從聲音的角度來看，謝貽娟的作品雖然可以從荀白克（Arnold Schoenberg, 1874–1951)、康丁司基（Wassily Kandinsky, 1866–1944）等人拓展的視覺藝術與音樂性之連結的角度來解釋，但她藉由這片湛藍世界所呈現的音樂性又與這些現代主義之父截然不同。二十世紀初期，西方世界沈浸於各類科技的高度進展，而攝影與電影的先後出現與逐步成熟也驅使視覺藝術走上更為多元的發展盛況。在這樣的盛況中，抽象藝術家們從音樂裡獲取的靈感也通常是非常結構性且與工業文明、都市文化高度相關的，例如荀白克挑戰傳統音樂學院的曲式，發展出不具主和弦的無調性音樂，以及康丁司基以不和諧音的概念來發展抽象繪畫的實驗；也難怪二十世紀現代音樂發展出許多與現代建築的共通性（反之亦然，許多建築師亦以音樂結構為起點思考空間配置）。但謝貽娟這些悠長的如同深山鐘鳴，又沈靜的如同最低陷的呢喃耳語的畫面，挪用的並非這種傳承自工業文明、現代生活的音樂思考，而是一種能穿越時代界線、無論置放到哪個時空之中都能安然存在的聲音。
然而這些存在於畫面焦點（如〈原，源，圓 No.2〉（圖1）、〈原，源，圓 No.9〉（圖2）、〈非空間 No. 18〉等作中的藍色環圈）與深藍背景之間的低音，在謝貽娟的創作中絕對和那些遠遠就能擄獲觀者目光的藍色光環一樣重要。這樣的概念在「原，源，圓」系列中的〈點 No.5〉（圖3）有了更為清楚的展示。雖然〈點 No.5〉所呈現的形式、質感與氛圍都與〈非空間 No.3〉等作截然不同，甚至在媒材上也差異甚大——〈非空間 No.3〉使用的是謝貽娟旅行各地蒐集而來的特殊藍色粉末，以費工耗時的方式在畫布上創作而成；〈點 No.5〉則是以蠟筆在紙張上作畫，兩者在創作的程序與姿態上都截然不同——但〈點 No.5〉帶著一抹影子的藍色球體，其實就好像是從〈非空間 No.3〉等作中的深邃藍色背景裡提煉出來的元素。這些看似截然不同的作品相互證成了「之間」的概念在「非空間」中是如何重要。在這個世界裡，在我們日常所感的三維世界中所不被重視的各種「之間」，在謝貽娟的非空間中都是個圓滿的球體，有著自成一格、無須被外來法則干涉、宰制的世界。
但「非空間」中的邊緣，並非世俗定義的人跡罕至或律法罔存之處，而是在我們內心深處長存、卻因無法具體描述而無法向外人道、也無法為之留下任何記憶存根的人性主體邊緣。為了讓這樣的邊緣藉由創作浮現，藝術一方面必須原創，另一方面也必須在這個世界中存有與既存文化相互指涉之潛能。因此，「非空間」的思想體系以眾多學科支撐，影響範疇從榮格（Carl Gustav Jung, 1875-1961）、尼采（Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900）、佛洛伊德（Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939）到物理學中對時間、空間的研究。我們可以說「非空間」是謝貽娟以她擅長的平面繪畫形式所試圖映照的世界，但看過她風格各異其趣、媒材包羅萬象的眾多創作系列後，我們更可以說「非空間」是一種冒險、一種實驗，目的是要盡可能為那個「一切的空，也是一切的真，就像是『氣』沒有盡頭，也沒有開始，只有之間」且「存在地點是邊緣」的世界，留下存在的證據。
然而，就像美國詩人羅伯‧佛洛斯特（Robert Frost, 1874-1963）寫於1920年的那首短詩《片斷的藍》（Fragmentary Blue）所指出的，與那片離大地無比遙遠的天空相比，世俗間的所有藍色都輕薄如斷片——無論是鳥羽的藍、蝴蝶羽翼的藍、藍花的藍、藍眼珠的藍。詩人問道：何須過分看重這些散落於世界各地的藍？天空所呈現的，就是一種綿延千里、堅固強大的藍；也唯有如此強大的藍，能夠呼喚人們不斷渴望這個特殊的顏色。
正如愛因斯坦（Albert Einstein, 1879-1955）在二十世紀出才發展出來的相對論所告訴我們的，時間與空間其實是彼此纏繞且不可分割的實體，謝貽娟所謂的「空間」絕對不僅是日常生活空間中可見、可感知的空間，也不能僅以我們熟習的建築空間、人造環境來理解——要突破肉眼帶來的擬像屏障跨入謝貽娟的非空間，我們必須以自身作為基準來想像一個全新的世界：在這個世界中，我們必須假設，若眼前一切日常「空間」皆被移除，包括我們所在的建築空間、也包括整座城市、甚至整座島嶼、整個地球、整個銀河系，甚至整個宇宙，直通宇宙存有之外的「空間」。
Real Art Converging on the Periphery
Jo Hsieh and Her “None-Space”World
Val Chiang Art Critic
When facing Jo Hsieh’s works, we can perhaps act as if we are taking it seriously, discussing the origin of expressionism, whether this be from the perspective of the history of art and iconography or exploring how modern art broke away before the 19th Century from the concrete visualizations that it relied on to transmit a message, or the development of painting styles. Or perhaps from the perspective of psychoanalysis and how after WWII there was vigorous growth of abstract expressionism and how this tied into the surrealism from before the war, inheriting the dreamscape of surrealism, or maybe from the psychology of beliefs. Or even from cultural exchanges between China and the West, exploring abstract expressionism and how it seems so casual, but in fact there is a lasting and established contact through the high wall between the art of east and west that has been planned far in advance.
