風荷的身姿—李光裕的人文雕塑

文/蕭瓊瑞 美術史家、國立成功大學歷史學系所教授

在台灣近代雕塑發展的歷程中,李光裕的出現,標示著西方雕塑在台灣生根成長的茁壯與成熟;也是西方雕塑在台灣由外形的精確寫實、表情的形塑模擬,歷經抽象語意的造形、純粹形式的結構,進入精神空間的掌握與肌理律動的調控。

台灣近代雕塑的展開,以1920年代黃土水的古典寫實雕塑為標的,戰後進入現代主義形象解構的衝擊。李光裕生長的時代,正是台灣現代主義達於高峰、即將走入鄉土運動的階段。李光裕巧妙地結合了這兩個階段的滋養,成為台灣雕塑史戰後第二代的標竿型人物。

1954年出生在台灣南部、高雄內惟的李光裕,父親曾留學日本東京學習「工業設計」,這在當時是相當先進的學科,但是回到台灣後,並沒有這樣的環境讓他發揮,只能在小學教美術;也因此,李光裕自小就在父親的影響下,塗塗畫畫,美術成了他最有興趣的學科。同時,李家隔壁住了一位為人畫祖先肖像的師傅,那些「寫真」的技術,引發李光裕的興趣,決定跟隨學習,竟也得到父母親的支持。

不過,在學校裡,李光裕顯然不同於同年紀的小孩,他喜歡獨自一人躲在學校的防空洞中,隔絕外界的干擾而自覺愉悅;因此小學畢業時,老師的評語是「孤癖不群」。中學時期,在當時的升學壓力下,他仍執著於繪畫的學習,包括:西畫和國畫,也衷情於書法。至於為何會走上雕塑之路?完全是高中美術老師黃光男的一句話:建議他去學雕塑。於是大學聯考時,他只填了國立藝專(今國立台灣藝術大學)雕塑科,果然就如願考上,那年是1972年。

藝專雕塑科一年級時,正好藝專學長任兆民自西班牙留學返校任教,任老師一身瀟洒的打扮,強烈的藝術家氣質,深深地打動了這位來自高雄鄉下的年輕男孩。似乎有一個遙遠的聲音呼喚著他,於是他開始學習西班牙文,準備畢業後就出國留學。同時,在藝術的學習上,也展現過人的狂熱,他經常趁夜校生放學後,翻越天窗爬進素描教室,徹夜練習素描;白天則揹著畫袋到處寫生,自我幻想是梵谷的化身。

不過留學之路顯然沒有想像中的順暢,畢業後只能先去服兵役;退伍後,在台北開了一間畫室,但是生意清淡,乾脆利用空檔,前往舞蹈教室學習古典芭蕾……。然而,這些當年看來有些錯置、荒謬的舉動,事實上都在日後的創作中,成為創作的養分,包括:南部故鄉的泥土、池塘中迎風而動的荷葉、書法的線條、芭蕾舞的身體律動……等等。

1978年,他終於獲得西班牙的入學許可,並進入歐洲聞名的聖費南多(San Fernado)藝術學院,跟隨以人體結構著稱的西班牙雕塑家托雷多(Toledo)教授學習;在這裡獲得了藝術知識的開展,那是一種從實踐中獲得的生命啟蒙。畢業後又進入馬德里大學美術學院,取得碩士。1984年返台,適逢國立藝術學院(今國立台北藝術大學)成立,順利進入該校任教,直到2006年退休。從世俗的標準看,李光裕的藝術事業之路,似乎是順利得令人稱羨;然而,從生命的歷程看,李光裕掌握藝術創作的能力,顯然沒能和應付現實生活的能力,劃上等號,在處理諸多如感情生活、經濟生活,乃至精神生活的問題上,李光裕事實上經歷了常人無法想像的挫折、困頓與壓力。不過,也正因為這些挫折、困頓與壓力,藝術創作就成了他生命能量的唯一「出口」;而對東方古典知能的學習,包括:古董、佛理、太極拳……的學習,也都成了成就他創作生命的活水泉源。

