Inspired by the relationship between chance and beauty, multimedia artist Wu Chi-Tsung collaborates with the unpredictability of the natural world to create his mesmerizing blue landscapes.
After earning his BFA at the Taipei National University of Arts, Wu continued exploring a variety of mediums including oil painting, photography, video, LED installations, and experimental ink painting. He calls himself a “cultural hybrid,” moving between both the East and West and contemporary and traditional techniques.
His cultural dexterity is on full display in his Cyano-Collage series. The series recalls Chinese shan shui (“mountain-water”) paintings. The artwork’s distinct look comes from combining techniques of classical Chinese ink painting with those used in cyanotype, a photographic printing process.
Instead of needing to be developed in a dark room, cyanotypes react with ultraviolet light to reveal their signature blue color. Inspired by cun fa, a texturing method used by traditional shan shui artists, Wu adds the cyanotype coating to sheets of rice paper and crumples them before leaving them out in the light. After Wu unfolds and refolds the sheets, then washes them and glues them to an aluminum board in layers, the landscapes emerge.
Indeed, his technique is itself not unlike an environmental process such as the formation of a mountain. “I’m basically like a farmer. It’s physical,” he told the Financial Times. “There are a lot of coincidences that I cannot control. That’s the best part.” The result is a work that doesn’t represent a real place, yet has the “spirit of a Chinese landscape.”
Using light as a medium is a hallmark of Wu’s work, but his real interest lies in the images that light produces and how they reflect our understanding of the world. “Through an image, what we see and process in our minds [is] visualized and solidified,” he said in an interview with the online gallery The Artling.
“Sometimes, we should just let it go. Let the work grow in the way it should.”
For “Seeing Through Light,” his exhibition at Tao Art Space in 2021, he recorded a flashlight’s movements over statues of buddhas and bodhisattvas. The resulting video creates the impression of gradual illumination—or enlightenment.
Wu Chi-Tsung walks the line between creator and witness. There’s no doubt that exercising his talents is integral to the outcome, but relinquishing the role of the creator is just as important. “The more you try to control it, the more likely you lose the possibility. Sometimes, we should just let it go. Let the work grow in the way it should,” he said to Artnet.
Above all, Wu wants to record how time, light, and the effects of touch work together to let beauty unfold naturally. “If I could just lower my ego,” he told Ocula, “and let the material show what it is . . . I could get real freedom through that. In this way, I am helping the material to find its own being.”
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