Wu Chi-Tsung ‘Recalibrate’ – Review

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The Lancaster edition of acclaimed Taiwanese artist Wu Chi-Tsung’s exhibition ‘Recalibrate’ includes a unique split-site exhibition between the Peter Scott Gallery and the dramatic grade II listed gallery at The Storey.

In the Peter Scott Gallery a series of single-channel videos disclose the power of the natural world. Each video is entitled ‘Still Life’, but they are anything but static. Whether an orchid with intricate branches and petals caught between growth and decay, or a pine tree suddenly shrouded by mist; these installations are overwhelmingly alive. Everything and everyone becomes a part of their ongoing regenerative light-show as it twirls shadows across the gallery walls. Unlike photography which only ever captures fleeting images, these videos display minute movements, growths and changes in light which work between presence and ghostly absence. The natural content of each video tears away at the projection, not only evading capture by the eye, but also our extended technological senses. They encourage onlookers to overcome the simultaneity fostered by the instant speed of electricity and information to attain the rewards of looking closely and contemplating an image.

There is also Tsung’s ‘Wrinkled Texture’ series – photographs printed onto scrolls inspired by the texturing methods central to Chinese landscape painting. The cyanotype rice paper prints were covered in a photo sensitive solution and then continually reshaped while being exposed to sunlight. Like this painstaking process, the mountains which are built of paper-like creases work to blur the boundary between what is man-made and what is part of nature. Each photograph reveals the intricacy of natural world and the importance of spending time on the reproduction of its processes.

In the Manton Room, the traditional Chinese painting on display has been taken from the permanent collection of the Peter Scott Gallery. Tsung is enthused by the values and meticulous techniques of traditional Chinese painters; every work in the room demands respect for nature, unveiling the callousness of its current destruction and the importance of recreating what is being lost. In oil and watercolour a ‘Mountainous Landscape with Two Figures Conversing Mid Heaven and Earth’ depicts two ant-like human figures beneath towering mountains. Shao-Ang Zhao’s full-scale ‘Punt Beyond Trees’ shows a tiny man rowing a boat caught in the stormy movements of the water, under trees that resemble the deadly fading branches in Tsung’s ‘Landscape in the Mist’.

In the Storey there is the immense ‘Crystal City’ installation made of hundreds of transparent boxes which deceptively replicate the light to articulate a smokescreen glass city. With each box having been constructed individually and arranged into urban architecture by hand, the work sets the importance of patient handcrafting against the invisible world of the postmodern city where mechanical production prevails and signs and images travel instantaneously. Once again the audience is asked to look beyond what is in front of them, and the play of light makes one question the societal structures at work underneath the exterior of neon signs, projected media images and sky-scrapers. ‘Wire II’ installation accompaniments this; inspired by traditional Chinese scroll painting, it explores the doubled relationship between projected image and mechanism, revealed through the nature of the wire netting which is at once flexible and regular. This demonstrates that images are manufactured to be seen in a certain way and prompts audiences to enquire into those which they encounter every day.

If you want to see the world through a regenerative lens and learn about the symmetry between traditional and contemporary Chinese culture, ‘Recalibrate’ is open until March 21st.

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