尊彩藝術中心：【心的遠景—讀金芬華 The Vision of the Heart – A Reading of King Fen-Hwa】
The Vision of the Heart – A Reading of King Fen-Hwa
Written by Cheng Nai-Ming
Withered leaves fall o’er fragrant steps shower by shower;
In night so still, the shivering sound’s chill.
── Fan Zhongyan, Song of the Royal Street
King Fen-Hwa’s artworks are always filled with a soft stubbornness.
Not too many artists make a confession like this, directly telling viewers their “attitude” toward art.
Most of the artists nowadays are “paintings” for viewers in their artistic practice. However, what King Fen-Hwa does is more than painting. It seems that she does not serve some viewers’ perspective. Although she appropriates natural scenes in the images of her works, she never attempts to make the composition as some rehearsal for Nature or to intentionally imply the beginning and the termination of natural life. Her paintings are the landscape in her heart. It is a relieved inner peace achieved from her self-examination. It is fine to share it with others, but whether you agree with her or not does not really matter.
Nevertheless, a viewer like you still stands in front of her painting, forgetting the passing of time. In this year’s exhibits of her recent works, there is a series works where she attempts to remove the flowers, branches, and the leaves, leaving the images without any traces of the real world but the space only. In the silence, no miserable loneliness is felt. King Fen-Hwa leaves the grids, constituted by the vertical and horizontal lines, in the images, while the main colors of the images are pink and bright orange. The two main colors are either big or small. Sometimes it is on the top of the other, while sometimes it is the other way around. They mutually lean on to each other, but they also hold on to their own solitude. However, while the two main colors dominate the whole images, there are still some penetrating colors scattered around, such as white or light green. They might be as small as the grid, but sometimes they are like the continuous grids placed as short horizontal lines. An extremely simple image is transformed into the extremely strong intensity of one’s psychology. Such an artwork can no longer be regarded as the demonstration of the composition or the skill of painting, but the issue of “attitude” as I have mentioned it in the very beginning. The reason why this series works are impressive and fascinating is the “attitude” given by King Fen-Hwa.
According to our pre-existing understanding, a standardized composition or the relatively monotonous color might be a visual challenge to viewer. Sometimes, it might bring viewers to a state of hypnosis that other details or the context of the work are ignored. Since many years ago, grids have become a reoccurring pattern in King Fen-Hwa’s works. All these grids are measured, lined up with a supporting thread, and painted on bottom layer. After the supporting thread is removed, the artist colors each grid. The work is not completed after it is repeatedly colored. If the artist experienced any emotional impatience during such a standardized process, she would have made several unexpected mistakes when painting and coloring the grids. In the series works, I see King Fen-Hwa’s attitude toward herself. It is the self-practice of one’s mind instead of a psychological torture. In the extremely regular painting process where no variation is allowed, she repetitively polishes the way she sees herself and the world around her. Color might be the imitation of Nature, but it indeed has its warmth. Her artistic practice shows the poise as how Fan Zhongyan describes in his Song of the Royal Street: “Each night this night, in bright moonlight, we are a thousand miles apart. Such deep grief as appears on the brows or the heart cannot be put apart.”
In fact, I do not consider such an artistic style abstract. My reason is that a work like this requires a more profound understanding to savor what the artist desires in her heart. It is the transmission of the inner emotions instead of the imitation of Nature or the rehearsal of real life. The whole works reveal a sense of order belonging to an organized self and the initiation of emotions. It is not an unrestrained and roughly-made expression, but an inner poise after all the turbulence has been quieted down and one will no longer be irritated by the repetitive process of painting grids. When “such deep grief as appears on the brows or the heart cannot be put apart,” it shows an undisturbed inner peace rather than the pretended restlessness.
When flowers fall off the branch, soon withers she.
Re-blooms, but the time varies.
When leaves fall to the ground, soon pales he.
Re-sprouts, but the place varies.
── Tsai Chen-Nan, Lyrics of When Flowers Fall off the Branch
“Emotions” are unapparent in King Fen-Hwa’s art.
As a pisces, King Fen-Hwa celebrates liberty, but she likes restrain her own liberty in her works. It seems to be contradictory, but it is indeed the most interesting point to discuss the artist and her artworks. King Fen-Hwa has once told me that she is a short-tempered person. If she does not pacify her own emotions by painting grids when facing her works, she will be totally out of control. Therefore, painting grids become a means of self-training and self-fulfillment in her artistic practice. She considers herself to be a person who does not like to be regulated. However, she is willing to let herself indulged in coloring the grids, being stuck between the pulling and the dragging threads, and she does not allow herself to make any mistake.
The interesting conflict is clearly visualized in her artworks. For example, in her series works, viewers can see how she “carefully and neatly” controls her mind from any trespass. Every line and every color are completely under her control, strictly remaining in the state of solitude without showing the essence of loneliness. However, a viewer like you should not be deceived by such a composition.