回顧李光裕的創作,1986年應是其藝術生命初步成熟的關鍵年代。初回藝術學院任教的一兩年間,李光裕為自己的所學、所教所困擾,總覺得自己像是一個推銷洋貨的買辦,能夠提供給學生的,都是西洋的東西,欠缺一個自我思想的系統;而就在這樣的困境中,無意間在台北重慶南路的書店中翻到一本《六祖壇經》,他忽然發現:只要把經中所有的「佛」字換成「藝術」,整本書就成了一本藝術論。

這種發現,就如蘋果掉到牛頓的頭上就發現了地心引力那麼簡單,其實那只是靈魂透悟的一個外力因緣。自來對佛學就有著相當體悟的李光裕,在《六祖壇經》中發現藝術的體系,也就是一套對人、對世界、對萬有的一套理解體系,也就讓他在西方學得的雕塑技法與觀念,一下子找到了一套屬於自我、也是屬於東方的理解方式與路徑。1986年的〈凝Ⅰ〉、〈湧泉〉與〈手非手〉,正是這個轉折產生下的第一批作品。

這三件作品,都是以人的身體局部為題材,分別是頭、腳和手,然而就如手一作的題目〈手非手〉所示,其他兩件,其實也都是〈頭非頭〉、〈腳非腳〉;簡單地說:以局部代替整體,「人」是李光裕關懷的主題,就像他的老師托雷多是歐洲知名的人體雕塑大師,但是老師所關心的,是結構、空間,和量體;而李光裕在這些人體的局部中,呈現的,卻是對東方式的山水思想、人的解脫與自處等等問題的關懷與探討。人和風景的一體化,從這個時期開始,就成了李光裕人文雕塑的核心思維與特徵。〈凝Ⅰ〉的安適、凝定,那是一種心靈極度放鬆的神態,非佛即佛,人的頭部完全放鬆地交托給那隻斜陳的手,沒有脖子、沒有手臂,形成一種凌空的輕靈。那是一種人文的風景、精神的意境,也是東方拳術太極拳法中,太極起式的第一步:凝神靜氣、內觀自得;當然也是佛者禪定的境界。

〈湧泉〉也是太極拳,乃至中醫的術語,所謂「凝神入穴,息息歸根」;這「根」,也就是足部;腳的盤根運作,乃是太極拳中紮根的基礎。在太極拳的行拳中,氣在體內運行,一旦凝神入穴,便可足底「湧泉」。「湧泉」即為生命之泉湧,就中醫的角度言,一足一人,由指尖到足根,分別就是人的頭部到底部,底部即起點,也稱湧泉。

因為〈湧泉〉,因此這件作品充滿一種飽滿脹裂的意象;而這種意象,乃是利用陶板拍打泥土所產生的一種鬆、緊不同而有的斑剝感,也因此形成一種內部的氣與外在的形,相互牽引、拉扯而散發的能量感與張力。

〈手非手〉也是藝術家在練習太極拳後,所體驗到的一股氣透指尖的神秘能量;由於練功,而使手感覺微微膨脹,有如觸電般的感應……。這種被作者稱為「內功美學」的創作,也就宣告李光裕正式從乃師的思維系統中獨立出來,成為一個兼具西方雕塑技巧與東方精神美學的傑出雕塑家。

