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Solo Exhibition

Preface - Breath  

Hung Zhen-You

I am obsessed with smells, or more specifically, the information behind them, as that is the starting point of imagination. It can constantly go beyond the visual limits and rise in consciousness. The firefighting and rescue operations that lasted for a year, and the serious spread of the epidemic, which initially separated me from Er-Qi, added a sense of imperfection to my olfactory memory. I always find myself digesting, stirring, feeling helpless, and eventually coming to terms with these relatively difficult-to-understand external stimuli. And I am grateful to my past self, who chose to revisit and reclaim all the past experiences, reinterpreting and rearranging them as an onlooker. Although it may seem complicated, all the past digestion has been so profound and has already taken root. Perhaps this is closer to what we refer to as "natural." Now, I only need to slowly focus on myself, my hands, my breath, my rhythm, my consciousness, my heart, and finally, on the self who is drawing in a state of non-self. I cherish myself, inhale and exhale my thoughts, and return to controlled "breath." How do I relate to society, myself, my spirit, and my higher self? I pay attention to it and attempt to deal with it. This time, I started my intuitive and logical observation of all things in the way of "breath." It is often said, 'How you perceive the world is a reflection of yourself.' People must confront their inner spirits to act and relate to others. What matters to me is the preciseness behind the matter. When analyzing the original intent from different angles, the original intention, like a starting point, floats in the air like a molecule, and it is the scent that surrounds us with all kinds of joys and sorrows, separations and reunions, and love, extending into a vast viewing experience. That is how I have been curiously pursuing to see the world. Art, I think, eventually reflects the vitality of all things. Breath reminds me to confront, to confront life. Prose on inner pages, by Hung, Zhen-You

Blazing sounds in the body cavities :
Breath by Hung Zhen You

Lan Chung-Hsuan

“Divinity” is the first impression given by Hung Zhen You’s 2023 solo exhibition Breath. We are compelled to contemplate the relationship between the artist and his faith, and the allusions to the sacred texts. However, attempts to decipher these paintings with knowledge will prove futile. Hung Zhen You’s faith remains within him, while his works can be attributed to the artist’s personal experience: being away from his wife, isolation during the epidemic, and his career as a fire fighter, all of which have been cleverly transformed into divine miracles that belong only to him. Interestingly, instead of expressing his inner world with abstract paintings, Hung Zhen You’s art is embodied with concrete yet ambiguous figures. While symbols of faith abound in the paintings, the idolization of the divine has been removed by the artist, leaving only what resonates with himself. This is the way Hung Zhen You views his own soul and everything in this world. We have no way of identifying the Madonna figure in Man of Steel; instead, we are left to ponder the mutual bond and embrace of two spiritual entities. In Awaiting Response, a sacred instrument sends a signal, and the sexual organ-like figure reveals a confession for the origin of life. Two other spiritual beings incubate a universe in Flow, and the artist and his partner are the creators of the piece. Many objects of light also appear in these works. When we look closely, however, we will find that they are more like an organic fluids, at times viscous, at times clear.  They are perhaps tears, maybe bodily fluids, or possibly the embodiment of consciousness, carriers which evoke the sense of self-existence in everyday life. Let’s feel the breath: inhale from the nostrils. The air enters the lungs through the nasal cavity and trachea, and then expelled through the same airway – the mechanism that keeps us alive. While breathing, we also take in the smell of the surroundings, which often lingers in the nasal cavity and becomes an essential part of memory. The hair-like objects in Breath bear a striking resemblance to nose hairs that move with the airflow. The viewer follows the airflow and enters the body cavities signified in the artist's compact composition. Within the body cavities, the hair-like objects seem to become intestinal villi, which absorb the world and allow the artist to construct a highly spiritual and intimate landscape. It turns out that the villi-like objects are in fact the coconut trees that Hung Zhen You saw outside the window during his quarantine in Xiamen. The view from the window was all he could see during that time of isolation. A coconut tree could be transformed into anything in the mind’s eye - the longing for the end of seclusion, or the yearning to see his wife. Eventually, one after another, landscapes emerged from within Hung Zhen You's body, and became the artist's ASMR and white noise. The large-scale piece Origin is a poetic worship dedicated to women, and the only piece in the exhibition with multiple colors. The graceful coconut tree goddess gave birth to the mountainous landscape in the background. The looming pink moon illuminated the lake waters in the valley and offered Hung Zhen You spiritual support. Another large piece, Summer Night Breeze, was named after a popular song by Taiwanese rock singer Wu Bai. The two coconut trees in black and white became intertwined, an image which mirrors the artist’s experience of observing and becoming one with the environment, as if he had broken free from the isolation and attained spiritual liberation. In the faint blue Caress, he dived into the lake waters of Origin, delighting in the enclosure and comfort of his own soul. Yet, the other black-and-white paintings in Breath are by no means calming. We can sense the sacred vitality running through the artist's body cavities – bright, clean and pure, blazing humanity. In terms of artistic creation, Breath is relatively simple in nature. Art always seems to serve certain ends, despite all justifications. Without mentioning early religious and ethnic art, or how Pop Art was closely tied to capitalism and politics, we can point to contemporary art, which is replete with “merchandises” – many works are created in service of specific groups. While this does not mean that all of them are merely serving the market, it is a reflection of the diverse phenomena in modern society. Art begins to serve specific purposes and positions. To some extent, this is a necessary development, but with it also comes the demarcation and exclusion of various groups, and the disregard for intimate self-expression. Against this backdrop, Hung Zhen You's Breath is indeed a precious rare gem in the sense that the artist has gone beyond his self-defined identity and responsibility, and gave a candid outpouring of the higher self. Commentary by Lan Chung-Hsuan, artist and independent curator

