“Each ancient book that has been through the test of time is a wise,
beautiful stranger that I encounter and know through sculpture.”
A Beautiful Encounter—A 10-Day Exhibition by Yang Pei-Chen
2020.03.19 ─ 03.29
2016年開始進行的《歷史系列》(The History Series)創作，醞釀的時間其實可以回溯到開始就讀薩拉曼卡大學美術創作研究所的1999年。這所於2018年舉行了建校800週年校慶的美麗大學是西班牙最古老的高等教育機構，同時也是歐洲第三古老且仍在運行的大學。可以想見，這所大學裡宛如哈利波特魔法學院真實場景中的百年歷史圖書館，當時帶給我如何強烈的時空感受。圖書館中每一本已見證數世紀光陰的古籍，都美麗得令人屏息…。
雖然是以數世紀歷史的珍貴古籍做為寫實擬仿的對象，但我的目的是在於以「古籍」作為某種借題或符號，以刻畫表達自己對於其“歷史感”、“記憶感”、“文化感”與“知識感”等抽象的經驗和感受。我的寫實雕刻創作，從來都是借有形的、視覺性的寫實雕刻為方法；以表現無形的、感覺性的幻實感受，一如我對於《記憶系列》(The Object of Memory Series)創作的思考，其實是透過對特定物件的摹刻來側寫物件背後那些屬於我自己或他人的情感或記憶。
The History Series was started in 2016, but the inspiration of the series could trace back to when I was studying for my MA at the University of Salamanca in 1999. In 2018, the enchanting university celebrated its 800th anniversary as Spain’s oldest institution of advanced education, as well as the third oldest university still in operation on the Continent. It is easy to imagine how I was strongly impacted when entering the centuries-old university library that looked simply like Harry Potter’s wizardry school. Each and every ancient book in the library, in its breath-taking beauty, has served as a testament to centuries of time.
Since then, I have started exploring the creative methodology of realistic sculpture, as it dawned on me that my creative experience and life experience were inadequate for me to deal with such profound and lofty subject. Furthermore, I did not have the means to collect these precious historic objects, either. After returning to Taiwan, my longing and admiration for these ancient books sometimes surfaced with a slight sense of regret. In 2015, I was unexpectedly informed of a channel to collect ancient books, and was able to finally fulfill my dream. I began building a collection of ancient books that “I felt connected with,” and launched this creative series.
Although the series features the realistic, mimetic representation of valuable ancient books, my purpose is to use “ancient books” as a certain metaphor or symbol to delineate my abstract experience and perception of “history-ness,” “memory-ness,” “culture-ness” and “knowledge-ness.” My work has always been founded on borrowing tangible, visual forms of realistic sculpture to express the intangible, perceptual aspect of human sensibility. Similar to my thinking embodied by The Object of Memory Series, I employ the mimetic portrayal of specific objects to outline my personal or others’ emotional or memory contours behind these objects.
For me, these unfamiliar ancient books, which are from European cities thousands of miles away and have endured several centuries, are like mysterious travelers from faraway places. The linguistic and knowledge barriers between us have rendered them even more attractive, intellectual and beautiful. Perhaps my “pure lack of knowledge” about them has allowed me to become more purely aware of their unique aesthetic value apart from their original function as “vehicles of ancient knowledge.”
Therefore, in terms of viewing The History Series, I hope to place the emphasis on the embodiment of the sense of profoundness, be it visible or invisible, embedded by these precious ancient books through my mimetic representation. (I have named this method “copy-carving,” which refers to a process of “non-textual reading” through carving knives.) Some of the audience might misunderstand and mistake “history-ness” for “history” or “knowledge-ness” for “knowledge,” and consequently fixate on the philological study of the text, year, language and publication of the ancient books that I have simulated. Although I have also spent an extensive amount of time studying and researching about the copy-carved ancient books to a limited degree, the purpose of doing so is to provide proper titles and enable myself to project emotions and personal understanding of the original object during the creation.
Viewing the works from The Object of Memory Series is maybe similar to listening to the versatile pop music, in which the audience easily resonates with its diversified style. The varying texture copied by these works (paper, textile, leather) as well as the rendering of different details (pleats, stitches, zippers) create a visual impact and mesmerize the spectators. However, when viewing the works from The History Series, the experience might be closer to listening to classical music for the first time. The seemingly well-organized, similarly structured melodies (works) might appear plain without many variations. However, if the audience (in both the visual and audio sense of the word) could adjust themselves to listen (view) correspondingly, they would detect nuances that are subtler, more ambiguous and refined; and like professional, experienced classical music lovers, they would be able to accurately identify the same piece of music performed by different musicians while perceiving the subtle yet crucial differences in their interpretations. Personally speaking, the creative career of an artist’s artistic exploration usually comprises four stages—seeking, showing, concealing and blossoming; and the works in The History Series collectively demonstrate the “reserved and concealing” state that I hope to achieve at this stage.
In face of the severe epidemic outbreak, along with the consequent disorder, anxiety and grief, everyone has surely realized an undeniable truth—life does not necessarily follow a pre-designed path in its course. Therefore, the transient beauty unexpectedly encountered in our daily life seems more previous and worthy of our cherishment. I have the same realization and sentiment for this unplanned ten-day exhibition, A Beautiful Encounter. Those who take part in this simple sharing are perhaps not “those who have much time,” but they are surely “attentive and enthusiastic.” I sincerely thank Chini Gallery, my team and my beloved family for making this unanticipated beautiful encounter possible.