這次的展覽，李光裕自己給了一個標題《空身幻影》，可以說是他近年心境的寫照。做為一個一邊禮佛一邊創作的藝術家，面對著身體帶來的觀樂與煩惱，他努力放空身體 ，一旦空身，便也看到生命悲也好喜也好，盡是幻影，無掛無礙 。其中《荷畔》這件作品，一方面標題引領著視覺，似乎是在描寫人體與荷葉合而為一，但作品中人的身體亦實亦虛，遁入荷葉殘影之間，似乎是在透過造形的正負虛實結構，描繪身體的虛幻，洞察生命似有似無的奧義。
Life Illusion of Bodies-A Solo-Show
Lee Kuang-Yu’s sculptures connect the realism period and the abstract period of Taiwan sculpture. Since the Japanese colonization period, Taiwan sculpture showed a very mature realism style. The works of Huang Tu-Shui Pu, Tian-Sheng and Chen Xia-Yu exemplified the style of this period. After WWII, a very avant-garde abstract sculpturing style was formed, represented by the works of Chen Ting-Shi, Yang, Ying-Feng and Li Zai-Qian. As an artist born in the 1950’s, Li Kuang-Yu did not have a student-teacher relationship with the above artists, but through the progression of his creative methodology, we can see that he has continued on the meticulous realism style in his work while also actively expanding his methods of abstract expression
Lee Kuang-Yu was born in Kaohsiung in 1954 and graduated in 1975 from the National Arts School, which is the predecessor of the National Taiwan University of Arts. In 1978, Li went to Spain to continue his studies on sculpture, and in 1982 he graduated from the S. Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1983, Li received his master’s degree from the College of Arts at Madrid College, and returned to Taiwan to teach at what is now the Taipei National University of the Arts. He retired in 2006 and continues to sculpt to this day.
Expressing emotions and meanings
In mid 1970’s, which is the time period in which Li was receiving his art education, there was a fierce struggle between traditional and modern ideals and also between local and Western ideals in Taiwan. Back then, Li was aware of these conflicts, and he was confused by all the arguments and conflicts. But all his confusion disappeared once he returned to Taiwan from Spain, and by then there was already a distinct personal style in his works. All the confusion and conflict between East and West as well as between traditional and modern ideals did not bother him anymore, mainly because of two reasons. One is that in the 1980’s, Taiwan had already become a society with diverse artistic viewpoints. The other reason is that Li’s works integrate traditional elements into modern sculpture, and he combines Western techniques with Eastern concepts. Before becoming a modern sculptor, Li was already a representative figure for artists that focus on expressing emotions and meanings. Thus, we should pay close attention to his aesthetic choices and artistic direction.
It has been 25 years since Li returned to Taiwan, and he is still creating new sculptures to this day. Like other artists whose styles have matured, Li never pays attention to the debates on the time characteristics of art. In recent years, Li has created many works, but has not held many personal art exhibits. Thus, every one of his personal exhibits is an important art event and can provide clues to let us see his progression as he explores art modeling. The “Life Illusion of Bodies” exhibit, jointly organized by the Taipei National University of The Arts, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts and the Impressions Art Gallery, is the biggest exhibition that Li has held. 50 sculptures will be shown in this exhibit, and they include works Li created over the past 20 years as well as the works he made after his retirement. This exhibit allows viewers to see the representative works in each of Li’s creation periods and also examine how his attention to detail and modeling concepts progressed over the years.
Understanding the meaning, not the form
In his early days, Li tried out many types of art mediums and techniques, but in recent years he has focused solely on sculpture because clay sculptures allow him to best express movements, diverse emotions and various settings.
Li has focused on making sculptures of human and animal bodies since he was a young artist. He was able to sculpt vivid and realistic body parts as well as whole bodies. In the mid to late 1980’s, Li’s body sculpting techniques matured, and he created many works that are still highly praised to this day. His sculptures of the human body maintain a logical posture no matter what position they are in or what movement they are doing, meaning that all body positions and movements, no matter how exaggerated, still comply with the logical overall body structure and motion principles. In the series “Metamorphosis” of 1988, Li used cats as a theme to create many works that showed cats in various positions and movements. These works not only used the exterior shape and motion of bodies to show the life and emotional expressions of the art medium but also allows viewers to seemingly see the biological functions inside the body by viewing the exterior. To put it more precisely, Li is able to create emotions and feeling in his animal sculptures. One example of such a work is “Listening, Hearing”, which was made in 1988.
Li also started to explore the shaping of body parts in the mid 1980’s, starting from the feet and hands. However, at this time, his works also started to deviate from realism. His works no longer adhered to real shapes and started to show elements of metaphysics. This change of style may have been because his body started to show signs of breaking down, both physically and mentally, and in the process of finding ways to rehabilitate his body, his works started to show how he dealt with this crisis in his life. Examples would be the works “Hand not hand” in 1986 and “Secluded Orchid” in 1990. In these works, a hand is supporting a world in its grasp, representing giant mountains and fertile lands. The relationship between the round and full palm and the fingers serve to show the galvanizing life force as well as a deeper meaning beyond the visual exterior. These tow works show the traditional meanings of the hand in Buddhist culture and also represent the hand signs that signify awakening of the people.
In his younger days, Li liked to read works by Laozi and Zhuangzi. After he returned to Taiwan from Spain, he started to delve into Buddhism to solve difficulties in his life. Thus, it is not surprising that his works in the 1980’s show a strong metaphysic style. The names of the works during this period went from describing the form and movement of the work to names that creates an artistic conception. An example of a name that signifies an art concept is the work “Flowing Spring” in 1986. The lone and isolated foot in the work shows an undeniable natural vitality through its wide and thick shape as well as its plain and dull skin texture.
Metaphysics does not explore the principles behind objects, but tries to find what the intellectuals of the Wei and Jin dynasties refer to as “The meaning, not the form; The message, not the words.” This phrase sums up Li Kuang-Yu’s aesthetic and life views.
Using scenes to create an artistic conception
In order to express his aesthetic and life views, Li’s works stresses the creation of artistic conceptions. Since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Li started to use the “borrowed landscape” method of landscape architecture in his works. He used this method, which is seen in traditional Chinese traditional landscape architecture, to design doors and windows to give a multi-layered spatial structure to buildings via virtual space. Through this method of “borrowing landscapes”, the inside and outside of works are intermingled, the front and back are connected, and the virtual and the real are integrated.
In Li’s works, the method of borrowing landscapes is used in many areas. First, Li uses this method to show the structures of the bodies in his works. For example in the work “Mysterious Existence” created in 1990, a monk is show sitting quietly. There is a square hollowed-out portion in the upper body of the monk, forming a virtual body. Thus, there is no difference between the inside or outside of the monk’s body and no differentiation of the front and back within the space he dwells in. As a result, there is no need to distinguish whether his life truly exists or not. This type of structural expression combines visual structures, aesthetic views and life experiences. This form of expression is a main trait in Li’s works and is used in many of his works.
Li also used the borrowing landscape technique in expressing the structure of hands. In the works “In the Wind” in 1991 and “Secluded Valley” in 1996, Li put gaps in the palms of the hands in these works, even though there are already gaps between the fingers of a hand to serve as virtual body parts. This makes it look as if there are mountains and rivers on the palms, meaning that these palms are not merely parts of a hand, but also mountains and rivers and other landscapes, showing that the heart is pure with no worries.
Finally, Li uses the method of borrowing landscape to express body structures and to transform these structures into symbolizations of space. An example would be the work “Hidden Mountain” done in 1996. In this work, a square-shaped area is hollowed out of the palm of the hand, and a person sits within this hollowed-out area. This method of expression continues the layered spatial structure described before and also transforms the palm into a symbolic place for meditation, seemingly saying that mountains and forests can be found in one’s palm, and that one can become a Buddha whenever and wherever one wants to.
In Li Kuang-Yu’s works, the borrowing landscape method is not only used to establish a spatial structure but also to create an artistic conception. A conception can be a meaning or a state of mind. Thus, in Li’s recent works, he uses the borrowing landscape method not to create a spatial structure but to describe a state of mind. An example is the new work in this exhibition “Stopped Time”. In this work, a woman lies on a lotus leaf, seemingly without a care in the world. This work depicts a state of mind: although youth is short-lived and the passage of time relentless, much like the growth and withering of a lotus leaf, in this moment of vigor and vitality, beauty and happiness can happen for an instant and last forever. The ingenious thoughts and dexterous hands of the artist has forever engraved the moment of happiness onto a work of art, and the lotus leaf fully brought out the borrowed landscaped effect to enhance the visual, literary, dramatic and emotional effect of the work, making viewers want to become as one with the work.
In the above paragraphs, we see that Li Kuang-Yu’s works focus on exploring and expressing meanings and state of minds. However, when we look at his works in recent years, we know, but don’t want to admit that those works were made because he needed to make new things, because that is akin to saying that he is creating for the sake of creating. In reality, Li, who is nearly sixty years old, has a matured creative ability, but he is gradually starting to face the incompleteness and limits of life.
This means that the reason Li’s works show abundant artistic conceptions and emotions is because he is faced with the incompleteness and limits of life. Li is an artist that uses art to help settle his confusions in life. What he is trying to settle may perhaps be his personal confusion or perhaps questions that confuse everyone. For examples, the works “Unknown year” and “Naughty Child” have an element of fun, but also represent a longing for the carelessness and unbridled freedom of youth. The work “Hometown” is a kiln, but it actually represents the artist’s sadness. The work “Rain” shows the joyfulness of sex, but it is actually merely praise and longing for youthful bodies. Whatever their meanings may be, these works, which uses bits and pieces of Li’s life as creative themes, show that Li Kuang-Yu is an expert at expressing emotions because he vividly recreated every moment that lasted for only an instant. What’s more important is that through depicting the scenes in life, it shows that the artistic concepts his works want to express lie not in the distance, but is right in front of us. Even if everything in front of us vanishes in the blink of an eye, it can still be viewed from his works.
Li’s creative methodology incorporates praise and worry for the body. The work “Flying in the Sky” is a classic work about praise for the body. In the work, passion flows from the inside to outside, seemingly about to take off and dance at any time. The work accurately depicts body positions and movements in every moment. Movement and stillness within the work are integrated together into a complete scene. His worry for the body also embodies itself in a number of works, especially in the works at this exhibit, which tells of the vicissitudes of life.
Li chose “Life Illusions of Bodies” as the name for this exhibit, and this phrase represents his state of mind in recent years. As an artist that believes in Buddhism and who continually creates new works, Li has tried to let go of his body when faced with the happiness and worries that it has brought about. Once he was able to let go, he saw that the happiness and sadness that life brings are all illusions, and thus he is not worried anymore. The work “Beside the Lotus Pond” shows this state of mind that Li has reached. The name of the work seems to show us that the work is about the human body and lotus leaf becoming as one, but the human body in the work is both virtual and real, floating in the shadows of the lotus leaves. Li seems to use positive negative, virtual and real shapes to depict the illusory body and observe the deep meanings of life that may or may not exist.
In Li Kuang-Yu’s creative methodology, full is empty, and something is also nothing. From his works, we can see an artist’s turning point in settling his confusion about life, going from being confused and worried to not worrying at all. It was a turning point for his art creation as well as his life. From that point on, happiness and sadness became illusions.