The exhibition title, Rock the Dream, Spirit of Ink – TENG Pu-Chun, was revealed to me by curator Emerson Wang when we got a little tipsy after several drinks. He told me that my paintings embody characteristic of the romantic spirit in rock and roll music. It was the first time that a person ever described my work in this way, which gave me a chance to examine my work from a new perspective. What is “rock”? Some people consider it the manifestation of a rebellious and liberating spirit; but it also implies a deeper sense of self-reflection. It not only became one of the prominent genre in pop music after the 60s, but also led to changes and created impact on different aspects in this world. Its influence has been so great that one cannot clearly define it.
“National painting” was a specific term that referred to traditional Chinese painting. It was like a burden of a cast spell that could not be undone. The names of ink and color ink did not appear until the 19th and 20th century. The teaching and learning of traditional Chinese painting is conducted through the peculiar master-pupil system, and the pupils always starts with “copying” the works of past art masters without really asking why. After graduation, I taught myself by studying paintings from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, through which I explored the concepts of Chinese painting and the principles of using ink and brush. I realized that the problem of Chinese painting had its root in the problematic system of education. In particular, after the literati painting became the mainstream in the Yuan and Ming dynasties, literati dominated the theoretical discourse of painting. They filled it with symbols and copied each other, causing the deterioration of the art and the eventual loss of its vitality. After entering the Republic era, although there were renowned masters, they still followed the concept of the literati painting to create their art. In 1957, Chi Pai-Shi passed away, and the May Art Group was founded in Taiwan, of which Mr. Liu Kuo-Sung was one of the members. Thirty years later, Liu proposed the idea of revolutionizing the genre of its use of the “middle hair brush,” turning himself into the father of modern ink painting and a contemporary master. At that time, Liu’s status as a revolutionary figure was the result and making of a changing world, in which the political climate also moved toward democracy; therefore, drastic measures and changes were necessary. Afterwards, Taiwanese ink painting became diversified. However, I found that many ink paintings were created under Western concepts or with Western compositions, and lost the characteristic charm of Chinese ink. I stopped for a long time, preparing myself while pondering on the question of how to create contemporary ink painting with the most traditional ink and brush.
As a matter of fact, the most beautiful and charming part of traditional Chinese painting is the use of ink and brush, which demonstrates a vast range of variations. They are not only unique instruments, but also representative, irreplaceable features of Eastern painting. For this reason, I did not want to give them up; instead, I worked harder to study the skills and basics of ink and brush, creating more distinctive techniques. However, I did not aim to portray realistic landscape and objects with ink because it had been developed to perfection in the Tang and Song dynasties. During 1996 to 1999, I found a new approach and concept to painting, which I called space conversion. I used three-dimensional rocks as a painting material. The protrusions and indentations of rocks would take over the control over composition, but I was the one that was creating the painting. When the work was completed, it conveyed an indescribable and strange visual perception. Then, I transferred the space of the rocks onto paper and painting the series of Potted Landscape with Weird Rocks. Led by various ink techniques, the three-dimensional landscape was formed, creating the magical space. This is the motif that I have painted the most. Human thinking and imagination are always unlimited. Realization in life can become a source of inspiration through imagination, and be transformed into different shapes and spaces. I find this particularly interesting. On view in this exhibition is a painting, titled I Love Carmen, but I Love Corset More. In life, Carmen is a world classic that is unfamiliar to me whereas corsets can be seen almost everywhere. So, I convert what is commonly seen in ordinary life into an imaginative space that is a bit erotic. This series of works includes Rare Store and the Dog, Fallen Leaves, Romantic time of the active volcano, etc. I often stare blankly at some of my works and think about how they are painted and find that I have forgotten the process as well as the techniques. Perhaps, this is an aftereffect of my art-making.
My life is very steady and boring, lonely and uninteresting; however, this lifestyle has offered the most ideal creative space and energy for me. Some people might think that I am being nonsensical, but this is a fact as well as an understanding of life. I follow a daily routine like a government employee, getting to work, getting off work, eating, sitting on the toilet, exercising… In fact, to maintain this routine requires the power of self-control and demands one to create the fun in life with imagination. By converting the space, I can find my source of creative energy. Rock the Dream, Spirit of Ink is simply the result of two guys brainstorming together with a little ‘magic’ of good wine.