson Shieh…Sumbody  眾身石家豪
22 March, 2013 – 22 April, 2013 at Osage Kwun Tong

石家豪 《眾生》 〈中文摘要〉




就自我身份的廣義範圍,難道當下的我們沒有受困惑乎?從凡世間的種切外在影響,自我的構成不斷遭外來的經驗所調適。有鑑資訊爆炸年代,媒體泛濫,我們很容易投入不同角色典範,因處境而配以反應。不知不覺間,我們慣性地按情况模塑自身,或讓別人模塑自己。石的畫作提供機會,縱容我們嗜慾角色替換這玩意。這當代思考形式超越亞瑟‧蘭波(Arthur Rimbaud)所表達“我是他者”裡的典範角色。



No comments: