The Seek of “God Hand”
– The Path of Art that Hou Chung Ying Takes
My Turn, Draw!
Somehow, board games become quite popular in Taiwan. Those board games are the center of happy parties. Everyone surrounds the table and the game, passes down the instructions, the hands are crossing the table for tokens. It is a great chance to look every friends’ hands carefully. Then you maybe feel that you know those friends again but deeper through the observation on the hands of them. I was once obsessed with one board game. It’s pretty much like the real life. You have to construct a deck with your resources. You have to play with experiences, judgements, strategies, and luck. In this game, when you face the crucial time, what you can count on is not the strategy or any calculation that your brain can make. All you have to count on is the one single draw. Therefore, the one who has the best luck of the draw, will win the title of “God Hand”. It means that this hand will determine the win or lose of the game. Perhaps the real life is like these board games. There is one invisible hand of god pushing you forward. You can have your own resource, your own strategies, however the luck is decided by the hand of god. And in real life, your hand is the hand to use the luck (hand of god). In Taiwan language, if you are professional, you will be called as “high hand”, and if you are better than the professionals, or even the best, you will be called “god hand”. There are so many stories behind hands. It’s really amazing for me.
The importance of hand is overwhelming, it allows human being to walk and work at the same time. In short, the hands create the civilization nowadays. Hou Chung Ying’s discourse “The Rediscovering and Returning of Hand Value” has done a system of generalization of the value of hands in the way of art or even of civilization. To such an important organ, I barely spare my time to care or to think about it. Hou Chung Ying has done deep research and discussion of hands under the purpose of art, I am quite impressed, and have more realization and imagination of hands.
Hou Chung Ying was born and raised in a traditional family of Taiwan. He has been living in the city. However fortunately there are mountains and rivers around the city. Hou Chung Ying passed his childhood in the nature with insects. In the nature, all you can count on is your hands, so is Hou Chung Ying. He climbed up and caught insects by his hands. This is a special period that he first realized the importance of hands. For the normal children in city, they might have no chance to focus on the function of hands, or how the hands work. Even if they had, they recognized the hands by using chopsticks and pencils. It’s hard to discover the beautiful instant by using tools, you have to “use hands”. Hou Chung Ying noticed the beauty of hands in his childhood, too. The multicultural city contains different religious believes. The different sculptures of gods with different hand gestures enlightened his sense of beauty. Most sculptures of gods share the same poker faces, this means the people are equal before the gods. However they have different hand gestures to express the different meanings and maybe emotions of gods. Hou Chung Ying encountered “Study of Hands” by Nicolas de Largillière in the university and then got provoked by this works. He began to research hands in artistic way and then cultivated the series of art works – “Allegories of Hands”
The allegories of hands are affected or based on the real aspects of hands. Under the affection of western and eastern cultures, the works of Hou Chung Ying are expressing the semiotic meanings by the figurative realistic paintings. I once noticed that “the artists are the sculptors of real aspects”. Through kinds of materials, the artists are representing the aspects of reality after observing the life. Therefore, the art works created by artists are adjusted or rephrased. Those works are not only presenting the usual ideas, but also the special points of view of artists. The allegories are the words that the artists want to say behind the works.
The series of Hou Chung Ying’s “Allegories of Hands” are presented in a realistic way of painting. It is because the hands are the symbols, it is much easier to be read in a realistic way and clarify the hidden intensions. The styles of this series is like hyperrealism. Hyperrealism is a way of painting which the painted objects are the photos, not the real objects. It is like I narrated before, the idea of “sculptors of real aspects”. In traditional realist painting, an artist will paint every inch of skin out and clear. However in hyperrealism, an artist paint the photo, and a photo is focused on one point, other points are out of focus and blur. Therefore the hyperrealism painting can focus one single point by photo, and then paint out the focused and unfocused. Hou Chung Ying himself is the photographer. It means before he paints, he has some specific ideas, then he takes the photos, and paint the photo out. There is an “idea will be”, then the painting is merely to say it out by his hands. Painting here is necessary for an artist has to do it by hands, not by cameras.
It is obvious to find out Hou Chung Ying‘s obsession to hands and the attitudes to art works. The stories behind the allegories are demonstrated by photo of hands, and the importance of hands are emphasized by the verb “to paint”. I think in this period, the intension of Hou Chung Ying is the stories behind the allegories, the unfocused place in the photo, and the things can’t be touched by hands, paintings, and photos. The distance between blur spot and clear spot of the hyperrealism painting makes me think of the board games. The future is always blur, the reality is always clear, the strategies are clear, however the future might be determined by the one single unknown draw. Perhaps the seek in Hou Chung Ying‘s “Allegories of Hands” is the invisible “god hand” which pushes the wheel of fate.
The Hands of Casters
The hands are the speakers in the (religious) rituals, and of course, hands say words. The gestures (body languages), the dactylology, are ways to express meanings. A series of gestures can even mean spells, such as the Mudra in Buddhism or comic Naruto, or the sling rings of doctor strange. The sling rings which can open the portals to other worlds are representing a series of complicated spells. It’s on fingers, not foot, leg, shoulder or neck, and it’s a ring, not a necklace, bracelets or greaves. Hou Chung Ying’s discourse “The Rediscovering and Returning of Hand Value” has mentioned the special position of hands, such as the gesture in Christian, the hands on the murals of chapel, and even the different gestures of Thousand Armed Avalokiteśvara in Buddhism.