It is King Fen-Hwa’s habit to arrange the layers of the space. The background is grids in well-organized order. The foreground is the images of “life” such as flowers, branches, leaves, and butterflies, which are like in a state of weightlessness. She creates a space-time gap in her paintings. The gap is extremely personal and private while it is also full of imagination, establishing an opposite position which is completely secluded from the outer world. However, it also echoes the philosophy of her artistic practice – it is the landscape in her heart. Whether she shares it or not does not really matter.
In King Fen-Hwa’s artworks, I see a modern woman who does not want to carry the burden of the past but does not want to be too rebellious either.
When traditional painters deal with landscape paintings or still life, no matter they are male or female, they will always make every effort to show off the prosperity of life. Meanwhile, an artwork like this will be closely related to the intimacy between the scene/objects/landscape and the land.
However, it is not King Fen-Hwa’s idea about art.
She paints flowers – large flowers, especially peonies or Chinese peonies which often symbolize wealth in the Chinese culture. The flowers in her painting are detached from the branches and the leaves, but they still hang on to their beauty. In the song of When Flowers Fall off the Branch, the lyricist Tsai Chen-Nan writes that “when flowers fall off the branch, soon withers she.” It clearly points out that flowers will immediately wither once they are cut off from their support of life as “they fall off the branch.” Such a description is relatively conservative – an old-fashioned belief in fatalism that women should accept their fate like how a seed accepts where it is planted. King Fen-Hwa likes the lyrics very much, but she transforms the meaning of it into a totally different spirit. She borrows the theme of “flowers” as a metaphor of traditional gender status, but she attempts to get rid of the traditional idea that flowers cannot find its own place when they are detached from the protection of trees and land. In her paintings, she removes the pre-existing conventions of the space, visualizing the space in a weightless sense of floating. Later, she does not connect flowers with other symbols of life but maintains the vitality and the independent prosperity of the flowers. How King Fen-Hwa deals with this detail is totally against the tradition. However, she does not adopt an outrageous vocabulary while she does not strongly accuse improper convention of the tradition. Instead, she slowly and patiently speaks out her mind and her vision.
However, the conflict I have mentioned above is how she captures the prosperity of life while she also keeps it in a weightless situation, confining the background of the images into the grids. The grids which fill the whole space are always silent. It is like how King Fen-Hwa loves the unrestrained freedom in the depth of her heart but she will never trespass the frame out of her desire for freedom. On the one hand, King Fen-Hwa praises the unrestrained freedom of life; on the other hand, she always walks within the tracks. It is like that she creates a facebook account but she does not completely make it open to the public. Instead, she selects the way how she should approach the transmission of the information from the outer society. The great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore writes about it in one of his poems that “that which oppresses me, is it my soul trying to come out in the open, or the soul of the world knocking at my heart for its entrance?” For King Fen-Hwa, she never lets go of the ruler which tells her how to measure when to come out or when to enter.
The service of the fruit is precious, the service of the flower is sweet, but let my service be the service of the leaves in its shade of humble devotion.
── Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds.
Apart from the attitude and the emotions, there is a sense of “undisturbed calmness” about life in her works.
However, I believe that such the “undisturbed calmness” should originate from the vision of life through her artistic practice
Graduating from the College of Management at National Taiwan University, King Fen-Hwa was trained with logical thinking and organizing ability. She is good at following rules, but she also likes to challenge a small part of it. She considers herself to be an easily-panicked person. Every time when she feels anxious, she will try to do something repetitive – something she needs to be concentrative but she does not have to use her brain.. Therefore, when she stands in front of the canvas, painting grids helps calm her anxious mind.
However, I would like to explain it from a different angle. From the psychological perspective, the well-organized and carefully-arranged grids somehow symbolize King Fen-Hwa’s insecurity buried inside. Grids become a protection screen, protecting her from the external disturbance. Meanwhile, the longing for one’s solitude is secured inside the fence. Inside the fence, King Fen-Hwa is like in a state of weightless where time temporary stops. Flowers, branches, and other things from Nature do not have to follow the conventions. They can maintain their prosperity of life even though they fall off from the branch or leaves. King Fen-Hwa places a “barrier of the heart” in the composition of her works, while she also reveals the “liberation of the self” – her desire to be freed from the reality. In the complicated conflict, she gradually sorts out the simplicity and the richness of the essence of life. The key point is to completely trust the self rather than the mutual entanglement with others. Therefore, the flowers and other details of Nature seem so alone but they are not lonely at all. It is another way to touch the heart. You open your eyes to look at the rose, while you also see its thorns. Once the mind is secured, the vision will bring you to somewhere far away.