Wu Chi-Tsung Interview

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What does ‘Recalibrate’ mean and what would you say are its aims?

I think ‘Recalibrate’ is a pretty good guide to understand my work, quite a lot of it is a discussion about how the image has been created and how we see, looking at different perspectives for using traditional media. The title is good because the show will hopefully give the audience a new focus of perspective, making them think differently about traditions.

What’s your artistic background?

I’m from a very academic background, I started to do painting when I was very small – maybe seven or eight years old – I grew up in Taiwan in a very art-specific school where half of the teaching was painting. It was a very special programme, we did a lot of Chinese painting and drawing, calligraphy, pencil, charcoal drawing, watercolour, landscape and still life – both Western and Oriental. I changed direction quite a lot in college and started to do more video work and changed my thinking about art. Through these different medias I looked back on my background in traditional art and in turn started a different dialogue with tradition.

So would you say your work is a response to more traditional Oriental art?

I’m not satisfied with digital technologies as they’ve limited our thinking, so I’ve turned back to using quite an ancient Oriental technique. The link between calligraphy and art has become a big stereotype and is only ever reproduced, the ‘Wrinkled Texture’ series is about giving up painting and going back to the paper itself. Chinese landscape painting is rarely a reproduction of a particular place, it’s about the imagination of the artist, the place they want to be, it’s not reproducing anything; but this is more about conceptual process, having a different dialogue with the media.

What do you think the impact of bringing this show to the UK?

It’s quite funny, in the ‘Wrinkled Texture’ series of work I use scrolls and in Taiwan people would question it, saying “Why are you using this? It’s so old”, because nowadays in contemporary art it’s become an issue. Chinese art is all based on paper, it’s rice paper and is very soft and thin, it’s always been flat and is never meant to give a visual illusion. The form is an issue in Taiwan and Asia, but in the West people think it’s normal because it’s Oriental, whereas in Asia it’s not that common anymore. All these things are interesting as it allows us to re-think what is common and normal… I’m curious as to what people’s perspectives are in the UK, it’s so different everywhere.

What would you say is the main context for your work?

Each work is different, the basic idea of Crystal City for example is to display the invisible world, cyberspace, the Internet, we are always there in our day to day lives but we can never see it physically. The light and shadow gives a different viewpoint; the shadow is a different world, another invisible world, and that’s the fundamental idea about Crystal City. There are always ties to the environment, beyond our hi-tech city we create a different kind of reality. My work is very influenced by my environment and what I’ve grown up with.

What do you hope that the viewers will take away with them from your exhibition?

All of my work is based on very normal daily life things but we don’t ever consider them as art; my work aims to change the way you see the mundane in a sense. It might be interesting to find that all these things around us offer new ways to think of the world around us, and the possibilities it has.

What would you say has been your main struggle as an artist?

[Laughs] I struggle with everything, lots of things – I would say there’s always good and bad to a certain degree. Everything’s quite uncertain, at the beginning of the year I may have no idea what I’m doing and then suddenly my schedule gets filled in a couple of weeks. When I get too busy I don’t have time for my original plan to do work in the year; but your life is like this, it’s out of your control and you can’t expect what will happen. I’ve had a year when I’ve done nothing, I was focused on doing my work but I didn’t feel productive. It’s good and bad to be an artist.

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