〈凝Ⅰ〉、〈湧泉〉、〈手非手〉都完成於1986年,也都成為爾後李光裕創作幾個主要系列的最初源頭;特別如:由〈凝Ⅰ〉引申出來的〈凝Ⅱ〉(1995)、〈凝Ⅲ〉(1995)、〈早春〉(1996)、〈靜思〉(2008)、〈迎春〉(2009),以及由〈手非手〉引申出來的〈手非手Ⅱ〉(1989)、〈幽蘭〉(1990)、〈臨風〉(1991)、〈印〉(1991)、〈玉女穿梭〉(1991)、〈春在枝頭〉(1991)、〈供春〉(1994)、〈幽谷〉(1995)、〈山隱〉(1996)、〈寶印〉(1996)、〈璧〉(1998)、〈拈花Ⅰ〉(1999)、〈供春Ⅱ〉(2001)、〈拈花Ⅱ〉(2003)、〈拈花Ⅲ〉(2012)等。而以兩隻手形成的系列,更在1999年的〈牽手〉、〈心手相遇〉、〈蓮花持〉、〈小公園〉和2000年的〈合〉等一些帶有象徵意涵的公共藝術之後,在2007年形成「手印」系列,如:〈五蘊〉、〈五識〉、〈寶山〉、〈金杵〉、〈小金杵〉、〈無雙〉、〈息印〉、〈觸地〉、〈西窗〉、〈大寶海〉,以及2008年的〈五明〉、〈二葉松〉、2009年的〈雲誼〉、2010年的〈十方〉等。

當然在這些看似同一系列的作品中,其實都有一些頗為微妙而深沈的變化,特別是以手為題材的作品,在原本飽滿、微脹的雛型下,1991年的〈臨風〉開始出現「修長」與「破洞」兩種特徵。「修長」使得李光裕的雕塑有了更多屬於線條的變化。原本「手」之作為人體器官的局部,便充滿了線條的表情,不一樣的線條,顯現不一樣的肢體語言,也就蘊含不一樣的氣氛與內心世界。拉長後的手指,更加強了線條的豐富性,乃至自由性,而這種線條輕重、緩急、頓挫或流暢的表情,事實上正是李光裕早年對書法學習的心得。至於「破洞」的出現,則是在挑戰原本的豐實與完整。一件過於完整,乃至甜美的作品,容易限制觀者的想像,甚至令人感覺生厭;因此,適度的破壞,便可產生更多的空間,包括物質的空間和精神的空間。這種「破洞」美學的根源,甚至可以從中國古代園林賞石中的「太湖石」獲得印證,但同時也是藝術家童年故鄉風荷破葉的印象;何況在現實生活中,藝術家面臨的困境、破碎,往往多於圓滿、豐實。

不過,在李光裕將近卅年的創作生涯中,除了這些以身體局部作為創作題材的作品之外,以人體尤其女體為題材的創作,顯然也是自成一個體系。甚至可以說:那些以身體局部(頭、手)形成的作品,代表著藝術家較為宗教、理想、光明的一面;而那些以女體為題材的創作,則暗含著藝術家苦悶、掙扎、世俗、情慾的隱密面向。1987年的〈蓮藕聯想〉正是這個體系的最初呈現。

〈蓮藕聯想〉是李光裕少數可見的木雕創作,取名〈蓮藕聯想〉也顯示南台灣故鄉的蓮田記憶,仍在他的創作生命中佔有的重要位置。這件作品,以看似一人、又似兩人相擁的構成,將身軀、肢幹作成渾圓的節狀,一如蓮藕的形狀。這個似一實二、似二而一的造型,除了表達「你中有我、我中有你」的如漆愛情外,也造成了觀眾視覺上辨視的挑戰;而下肢,尤其足部的刻意扭曲,則形成造型上的一種張力。顯然,異性間的愛慾情仇,一直是藝術家擺脫不了的生命課題。女人的柔軟、溫順,是藝術家追求、愛戀的對象,但女人的好嫉、善變,似乎也是藝術家無法應付、處置的難題。因此,藝術家愛女人,也愛貓,雕塑女人,也雕塑貓,因為女人似貓。在1988年的〈蛻變〉中以軀體捲曲如貓的女人為題材之前,便有一系列以貓為題材的作品,如〈偎〉、〈聽勁〉、〈迴〉、〈情〉(均1988)等。而〈蛻變〉一作中,女人軀體的扭曲,事實上是現實人體無法完成的動作;這種透過外在形體的扭曲,來呈顯內在精神的掙扎,也就形成了作品強烈的張力。至於〈蛻變〉的頭部、軀幹,是男?是女?也有在男人、女人之間辨證滲透的意涵。

