CHOU Pang-Ling was born in Changhua, Taiwan in 1958. She graduated from the Department of English, Tamkang University. With a master’s degree in drama (University of Georgia, 1985) to her name, she enrolled in the university’s Lamar Dodd School of Art to study ceramics and learned with Andy Nasisse and Ron Meyers. She received an MFA degree in ceramics in 1987. In the same year, she bagged the Medal Award at the Metro Art International Competition in New York and was admitted to the Arts / Industry Program held by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Later she was also resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation, the most historic and active organization in the ceramics community in the US, Japan’s Atelier Hikosen and Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Center, Colorado College, Korea’s JICA Workshop, University of Hawaii, Canada’s Banff Center for the Arts, etc. and showed her work nationally and internationally.
During a trip back to Taiwan for collecting thesis materials for her drama degree in 1984, Chou became interested in ceramics and took some introductory courses. After she returned to the United States, the head of the ceramics program saw slides of her work by chance and encouraged her to carry on in this new path. Chou likes to hand-build and it is with this approach plus the use of metal and found objects that she develops a unique creative style for herself. Her metaphorical artworks emphasize the juxtaposition and mingling of different mediums. She often combines found objects and handbuilt ceramic elements for a powerful holistic vision. Thus she is able to delve deep into the relationship between mankind and environment, while presenting her thoughts on the diverse world.
Both the title and the imagery of this artwork can be interpreted in a literary sense. CHOU believes that all soulful living beings are able to reflect upon life, to judge from their own sets of values, and to live in order to fulfill their mission in this world.
The half-human, half-animal figure facing a cliff ruminates over a hard decision. There is a menacing evil skull at its back and a prying periscope in the foreground. What is it exactly that this living being, itself trapped between two forces front and back, tries to stand guard over? The artist invites viewers to come up with an answer to the suspense by reading between the lines.
Chou’s family ran a hardware store when she was little and she spent her childhood surrounded by hardware supplies of different shapes, functions, and materials. Yet only after her regular intuitive use of metal pieces, used or found, in her sculptural work then she realized that her upbringing might have played a role more crucial than imagined. Signaling an emotional bond with her parents as well as memories of her tender age, they found a way into her ceramic expression and this unique combination reflects her profound thoughts on aspects of human condition. Chou takes “people” as the essence of her work. Her artworks may look childlike or whimsical at a glance, but executed with a refined sense of composition they do address universal meanings and offer a broader view. There is a dialectical sentiment in her visual poems, which she infuses her reflections of pain/fun, sorrow/ joy, love/hate and life/death into. From literature, drama to ceramics, Chou’s cross-disciplinary trainings are merged to inspire her outstanding work.
Chou is noted for her “transformation of objects into human figures.” She tends to make anthropomorphic, sentient ceramic bodies and often “talks about the whole by presenting just a part of it.” She hints at big stories by providing subtle details; in this way, the signifiers of the ceramic/mixedmedia work can best manifest the visual possibilities and the background of that certain story. Her work contains a strong theatrical aura, a stage tension, and lots of literary elements. In fact, naming the artworks for her is often like writing condensed poetic lines. The titles always seem to point to an enigma or emotion, and they can be different in Chinese and English. They provide clues for viewers to read into the artworks and feel for aesthetic experiences within themselves. Sometimes they also create suspense and leave plenty of room for imagination.
|English title：||Skull Castle on the Lookout for Our Souls|
|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：||His and Her Highness Being Each Other's Delight|