These perspectives may provide some clues as to how to interpret the works of Jo Hsieh, but if we watch closely the cumulative process of her large number of works from 1992 as a student in England, from her exceptional achievements while earning her bachelor’s at Chelsea College of Art and Design, to her master’s at the Royal College of Art and doctorate at the Falmouth College of Arts, we will see that these were most wide and discussed is the perspective of abstract expressionism and that though the words of Jo Hsieh are important, they were definitely not a part of her basic framework when she was creating it.For her, this ‘framework’– or perhaps we should say some sort of connection between the daily world and the creative world – is a cabinet with a door, but its real significance is in the world that lies behind that door. This is the timeless creative mark of the foundation of Jo Hsieh’s creative life – the concept out of which development arises from her personal life: “None-Space”.
Jo Hsieh’s systematic conception of None-Space is divided into two parts: first, the psychological (the level of emotions and the soul); and second, the physical level (the rational scientific level). These are developed on the underlying structure, the framework. Taking her 20 years of works created in England and, after combing them over with the underlying structure, those belonging to the ‘psychological’ series are as follows: Diary; Book of Changes; Four Seasons; Poetry; Passion; Ties; Status; and Nothing is Rich in its Fullness In Fullness is Found Nothing. Belonging to the ‘physical’ series are Original, Source, Round; Shadow; Music; Water; Time; Points, Lines and Planes; and Optical Illusions.
This album, the six series in her massive creative arrangement, Pencil Drawing, Time, Music, The Supreme Ultimate (Tai Chi), Pigment, and Space, show Jo Hsieh’s emergence and the enriching appearance of art when pondering over it. These appearances are mutually echoed and interconnected but are able to stand by themselves in the world and a piece of this plane of a work expands with boundless depth, and removes the barriers and walls of this world. And in this world, Jo Hsieh continues to move forward, continues in her way of questioning the world.
In Jo Hsieh’s own words, None-Space is “all emptiness, and also all truth, much like vital energy qi, endless, without beginning, only between.” This view of time that there is neither beginning nor end, only in between, is most apt to begin our in-depth discussion of Jo Hsieh’s works.
The Pigment Series, the so-called“between”not only demonstrates the round shape of the focal point, it also demonstrates Jo Hsieh’s meticulous blue. When viewing these works from afar, it is as if they split into two, different types and shades of the movement of blue depicting the endless surface without a beginning. But when approaching, we realize that these works are not simply two different works, constituting a clear yet muddled world; because both sides are tiered and inter-converge, there are also numerous types of blue leisurely swimming along. So the original looks as if it is a noiseless and abstract blue painting, and all of a sudden a Sound breaks forth; from afar the two shades of blue can be most clearly seen, precisely as if we ourselves were far away and able to hear, the volume sufficient to resound as the chime of a clock in a valley to the people there. Those must converge in order to see, even must stand at a special vantage point to vaguely make out the discrepancy between the realism and the other blue because the reflection of the light; this is precisely like people needing to lean close in order to hear a whisper, distributing everything in good order under the Earth’s crust of this real world, hard for any concrete rule of an extremely low sound.