1990年的〈峭〉,則是目前可見最早較完整的女體,但這件無頭、無手、無腳的女性軀體,則是利用學生廢棄的一件石膏像所作成。李光裕透過這件作品,來教導學生如何找出作品中的可能性。正如他自己在西班牙留學時,有一次做了一件牧童的作品,托雷多教授走來,只簡單地將作品扭一下、折一下,便馬上變得生動又有造型;這種從破壞中找出新的可能,也是李光裕日後創作中經常運用的技法,尤其是在以人體為題材的創作中特別常見。

1995年的〈山行〉、〈藏寶〉,都是將人體壓縮到極致的作法,再局部的切除、破壞,乃至重組;〈藏寶〉後來又發展成〈藏〉(1999)的A、B兩作,展現不同角度、不同性格的視覺意象,而那足尖挺立的動作,正是早年學習芭蕾舞的體會。緊張和不安,似乎一直是李光裕女體雕塑常見的主題,即使在較寫實的〈緩解與張力〉(1996-1999)一作中也不例外。而這種不安,有時還擴大到一種情境的狀態中,如1996年的〈滑落〉,一個被肢解重組的女體,躺臥在一張有著高突舖墊的床上,形狀恰似一隻睡在沙發椅上的貓,緊臨邊緣,一不小心就將滑落地面。

女性顯然是藝術家既愛又怕、又無法迴避的生命挑戰,他既歌頌,如〈流水〉(1997)、〈春尖〉(1997)、〈冬蛹〉(2001)、〈秋蛹〉(2008)、〈春蛹〉(2009),又窺視,如:〈軟玉〉(1998)、〈良宵引〉(1998)、〈倚牆〉(1999);既防患,如:〈危險女人〉(1999),又沈溺,如:〈雨〉(2006)、〈嗄屋〉(2007)……。李光裕的創作,顯然以這些女體系列,最具個人情感的映現。

2007年的〈荷畔〉,將女體與荷花結合,人體與植物合一,都是風景的一部份,而荷的多姿、荷的殘破,也成了女人無法迴避的命運。某些時候,女人也成了藝術家自我投射的對象,如〈無逝歲月〉中包裹在荷葉中無憂無慮的女子,藝術家在無情的現實壓力中,始終期待一個不被外界干擾,得以自足自適的山林世界,一如年少時期藏身的防空洞。

女人最後成了生命的救贖與神祗,2008年的〈亥母〉、〈飛天〉,正是宗教化了的女體。〈亥母〉是佛教密裡的金鋼本尊,也是雙修中的大樂佛母,以豬形現身;〈飛天〉則是敦煌中自由飛翔、歌讚禮佛的女神。

在這宗教化了的女體之中,藝術家無意表達純粹宗教的訴求,反而是表達技法上的突破高點。如〈亥母〉中扁平化的女性肢體,成為2013年後一批新作的源頭;而〈飛天〉軀體的切割、重組、倒置,則恰恰給了作品極強的韌性與張力,也是豐實軀體的一個巔峰之作。

2013年之後,藝術家心境進入一個新的階段,對世俗的看淡,在創作中有意以輕盈取代豐實,以片狀取代實體。〈鼓舞〉、〈女子〉、〈舞〉、〈一線天〉都是新的嘗試與成功之作,而〈飛來〉與〈太極〉仍是對情愛的憧憬與歌讚……。

李光裕是一個極度用功的藝術家,除了1997年間一度擔任中華民國雕塑學會秘書長以外,幾乎謝絕一切外界的邀約,專事創作;高峰時期,有時一年的創作量達到20餘件,如1999年、2007年、2008年,以及2013年等,除了文前所論幾個主要創作脈絡外,尚有許多亦莊亦諧的作品,前者如以坐佛為原模的〈空山〉系列,後者則如〈旺旺〉(1997)、〈抽煙的人〉(1999)、〈鄰居〉(2008)等生活小品。