In these cases, hands are not only communicate the meanings and the connotations of allegories, but also the artistic conception. The “Allegories of Hands” evolved into two series “SPACE” and “Between Human and Nature”. In my opinion, the “SPACE” and “Between Human and Nature” are the same series, however in a different way of thinking. The “SPACE” is based on the micro observation on hands. In the micro point of view, the interaction of light and hands become extraordinarily abundant. The slight movement of hand or finger, the little change of light, and the tiny different point of view would cause the variation of reflection on film and retina. By the little change, Hou Chung Ying depicted the lights and shadows of hands and displayed his ideas with warm and cool colors delicately. The transparency of hands through the micro point of view under lights is shown on the canvas and create the fluid feeling. This feeling is like the atmosphere of Chinese landscape painting. The fluid atmosphere is like a ritual that opens the portal between reality and different universes, and the “Qi” (a fluid energy, feeling or atmosphere in Chinese culture) is circulating between aspects, then presenting different sight and visions to the viewers.
One basic and important trait of Chinese painting is “multi-point perspective”. it means there is not only one single focus on the painting. Therefore a painter who uses this techniques can paint a long, wide, or high range of landscapes. It is like you are walking and taking photos for each ten steps then combines those photos into one picture. So, there is one easy way to appreciate the Chinese painting: it has to be “playable”, it means any viewer can spiritually walk into the paintings and playing in the landscapes. A Chinese painting artist not only has to take care of the construction of the whole painting, but also the details for the viewers to join in. So that a finished painting can be “playable”. To paint the hands under the micro point of view has to consider the construction and the details at the same time. This is why the “SPACE” and the “Between Human and Nature” is two sides of a same thing to me.
The landscape of hands ( the content of series “Between Human and Nature”) is not only about the traditional Chinese painting. It has deep spiritual meanings. I feel that Hou Chung Ying wants to express a strong feeling in the series of “Between Human and Nature”. The first work of this series is called “Glen”, and in Chinese, the name is of course the valley. Glen is a Scottish or Irish word for valley. There are lots of whiskey named with “Glen”. Hou Chung Ying once studied in PSTA (Prince’s School of Traditional Arts) in British. The work “Glen” must be created by the double impacts of English and Chinese.
For the artist in Taiwan that I know, most of them have special feelings to this island in historical reasons, especially for those who study abroad. Normal students or tourists who go abroad have cultural shocks. They might love and embrace foreign cultures in a relatively long term. However the artists face stronger culture shocks for they are more sensitive to the cultures. The reflective and creative traits of art will be shown in their works.
The series of “Between Human and Nature” have cooler colors then other series of Hou Chung Ying. The colors of human skin are warm, however human has veins. That is why when painting, there will be some cool color such as purple and blue added. For example, the work “Oblivious Iceberg”, “The Wonderland on the Tip of Elbow”, “Isolated Island”, and “The Island” are darker and cooler than other works. The style of Hou Chung Ying became stony calm, but strong. It has quite difference from the series “SPACE”. It’s never unfocused or has fluid Qi, and of course not warm as the series “Allegories of Hands”. As far as I am concerned, this change can be traced back to the time that he stayed in British. The identity of his nationality, his culture, himself, and his own works had been questioned. Most of the people think Taiwan is Thailand by mistake, such as this is a big impact for a young artist who stays abroad. With this point of view, the strong and firm construction and color is obviously expressing his intentional feelings – lonely, even with anger. For me, those feelings are part of specialties of art works in Taiwan, and they are becoming stronger.
I Believe in My Hand – Draw!
The identity of nationality to the artist who born in Taiwan in the period of 1980 – 1990 is a collective memories. This world had been saying globalization while they were raising up. The global village, international languages, international transportations, international brands, and so on, everything in their life is international. However, after the “flat earth”, people in this world start to look back their own culture, value, and specialty. The tide of globalization is fading. Those international things stays on the beach without washing out are with local specialties, too. The series works of “Between Human and Nature” are based on the hands of local artist of Taiwan. The subjects are islands based on the image of Taiwan, and infused the spirit of local inhibitors. This kinds of works can always present specific ideas of art out of people of this world.
Hou Chung Ying’s art works started from the memories in childhood, the inspirations in college time, to nowadays. The “Allegories of Hands” is with realistic images and specific meanings. Then the purpose of art turned into the series “SPACE” - the turning of focus point and the multi-perspectives. The “Between of Human and Nature” shows how a young artist in Taiwan struggle in the international. The context of his works is obvious and clear such as the palm prints. The route he has been taking is like the vessel from the finger tips to the heart. His recent works have shed the form of painting and become a multi-media works. The “Study of Palms in 31 days” is his skin copies out of white glues and epoxy. It shows us his works is going back to discuss the “transformations of aspects”. Those copies are duplication of hands. They are hands, however when you look at them, you won’t feel like you are looking the copies of hands, you know you are looking at artistic works. Hou Chung Ying’s works now turns into the self-questioning. It starts from the existence of hand, the meaning of hand, to the questions of self-existence. In 2016, right before 4 months of this article, his works were keeping expressing the question and answers to the life of an artist in kinds of shapes of hands.
Maybe the fate of human is moved forward by hidden hands in the universe. However, each crucial point of game, the hand draws the cards is your own hand.