2021.05.08 - 2021.09.12 KMFA 201-203 Galleries

Supported by Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Kaohsiung City Government
Organized by Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts and Art Commons Tainan
Curated by Gong Jow-Jiun and Hsu Yuan-Ta
Sponsored by National Culture and Arts Foundation, RSI Group, and LION PENCIL CO., LTD.
In Collaboration with Transportation Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government and Doctoral Program in Art Creation and Theory, Tainan National University of the Arts

In 2019, the death of the multi-hyphenate artist, Jiunshyan Lee, shocked the art sector in Taiwan. During the forty-odd years from the mid 1970s to 2018, Lee had been a teacher in junior and senior high schools, a painting association founder, a magazine editor, a graphic designer of the Centre Daily News (New York), an associate professor of architecture department, a supervisor of the Art Network of Railway Warehouses, an artist-in-residence, an observer of the Taishin Arts Award and the director of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts and a university arts center. The versatile roles he once took reflect not only the art ecology in Taiwan but his journey as an artist in such ecology.
In reviewing Lee’s art-driven life, we have been asking if it is possible to tease out a unique artistic perspective from his so-called nakasi-style (mobile performance) practice. The idea of “the travel routes of Jiunshyan Lee’s art” emerged after reviewing the multiple contexts in which his works were born, and it has then become the starting point of this exhibition. By re-exploring senses of place and land and by delving into how Lee projected a personal psychogeographic map with his works, the exhibition aims to delineate the artist’s psychogeography. It is expected that the exhibition may allow Lee’s art spirit to radiate with the “SOUTHERN HUE”—the signature technique that Lee used to interpret the landscape of TAKAO (Kaohsiung), the whole Taiwan island and the mountains and the seas in the South.
From the Love River to the Hudson River
TAKAO is where Jiunshyan Lee grew up whereas New York is where the rich Taiwanese culture came into his eyes. Sketching paved the way for his art life and was an important method he used to develop his personal aesthetics. From the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Lee had depicted TAKAO’s industrial landscape with railways, piers, factories, cement tanks, oil tanks and funnels. “Plated with rust,” faces of the laborers working in the Port of Kaohsiung and the export processing zone had imprinted on Lee and his works.  
“New York means so much to me,” said Lee. The Big Apple’s multi-ethnic culture brought his attention back to Taiwan. To catch foreigners’ eyes, he strategically used Taiwanese culture as a new expression means for works on history of the Chinese. Gradually, the richness of Taiwanese culture unfolded before him against such a multicultural environment. After returning to Taiwan, schools, life in the army, the fort in Kaohsiung and the Love River became his sketching subjects. This is also the period when he started to bring Chinese characters into his works. Without Taiwanese literacy, the characters are just meaningless symbols. Using the splashing technique 𫝺 (HUE), Lee’s characters were presented in complement colors, rough textures, wild strokes, gaudy tones and some were even invented compound characters and homonymic word-plays (such as the characters of “the number 8” and “to become rich” in Mandarin). Such topics and expression breathe out Lee’s beloved vulgar and vibrant culture in Taiwan.
In his later years, he returned to sketching and used his eyes and hands to revisit and re-interpret the people, matters and landscape of where he grew up.
Local and “Taiwanese”
The 10-year Taiwan Project launched in 1991 is critical to Lee’s art life. Setting out from Taitung and experiencing Taiwan in an anthropological manner—participant observation along with reading, interviewing and fieldwork, he imbued his works with a strong “sense of Taiwan”. The project also reminded him of his childhood. “The Taiwan Project has activated my innate antenna and all of a sudden I start to receive a huge amount of information. I am just so excited…My identification with ‘the local’ has become the essence of my creation and thoughts.” The landscape, the names of places and the local people and matters that are hopelessly flamboyant ( tshuann) sprung up in his works.
Organized by Lee and the other artist, Jiun-Yang Li, the Formosan Wall Painting Group was formed in 2001. The group’s formation is rather a critical reflection on images about Taiwan and member artists’ painting style. It intends to break down the closed space of a studio, to have artists create in communities and among people and to intervene the society with art. This is one important step for Lee to construct his Taiwanese aesthetics. At home and abroad, the group had exhibitions in MOCA Taipei, the Yunlin Palm Puppet Museum, a Formosan community by the Donghe Bridge, art zones in the north and the south of Taiwan, Puli Township in Nantou County and even in Ishinomaki, Japan and Venice, Italy. Artists of the group spice up their arts with various local flavors, and Lee was no exception. He was proud to be Taiwanese and that his Muse was the homeland, so his works constantly bombarded the viewers with the strong and vulgar savor of Taiwan.
Oceanic and Austronesian
Piers, cargo ships, fishing boats and the ocean appear in Lee’s early works in view of the fact that Kaohsiung is a port city. Before the martial law was lifted in Taiwan, the ocean and seashores were forbidden spaces. This estranged Taiwanese people from the ocean, but Taiwanese oceanic culture has played a substantial role in Lee’s works: the belief of the sea goddess, Mazu, the life history of cross- (Taiwan) straight immigrants, the development of Taiwan’s surrounding waters, port-related industries, port city cultures and various seashore landscapes are some of his important and interesting subjects.
In 1993, Lee started to know more about the indigenous Austronesian culture when he was engaged in the Nantou sub-project under the Taiwan Project, and had since tried to express it in characters. When he took up the post as the director of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (KMFA) in 2004, he advocated the Austronesian culture by proposing the unprecedented Contemporary Austronesian Art Project, by which he aimed to extend the exploration of Taiwan’s oceanic history. After completing the years serving as KMFA’s director, he continued the Taiwan Project which deepened and completed his construction of the visual system of Taiwanese culture. Since then, oceanic and Austronesian cultures became the focus of Lee’s later works.