總之,李光裕的雕塑,在西方強調空間、結構、彈性的雕塑傳統基底上,賦予一個東方人自我生命情境的思維、情感;他的創作,猶如一頁頁充滿私密的日記,與生活的札記,卻也呈現了諸多人類共同的困境與理想。那是一種極度矛盾、衝突的調和與統一,既靜謐又騷動、既出塵又凡俗、既剎那又永恆…….。

李光裕這些以生命為出發,以西方技法為基底,創作出深具東方精神思維、又不失現代形式趣味的大批作品,實為台灣近代雕塑自黃土水以來,歷經戰後現代主義抽象風格的衝擊,而能將西方雕塑以「手作的抒情」,進入精神空間的掌握與肌理律動的調控,最具標竿意義的一位傑出雕塑,美麗如一朵風中搖曳的荷葉。

The Humanistic Sculpture of LEE Kuang-Yu

Text/ HSIAO Chong-Ray Art Historian, Professor, Department of History, National Cheng Kung University

In the development process of modern Taiwanese sculpture, the emergence of LEE Kuang-Yu marks the growth and maturation of Western style sculpture in Taiwan. As well as realistic shapes and accurate imitation of facial expressions, he creates abstract meaning from pure form, with an understanding of spiritual space and mastery of rhythm and texture.

Modern Taiwanese sculpture first developed with the classical realism of Huang Tu-Shui in the 1920s, yielding to the advance of the vivid deconstruction of modernism after the war. LEE Kuang-Yu grew up at exactly the time when Taiwan’s modernism reached its peak, and was about to enter into what was called the “homeland” or “nativist” culture movement. He cleverly combined and nourished these two phases, becoming a symbol of second generation post-war Taiwanese sculpture

LEE Kuang-Yu was born in 1954 in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city. His father once studied industrial design in Tokyo, an advanced course at the time, but on his return to Taiwan, there were not the right surroundings to utilize his studies, so he ended up teaching primary school art. Under his father’s influence, young Kuang-Yu excelled at painting, and art became his favorite subject. At that time, the LEEs’ neighbor was a portrait painting master, whose portrait skills caught Kuang-Yu’s interest, and when he decided to study portrait painting, he had his parents’ support.

In school, however, LEE Kuang-Yu was clearly different from the other children his age. He liked to hide on his own in the school’s air-raid shelter, happy to be shielded from the interference of the outside world, and upon leaving elementary school his teacher commented that he was a “lonely boy and an outsider”. Under the academic pressure of junior high school he was still dedicated to the study of painting, including both western and Chinese styles of art, as well as emotionally expressive calligraphy. The study of sculpture was recommended to him by his high school art teacher, so when the university entrance exam came he applied to the sculpture department at the National Academy of Arts (now the National Taiwan University of Arts). Sure enough, he passed the entrance exam, it was 1972.

In his first year at the sculpture department, it happened that his older schoolmate Ren Zhao-Min returned from studying in Spain to teach. Mr Ren was entirely dressed in western clothes, and had the strong temperament of an artist, which deeply moved this young boy from Kaohsiung. It was as if a distant voice had called him, and he began to study Spanish in preparation to study abroad after graduation. At that time, he began to show an extraordinary enthusiasm for the study of art, and he took advantage of evening classes, even crawling through the skylight into sketching classroom so he could practice sketching all night. In the daytime he took his painting bag everywhere to sketch still life, imagining he was the reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh.

But his plan to study abroad didn’t go as smoothly as he’d imagined, and he was forced to complete his military service. After he was discharged, he opened an artists studio in Taipei, but business was scarce, and he made use of his free time going to dance classes to learn classical ballet. These apparent misfortunes, however, all fed his creativity in the future, including: southern homeland soil, wind in the pool and moving lotus leaf, calligraphy lines and the rhythmical movements of ballet.