The Translucence and Mindfulness in Painting

Breath: Hung, Zhen-You Solo Exhibition

Chen Si

Published in Artco Monthly & Investment by ARTouch, May, 2023

"Origin" depicts a new world that transcends the boundaries of form and structure, and is free from the constraints of dawn and dusk. The harmonious brushstrokes allow diverse forms to maintain their individual fluidity, imbued with a natural sense of order that keeps all the elements in balance, without encroaching upon one another. The pink focal point, resembling a willow tree in the composition, dominates the overall structure of the image. It existed before all scenery, before the vast pink moon and the shining lake, before the rolling mountains and the break of dawn. It is a seam that transforms landscapes into the body, and an organ that gives birth to another spiritual dimension. "Origin" is the only painting in PTT Space's "Breath: Hung, Zhen-You Solo Exhibition" that features a rich palette of colors and a mixture of acrylic and oil paints. If viewed from a creative context, it is akin to a painter sketching out a new world for himself. The works completed before and after "Origin" are the communication of various basic elements in black and white. The light rays in the picture seem like meridians formed by the convergence of consciousness from different individuals. It evokes the exploration of spirituality and the higher self in the works of Swedish painter Hilma af Klint. However, what makes Hung, Zhen-You’s paintings unique is that they often maintain the flow of qi commonly found in traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. Perhaps that is another reason why he named this exhibition "Breath" - to readjust from the most basic level within limitations. -The Translucent World and Harmony Regardless of the abstract or figurative, Hung, Zhen-You has consistently attempted to portray the translucence of things and energy within the visual representation throughout his career in painting. This painter, who became famous for his exquisite photography-like realistic oil painting techniques upon debut, has been attempting to depict energies and things beyond the visual realm in his recent works. This inevitably brings to mind the glazing and painstaking depictions of transparent water ripples in his early oil paintings. Afterward, Hung, Zhen-You also employed dramatic representations of light and scent in his recent works, imbuing them within the visual scenes. In this solo exhibition "Breath", the sudden change in stylistic vocabulary in the artist's works expresses his reflections on painting as he approaches the next stage of his creative career. At this stage, the texture of powdery charcoal and liquid acrylic, and the lustrous saturation of glazing oil paints, harmoniously resonate with the translucent quality to peer through the material world. The images consist of gradient shades and meridian-like contours. From a creative perspective, "Breath" implies regulating the meridians and nodes of the overall painting. It originated from his time spent drawing while quarantined in a hotel during the pandemic. While watching the new work with Hung, Zhen-You in the studio, he recalled bringing the simplest charcoal and paper because it was easier to draw in the quarantine hotel. Facing the same view outside the window and longing to reunite with his wife during quarantine, the painter picked up charcoal drawing again after a nearly six-year hiatus. He occasionally meditated in his room, cultivating self-awareness while painting, allowing the brush to flow steadily into his innermost being. "I used to draw whatever came to my mind directly, but now I make a draft first, which allows me to decide on the second layer of the painting on the canvas with more precision. That kind of precision is not the same as the precision of drawing something very realistically like before. It's the precision of the spirit." By Hung, Zhen-You at the studio, 2023.03.28 -Light and the Flow of Qi The translucence conveyed in the charcoal sketches and paintings exhibited by Hung, Zhen-You in the "Breath" exhibition reflects the artist's nuanced understanding of how different materials can be harmoniously blended within the same interface and how binaries can be perceived as one entity. In "Man of Steel" (2023), for instance, the intermingling of two individuals is depicted by the painter as follows: "It's like the person on the right is protecting the person on the left, while the person on the left is also holding his heart with both hands." Or like the two individuals in "Flow" (2023), their hands interlocked, bodies forming a circle, their translucent forms resembling a nebula. The light emitted from their heads and necks surrounds the mysterious luminous figure in the center of the screen, connecting their minds and spirits. We can easily imagine those translucent forms as a kind of depersonalized higher-self-consciousness shaping, while the luminous ones are the energy produced by their consciousness. It's difficult to say what kind of religious belief these visual elements originate from. At least, perhaps we all feel a sense of déjà vu in movies. For example, there is the Tree of Souls in "Avatar," the godly form of the Forest Spirit in "Princess Mononoke," the "Transparent World" in "Demon Slayer," and even the ability to see through others' inner power in anime and novels. Starting from personal life experiences, beyond form and image, the translucence constructed through self-awareness consciousness and harmonization of media layers is reminiscent of the practice of exploring the essence of the spirit through abstract painting in the early 20th century, especially Hilma af Klint's non-modernist abstract painting. Klint's abstract painting elements are diverse, and she sees them as a means of constructing priori thinking, rather than a pursuit of formalism (see note 1). The idiosyncratic traits evident in Hung, Zhen-You’s paintings ensure that formalism cannot be the artistic value he seeks to pursue at his current stage. Instead, it is an awareness of relationship in painting based on personal experiences. Indeed, he is still confronting the duality of painting that has been contemplated by both Asian and Chinese artists since modernism. However, Hung, Zhen-You is a painter of the 2020s who does not abandon reality in his paintings, nor does he follow the old path of constructivism or abstract expressionism, nor does he adhere to the cultural framework of modernized nationalism. The white space, wiping, and black gradient in "Summer Night Breeze" (2022) are Hung, Zhen-You’s interpretations of the relationship between light and the flow of qi in painting - two concepts of "fusion of Chinese and Western cultures" that 20th-century painters contemplated in the history of painting, based on his perception and experience. In this sense, Hung, Zhen-You has been using a de-formalized approach and a process of developing a close bodily awareness to refine a personal and expressive perspective on painting. By Chen Si

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