LEE Ming-Tse was born in Gangshan, Kaohsiung in 1957, and graduated from Kunshan Fine Arts Vocational School in 1977. In 1981, his series Chinese Trend received the sixth Lion Young Artists Contest Award. In 1984, The World of the Vagabond exhibition of Lee was held at the American Cultural Center in Taipei. The poetic world of the wandering hero from folk legends and martial arts cartoons was an artistic direction in his paintings of this time. His work after the late 1980’s turned to personal depictions of recollected life experiences and spiritual activities. In his paintings of this era, he interpreted traditional literati paintings in a childlike style, and portrayed a personal utopia full of Taoist images, memories of old villages and the local flavor of Taiwan.
In the early 90’s, he expanded his inquiry into the human world with portraiture. In his 1994 series Rising Thoughts, he presented variations in expressions, like love, hatred, desire, anger and madness on the features of Bodhisattva or literati figures, which signify the corresponding expressions of kindness, solemnity, ugliness or menace of ordinary people. After this, Lee’s work sometimes indicated human falsity, affectation and pedantry, and often reflected his personal relaxing lifestyle and allegories of current events recombined from story fragments. His romantic wanderings to the remotest corners of martial arts culture completely reveal himself. In 2001, he started to make installation art utilizing shadow puppetry techniques, which satirize current events in the resplendent and whimsical style of Taiwanese community theater. Since 2008, the artist has developed a series featuring calligraphic contours to depict a storyline. Through the daring, unrestrained, and even wild strokes, the fantasy and desire which used to be embodied by the figures in costume are no longer veiled. Images become the most straightforward expression for the artist to reveal his emotions and opinions.
The island of Taiwan is placed horizontally in a vast, wavy ocean in this painting, which is reminiscent of the composition of an old map. The skyline arch in the far background brings about a majestic geographical vision, which not only manifests Taiwan as an oceanic culture, but also reveals the island’s native subjectivity. In this highly autographical artwork, a number of human figures can be seen from the tip to the toe of island Taiwan. They represent the artist himself, the wonderful people he met and the strange encounters he had while he traveled and lived around Taiwan, the many fantasies that have appeared in his mind, and his observations of society, people and culture. In this chorographical picture, the lighthouse in the Erluan Cape, the nuclear power plant in the Hengchun Peninsula, and the fossil-fuel power station in Kaohsiung are especially illustrated amidst the pale mountains of the south. The artist was born in southern Taiwan; he cares so much about his birthplace that he hopes to contribute a critical view through this painting.
The world of martial arts has fascinated LEE Ming-Tse since he was a child, and he has great admiration for the chivalrous heroes from the books Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Seven Heroes and Five Gallants; the character Chuge Si-Lang from Ye Hong-Jia’s comic book series and also the western movie A Fistful of Dollars, and these stories and their fantasy heroes spurred his interest in painting and drawing. This, in addition to his childhood memories of shadow shows and puppet shows, characters from folktale performances and the magnificent spectacle of the Song Jiang Battle Array seen at temple fairs, all became significant aspects of his artwork. Lee’s early works are full of Eastern folk style. In the early 1990s, he started integrating his personal memories and observations on the society to develop an image-based narrative through which he “tells the story” of his free imagination.
At that time, he returned to Kaohsiung, staying in the upstairs of a Taiwanese folk art gift shop owned by his friend. He often rode his motorcycle to adventure around, observing the cultural conflict caused by the rapid social changes in Southern Taiwan. During this period of time, the embodiment of the artist “Mr. Lee,” who held a folding fan in his hand and wears a Chinese-intellectual hat, started to appear in his works. Since then, the archaistic figures and the archaistic objects have helped express the inexplicable emotion, imagination, and desire in the paintings – even though these cannot be fully expressed in our real life. It has thus become LEE Ming-Tse’s unique artistic style. His works integrate Taiwanese folk art and the particular images which only exist in the local life. The autobiography-like daily document offers a region-based social critique discussed from a multi-angle topographical perspective, reflecting his indepth concern about the Taiwanese culture and the identification with the land.
|English title：||Taiwan, from Head to Toe|
|Medium / Classification：||Oil paints and Acrylic colors|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the InART Space|
|Contact method for authorization：||
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1951-1960|
|Related Work：||Rising Thoughts - Transparent Wind|