In 1978 he was at last allowed to study in Spain, and entered Europe’s well-known Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, and studied under the celebrated Spanish sculptor Toledo. There he developed his knowledge of art, a kind of life instruction/initiation acquired from practice. After graduating, he returned to the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where he obtained his masters degree.
His return to Taiwan in 1984 happened to coincide with the establishment of the National Institute of the Arts (now Taipei National University of the Arts), and he entered professorship there until his retirement in 2006. From an outside perspective, the path that LEE Kuang-Yu’s art career has taken may seem to be enviably smooth, but looking at it as a living process, he grasps at the creative potential of art, clearly unable to cope with real life. In dealing with emotional life, economic life and even spiritual life, LEE Kuang-Yu in fact experienced setbacks, frustrations and pressures unimaginable to most people. However, because of this, artistic creation became the only outlet for his life energy. In addition, his studies and eastern classical knowledge, including antiques, Buddhism and tai chi all became flowing sources of creativity for him.

Looking back at LEE Kuang-Yu’s work, 1986 was a key year in the maturation of his artistic life. For the first two years teaching at the art institute, he was uneasy in his role as student and teacher, as he felt like a comprador, a purveyor of western goods. Everything he offered his students was western, and lacked the dimension of independent thought. In a book store on Chongqing South Road he came across a copy of the Buddhist text Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, and he discovered that if one replaces the word “Buddha” with the word “art”, the book becomes a writing on art.

This kind of discovery is as simple as the apple falling on Newton’s head which led him to discover gravity, and in fact it is merely an external stimulus prompting spiritual understanding. LEE, who had always had a considerable understanding of Buddhism, found an artistic system in the scriptures, that is a set of understandings about man, the world and the universe, that allowed him to unify the techniques and concepts of sculpture he had learned in the west with his own eastern ways of understanding. His 1986 works Meditation I, Feet is the Fountain, and A Hand It Seems are really the first set of works to arise from this shift.

These three works all use parts of the body as subject matter – head, foot and hand – and simply put: the body parts replace the whole. LEE Kuang-Yu was concerned with the theme of people, just like his teacher Toledo was a famous European master of body sculpture, but where the teacher was concerned with structure, space and form, LEE Kuang-Yu actually used these body parts to explore ideas like the eastern landscape and freeing man from himself. From this point on, integrating the human body with landscapes became LEE Kuang-Yu’s core line of thought and his works’ distinctive feature. The peace and concentration of Meditation I gives it an extremely relaxed appearance, a Buddha that is not Buddha, a person’s head completely relaxed, resting on a tilted hand with no neck or arms, creating a kind of ethereal being in the sky. It is a creative concept of landscape and spirit, and is the first step in the martial art of tai chi: with an air of quiet attention and inner contentedness, and of course it is the Buddhist’s state of meditation.

Feet is the Fountain also refers to tai chi, and the Chinese name of the piece is a term in Chinese traditional medicine. Yongquan or “gushing spring” is the meridian line at the base of the foot, and is considered the root of the body, and an opening for the flow of the body’s chi. In Tai Qi boxing, chi moves around the body, entering the yongquan, and it is also considered the flow of life in Chinese traditional medicine, flowing from the fingertips to the “gushing spring” at the base of the foot.

Because “gushing spring” is so full of swollen, cracked imagery, the use of layered clay pottery creating a sense of peeling, the piece gives a sense of both looseness and tightness at the same time. This creates a tension between the internal chi and the external form as they pull at each other, distributing energy.

A Hand it Seems was inspired by the artist experiencing the mysterious flow of “chi” energy through the fingertips after practicing Tai Chi, the practice making the hands feel slightly swollen, as if an electrical current is passing through them. This kind of work, called “inner aesthetics” by the artist, has set LEE Kuang-Yu apart from previous systems of thought, making him a distinguished sculptor who combines western techniques with eastern spiritual aesthetics.

