WU Tien-Chang was born in Changhua in 1956 and graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Chinese Culture University in 1980. His artisitc direction in 1980’s was to consider the rhythm of Taiwan’s historical development. His series Injury (1985-1987), made before the lift of Martial Law, metaphorically suggested sadness for this dark period of Taiwan’s history. After the lift of Martial Law, he started audaciously portraying political strongmen in some series such as Four Periods (1990). These artworks directly satirized the blind worship of political “Gods” (strongmen) on both sides of the Strait, and attempted to use Taiwan’s standpoint to redefine the historical position of these political figures.
After the mid 1990’s, he used a playwright-director working style to create pretentious plots dissembled by blending different time periods, and presented the Kitsch and lifestyle of Taiwan’s popular folk culture. In the series Spring Autumn Pavilion, Dream of the Past Eva and Attachment to the Mundane World, he created retro yet modern montage style visual effects with pretentious models and gaudy materials (such as artificial flashy jewels and velvet). The feeling of absurdity created by these juxtapositions articulated the sadness and nostalgia of insignificant ordinary Taiwanese, and also demonstrated the over decorated Taiwanese taste and a flowing ambiguous sexual desire, which are his presentation of a general lifestyle in Taiwan and also his interpretation and mockery at social phenomena. After 2001 he started to develop the works such as United in Our Effort and Show the Mutual Concern of the People in the Same Boat, which continued to use the same gaudy symbols, but with an overlay of local religious culture. This meta-context regarded reincarnation and admonishments of Taoist mantras influenced by the immortal god Ji Gong. With this, Wu attempted to warn a generation with instructive dark humor, and also utilize Taiwan’s folk beliefs to expose and criticize the chaos in Taiwanese society and politics.
In this manifesto by WU Tien-Change, these two brothers were described as good friends who bonded in their past life, but fought over the affections of a geisha and tragically killed each other on the street. In the fight one lost his arms and the other his legs. The predestined purpose of their current lives is to conclude a cycle of karma inherited from their previous lives. The artist deprives these two figures of their limbs in this life for their deeds in their past lives and thereby illustrates the idea of a karmic wheel. They are put together on a bicycle and one needs the assistance of the other’s limbs so that they can go on a ride. Their manners and postures are gaudy and phony like circus acrobats, and there is an eerie warning atmosphere in the work. Their situation also casts a shadow on contemporary political and social issues in Taiwan, advising that the incapability of working together will eventually lead to failure.
WU Tien-Chang’s artistic career strongly echoes the historical and cultural trend in Taiwan – no matter it is in the aspect of the transformation of theme, the arrangement of the structure, or the use of materials. He is a politically sensitive artist full of the awareness of reality. Around the lift of Martial Law when the agitated Taiwanese society expressed their opinions through street protests and physical violence, Wu’s neo-expressionist painting adopted wild unrestrained symbols as a response to the contemporary trend and used the visual vocabulary which was filled with fear and victimized emotion to imply the collective wounds shared by the whole Taiwanese society historically, socially, politically, and culturally. His works incisively reflects the public’s unsolvable repression and trauma after experiencing the White Terror during the Martial Law period.
Using the psychological trauma to represent the public’s collective subconciousness has always been a major theme in WU Tien-Chang’s artistic practice. The series works in the 1990s which feature a Taiwanese style of cheap-and-garish aesthetics seem offer the nostalgia for the innocent past, but they in fact reveal the shared repression, uncertainty, and anxiety through the absurd images of the muzzled mouth (which cannot speak) or the covered eyes (which cannot see). Since 2001, he has further emphasized the story-like theatricality of his works. Through symbols such as the deformity, the power of spell, or the belief in the reincarnation of souls, he creates a creepy atmosphere of charm amulets. Although it seems to be a religious preaching of the cause-effect reincarnation, the theatrical appearance of the deformity points to a shared traumatized destiny. It thus becomes a political speech reflecting the sick homeless heart of Taiwan’s society.
|English title：||United in Our Effort|
|Medium / Classification：||Mixed Media|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Guide to the Use of Image Files and Data from the Online Collection Database
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1951-1960|
|Related Work：||Dream of the Past Eva II A Symptom of the “Syndromes of the World Injury” II|