From the point of view of the sound, Jo Hsieh’s works, although drawing from Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who expanded and explained the visual and musical viewpoints, through this blue world presented a music in this blue world distinct from that of modernism’s fathers. In the early 20th Century, the Western world was immersed in all types of scientific & technological advances and photography & film gradually matured and drove the visual arts to take a more pluralistic developmental line. It was in this situation that abstract artists found inspiration from music, which is usually extremely structured, and from industrial culture, with a level of correlation with urban culture; for example, Schoenberg challenged the musical style of traditional conservatories and developed an abstract and toneless type of music. And Kandinsky used the concept of dissonance to develop experimental abstract paintings. It is no wonder then that modern music in the 20th century developed the universality of modern architecture (and vice versa: many architects used musical structure as a starting point for thinking about spatial configuration). In these scenes as lasting as the prolonged chime of a bell in the mountains, as quiet as whisperings and murmurings – what Jo Hsieh appropriates isn’t this kind of musical thinking that inherits Western industrial civilization and modern life – it is a sound that can pass through the boundaries of time and that can easily exist no matter in which time-space it is placed in.
However, these bass notes existing between the screen focus (such as the blue circles in Original, Source, Round No.2 (Fig.1), Original, Source, Round No.9 (Fig.2), and None-Space No.18 ) and the dark blue background in Hsieh’s works are absolutely as important as the blue halos can freeze an audience’s gaze from a far. Such concept is more clearly presented in Spot No.5 (Fig.3) of the Origin, Source, Round series. Although the form, texture, and atmosphere presented in Spot No.5 are vastly different from those in None-Space No.3 and other works, and even the differences in the media are rather great – None-Space No.3 used special blue pigments Hsieh had collected during her travels in various places, and was created on a canvas by time-consuming and painstaking methods; whereas Spot No.5 is a crayon drawing on paper. The two are distinctively different in both the creation procedures and postures. However, in Spot No.5, the blue spheres with trails of shadows are in fact as if the elements were derived from the deep blue backgrounds in None-Space No.3 and other works. These seemingly very different works mutually prove how important the concept of“between”in“None-Space”is. In this world, the various“betweens”that are neglected in our three-dimensional world are all full and round spheres in Hsieh’s None-Space; they have their own world, without interference of foreign rule and domination.
None-Space perhaps is a world that completely deviates from daily five senses, even though may be visualized in drawings, it can no way be restricted to visual experiences (because of this, another important series in Hsieh’s creation career is“Optical Illusions”, reminding viewers what they are seeing is not necessarily true), and because of this Hsieh also clearly points out that the“periphery is where None-Space exists”.
Nonetheless, the periphery in“None-Space”is not a place secularly defined as inaccessible or without law but rather the periphery of humanity that exists deep in our hearts yet indescribable and thus cannot be shared with others and of whom cannot leave any memory trace. In order to allow such periphery to emerge through creation, art on the one hand must be original and on the other must possess in this world the mutual referential potential with the existing culture. Therefore, the ideology of“None-Space”is supported by many disciplines and the impact areas span from Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), to studies of time and space in physics. We can say that the“None-Space”is a world Hsieh tries to depict through her expertise two-dimensional drawings. But seeing her many series of creation in various styles and various media, we can even say that“None-Space”is an advanture, an experiment, with the purpose of leaving evidence of the world of“all emptiness, and also all truth, much like vital energy qi, endless, without beginning, only between”that“exists in the periphery”.
Therefore, although“periphery”is a physical and psychological moment that is vague and indescribable, it is converted into strong visual elements in Hsieh’s works. For example, in the Time series (Fig.4), there are many abstract lines falling towards or leaning against the periphery of pictures. However, the existence of “periphery” makes these lines no longer simple abstract a form of presentation, but possibly the emotional experiences in our heart that are chased by time at all times and shaped by time. In the Space series, there are also works that utilize visible periphery of papers to create screen intensity, e.g., Endless Lust No.7 (Fig.5).