Meditiation I, Feet is the Fountain and A Hand it Seems were all completed in 1986, and all subsequently became the basis for many of LEE Kuang-Yu’s major series of works. From Meditation I came Meditation II (1995), Meditation III (1995), Early Spring (1996), Silent Thought (2008), Meeting Spring (2009). Similarly, A Hand it Seems inspired later works such as A Hand it Seems II (1989), Hidden Orchid (1990), Facing the Wind (1991), Prints (1991), Branch in Spring (1991), The Offer From Spring (1994), The Serene Valley (1995), Hidden Mountain (1996), Treasure Print (1996), Jade (1998), Holding Out a Flower (1999), The Offer From Spring II (2001), Holding Out a Flower II (2003), Holding Out a Flower III (2012). A series of symbolic public works involving two hands began in 1999 with Holding Hands, Heart and Hand, Lotus Grip, Little Park, and Together in 2000. Later, in 2007 the Hand Print series took shape, with The Five Aggregates, The Five Records, The Hill of Treasure, The Gold Pestle, The Little Gold Pestle, Unique, Wisdom Prevents Misfortune, Touch the Ground, The Window, The Grand Sea of Treasure, Enlightenment (2008), Red Pine (2008), Cloud Friendship (2009) and Ten Squares (2010).

Of course, while these seem to be series of similar works, there are in fact some quite subtle and deep variations, especially in those works that focus on the hand. From the original pump hand with small swollen parts, the 1991 work Facing the Wind started to show the hand as more slender and with holes in it. The slenderness of the hand gives the sculpture more varied contours. The original hand as a human organ is filled with linear expression, distinctive curves depicting an unusual appendage, expressing a different mood and inner world. The lengthening of the fingers exaggerates the richness and freedom of the hand’s contours, and the angle and flow of the curves express a sense of severity and urgency, which in fact are a result of LEE Kuang-Yu’s early studies in calligraphy. As for the appearance of the hole in the hand, it challenges the solidity and completeness of the original. A work of art that is too perfect and pleasant will likely restrict the viewer’s imagination, and even irritate or bore people; so a certain amount of destruction can create more space, both material and spiritual. The origin of this “hole” aesthetic could even be the Taihu stone used in the ancient gardens of china, but it is also inspired by the damaged lotus leaves of the artist’s childhood home. Moreover, in real life the artist faces damaged and broken things more often than perfection and completeness.

Nearly thirty years into LEE Kuang-Yu’s creative career, aside from these works on body parts, the human body, especially the female form, became a creative theme. One could even say that while the works on the themes of body parts represented the artist’s religious, idealist and enlightened side, those works on the female form showed a hidden side of him which was depressive, conflicted, vulgar and lustful. The 1987 work Embrace of the Lotus Root is the first example of this style.

Embrace of the Lotus Root is a rare example of LEE Kuang-Yu’s wood carving work, and the name recalls the lotus fields of his home in southern Taiwan, which still has an important place in his creative life. While this piece resembles a person, it also looks like the form of two people embracing, their bodies and limbs taking on rounded shapes like the form of a lotus root. This makes the one seem like two, and two seem like one, and as well as the romantic external message of “I am part of you and you are part of me”, it also challenges the viewer visually to recognize the forms. The lovers’ limbs, especially the deliberately distorted feet, add an element of tension to the piece, and surely the feelings of attraction between these members of the opposite sex represent the artist’s inability to free himself from life’s problems. The woman’s softness and meekness are the object of the artist’s affection, but he seems unable to cope with her jealousy and volatility. The artist loves women and he loves cats, he sculpts women as he sculpts cats, because apparently women are like cats. Before his 1988 piece Transformation, which features the form of a woman curled up like a cat, he made a series of works featuring cats, such as Cuddle, Listening Spirit, Curve and Feeling, all in 1988. In Transformation, the twist of woman’s body is actually impossible for a real person to replicate. This kind of distortion of the external figure presents the struggle of the inner consciousness, and gives the piece its dark tension. Are the head and torso in Transformation male or female? There is also a connotation of exploring the boundaries between man and woman.

The 1990 work Steep was evidently a complete female figure at first, but now the item has no head, hands or feet, and looks to be made of a student’s discarded piece of plaster. Through this piece, LEE Kuang-Yu instructs the student how to find the possibilities within a work of art. Just like when he sculpted a shepherd boy while was studying in Spain: professor Toledo walked in and simply twisted the piece a little, breaking a bit off, instantly turning it into an exciting sculpture. Finding new possibilities from destruction in this way is another of LEE Kuang-Yu’s frequently used techniques, especially when the subject matter is the human body.

The 1995 works Mountain Hike and Hiding the Treasure both compress the body, again with parts removed, damaged and even rearranged. After Hiding the Treasure, he developed parts A and B of Hidden, which revealed different angles and different visual imagery, and that sense of movement created by the figure standing on tiptoes, showing his early knowledge of ballet. LEE Kuang-Yu’s depictions of the female form always seem tense and restless, and there is no exception in the relatively realistic Relief and Tension (1996-1999). This restlessness sometimes manifests itself in the mood of the piece, like in the 1996 piece Slide, a dismembered and rearranged female body lying on a high, padded bed, curled up just like a cat on a sofa, close to the edge, nearly falling off.

The artist clearly both loves and fears women, and is unable to escape this contradiction. He seems to sing their praises in Running Water (1997), Spring Point (1997), The Pupa in the Winter (2001), The Pupa in the Fall (2008), The Pupa in the Spring (2009). He also spies on them in Soft Jade (1998), Leaning on the Wall (1999), and guards against them in A Dangerous Woman (1999), and enjoys them in Rain (2006) and Buddha Box (2007). Of LEE Kuang-Yu’s work, this series on the female form is clearly the most personal and emotional.

2007’s By the Lotus Pond combines the female form with a lotus, uniting the human body and plant. Both are part of the landscape, but the lotus, broken into pieces, represents the woman’s unavoidable fate. The woman is also a self projection of the artist, like the woman in Timeless, carefree and wrapped up in a lotus leaf. Under the pressure of a ruthless reality, the artist longs for a mountain forest world, self sufficient and not disturbed by the outside world, just like when he used to hide in the air-raid shelter.

Woman finally became the savior of life and a kind spirit in religious female forms of Goddess of the Earthly Creations and Goddess of Music in 2008. Goddess of the Earthly Creations features a mystical Buddhist deity, and a happy Buddha mother who appears as a pig. The Goddess of Music, on the other hand, is soaring freely through the air in kindhearted brilliance, singing praises to Buddha.

Among these enlightened female forms, the artist is not merely expressing a religious message, rather he is expressing a breakthrough in high level techniques. It’s as if the female body in Goddess of the Earthly Creations turned into a new source of material after 2013. The dismembered and rearranged body in Goddess of Music gives the work a sense of toughness and tension, and it is clearly the peak of his body work.

After 2013 the artist’s frame of mind entered a new phase, looking indifferently at the profane, he became more interested in replacing abundant truth with lightheartedness, and supplanting realistic forms with flat shapes. Drum Dancer, Woman, Dance and Skein of Heaven are all new attempts and successes, while Fly Over and The Absolute Supreme Ultimate still represent his worship and longing for love.
LEE Kuang-Yu is an extremely industrious artist, and apart from 1997 when he held the post of secretary-general of the National Sculpture Institute, he refuses almost all external invitations so that he can create. At the peak of his creativity he made 20 items in a year, like in 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2013. Aside from several main creative veins, there are still many solemn and serious works like Empty Mountain, which imitates the sitting Buddha, Prosperous (1997), The Smoking (1999) and Keeping Close By (2008).

In short, LEE Kuang-Yu’s sculptures, based on the western traditional statues, emphasize space, structure and flexibility, and give an eastern perspective. His work is like a diary brimming with his life’s secrets, but also presents predicaments and dreams commonly held by many people. It is an extremely contradictory and conflicting harmony and unity, both tranquil and restless, exciting and ordinary, instant and eternity…

LEE Kuang-Yu started out with Western techniques as a foundation, and created large quantities of work with a deep understanding of eastern spiritual thought, while not missing out on the liveliness of the modern form. In fact, modern Taiwanese sculpture started from loess clay, and then experienced the impact of the post-modernist abstract style. Now through handmade expression it brings western sculpture into a spiritual space with mastery of rhythm and texture: the sculpture with symbolic significance, as beautiful as a lotus leaf swaying in the wind.