3. Obscure Precision, Untrue Truth
The concepts of“between”and“periphery”, as if the markings in“None-Space”that indicate the north and south and signal the latitude and longitude, leading the viewers through doors after doors and broadening the possible interpretation of the visible screens, are also indicators Hsieh uses in“None-Space”to identify direction and maintain progression.
However, just as pointed out in the American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)’s short poem Fragmentary Blue written in 1920, compared to the sky that is infinitely far away from the earth, all the blue in the mundane world is as light as fragments – whether it the blue of bird’s feathers, butterfly’s wings, blue flowers, or blue eyes. The poet asked: Why should we overvalue the blue scattered around in the world? What the sky presents is a blue that stretches for thousands of miles, sturdy and powerful; and only this powerful blue can call upon humans to unceasingly long for this special color.
Just as Fragmentary Blue, Hsieh’s work also follows the more powerful, sturdy and unbreakable blue rather than blue fragments. Therefore, in works like Pigment, Water, and Space that use blue exclusively or that use blue as the theme (Fig.6 and Fig.7), it is as though the works can communicate with one another, singing in harmony of the“None-Space” roaming between the start and ending and the periphery of consciousness. Therefore, None-Space seems obscure, yet in deed she is using obscurity to serve as dialectical for the chaos within truth. None-Space appears to be deviating from our familiar truths, yet in reality she is an artist using her expert artistic language to enter the path of truth after having been dedicated to the study of philosophy, the sciences, psychology, and other disciplines.
Just as implied in the bold and unrestrained images (Fig.8 and Fig.9) in the Music series: although these images are titled“music”, they can only reveal some of the reality about “music”. We can say that it is between the sections, listeners, because of the intermittence between tones, get into their world of self in an instant from the concert hall. What Hsieh’s brushes capture is indeed the short-lived reality hidden in the listeners’hearts. That reality is absolutely obscure yet precise. And that reality must be magnified through non-reality (for example, touched emotions are transformed into real and visible brush strokes, or color rendering that is beyond the artist’s control).
Between obscurity and precision and between reality and non-reality, Hsieh’s None-Space is purely sensual on one hand, because she again and again wants to catch every bit and piece in the ocean of the heart, whether it is small as a droplet or great as waves; however, on the other hand, the world of None-Space is also purely scientific, except that it explores a universe that can not be decoded by data. If we are all willing to open the periphery land hidden among visible reality, just like discovering a thick and solid world among the thin pages of a book, we will then discover that the None-Space, as called by the artist, is indeed omnipresent.
Nietzsche’s famous quote goes:“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”. The sceneries presented to your eyes from the six series in this album are a powerful linkage knitted together by numerous invisible threads. The relation between these series is as if a genealogy that records the lineage, branching, and all incidences occurred in a family. This huge family is precisely the core of creation that Hsieh attempts to interpret through “None-Space”– we cannot only use our physical experiences to get to know the world; we must also explore how much“invisible but existent”space reality can radiate and exude through the inexhaustible energies from endless flow of light and shadow, changes of seasons, and even the invisible musical structure, time track, etc.
As the Theory of Relativity that Albert Einstein (1879-1955) developed in the twentieth century tells us, time and space are indeed an intertwined and indivisible entity. What Hsieh calls “space” is absolutely not the space that can be seen and sensed in daily life and cannot be understood by our familiar architecture space and artificial environment alone – to break through the barrier brought to us by our naked eyes and enter into Hsieh’s None-Space, we must imagine a whole new world using ourselves as the benchmark: within this world, we must hypothesize that if all the daily spaces are removed, including our architectural space, the whole city, the whole island, the whole Earth, the whole Galaxy, and even the whole universe, to go straight to the “space” outside the universe.
Jo Hsieh’s representative series Pigments reveals itself to us – countless minute substances, only these are able to simultaneously exist in“between”, and exist on the periphery, while being among the people and travelling among their existences. Only when we are willing to take life’s experience and transform them into this type of existence will we be able to really feel like an invisible thread, how it is the strongest of ties permeating all of our lives. And a shared point among these series is that as they make the infinitesimal seem large to us, the existence of stories proves the existence of this silk thread of destiny.
Val Chiang is an art critic and PhD candidate of History of Art and Film at the University of Leicester, UK. She has won numerous awards in art criticism and theory, including S-An Cultural Foundation Aesthetics Essay Award, Digital Art Criticism Award and First Prize at National Culture and Arts Foundation’s Art Criticism Platform.