타이완 아티스트 YEN-HUA LEE

posted Dec 05, 2020
"It is as hard and severe a thing to be a true politician as to be truly moral. Francs Bacon (1561-1626)
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth."
― Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Yen-Hua Lee 李燕華
Born in Changhua, central Taiwan, Yen-Hua Lee works from neighboring Taichung and often travels internationally for residencies. The visual spectacles she creates examine culture through the rich lenses of "home" and "memory“ via linear installations augmented with light that can become stronger when tangled in her experience of sensuously appealing surfaces.
We hope you do not begrudge praise, admiration, and appreciation.
aNyway, ink on book page,
10 x 71/2 in., 2014-2019
Courtesy of the artist
Home project (2012~Now)
Searching for spiritual home series (Berkeley and San Francisco), dimensions variable,
Courtesy of the artist
Value and Appearance of Observing Silence
In the search for value of symbolic art, an argument may be made for the importance of a distinction between appearance and reality,[1] This analysis is based on the cultural forms that underlie our own social values and which can be discovered in historical ritual secrets and cryptography. This value is available equally to the whole and individually in learned disquisition, and at the same time encounters irreducible subjectivity between private subjectivity and social reality. Yen-Hua Lee's experience with symbol-like images allows her to conceive a form or content of hieroglyphs. It is the backtext for her otherwise mystifying black images that mediate the true nature of the hidden substrata of the reality of life.
For a stylistic analysis and iconographic interpretation, I have placed Lee’s art in the cultural realm of anthropology, and more particularly in a home/family context where it participates in visual communication. Her artistic treatment and transformation of the human figure leads to images that resemble low-relief carvings and finely incised scenes.
The shape of the figures and the outer contour of the face are echoed in a series of concentric edges which radiate outward from the center; the lower edge of images depicts a single ground line. While detail has been eliminated and narrative abridged or at least channeled, this works to highlight a lively shape and imperative body gestures. The group of works are identified as forming a system of visual contemplation.
Lee remarks "I want to take a deep breath in the country of freedom. In the country of freedom, I want to escape the embarrassment of real society. In the country of freedom, I want to find the person I want to be. Is it okay? Is it really possible? Yes, just be the original you." [2]
In her Home series, Lee stacks the memories of life, discovers the rituals of life, and develops the inner energy. She roots the work in a concept of "home" as people seeking a space in which the soul should not be afraid and not be lonely. Therefore, when the audience walks up to the piece that she constructed, it can experience, in both body and mind simultaneously, a calm, inward space.
Tomorrowland, ballpoint pen ink on book page, 8 1/4 x 6 3/4 in., 2014~2019.
From the Book project series, Courtesy of the artist
Sorry, ink on book page 9 7/8 x 7 3/8 in., 2014-2019
Courtesy of the artist
For her “Book project,” Lee chooses books by authors from past ages. What she is curious about is how books communicate with people today after a considerable time has passed since they were written. She accords priority to a type of "linear reading", which is through the image, lines, and light with wind to arrange a space that can dialogue with viewers. When the wind blows the pages, they are opened for reading, and a societal phenomenon and value viewpoint is released. She makes full use of visual symbols appended to the texts in parallel to the contents. When we open the book page, it shows mirror reflections corresponding each to the other. In some works she uses both Chinese and English language books to create a conversation. Most of her works present images that carry a concept of “time” and “memory”. When we turn the page, it is similar to opening a memory.
Home project , Searching for spiritual home series (exhibit record in Berkeley and San Francisco), 2:50mins. (2012~Now),Courtesy of the artist
Home is a place of spiritual and physical protection. People have always wanted to know how to establish a harmonious home, but the search invariably involves a long, drawn-out process with its own memories of time that force us to reconsider the relationship between people and home.
Searching for spiritual home series, (Berkeley and San Francisco), installation, mixed media, dimension variable, 2019. Courtesy of the artist
The works in the Search for spiritual home series, often grotesque in appearance, seem to represent a shaman’s power spirit. There is no decoration, but a strong symbolic indication of ritual, emblem, and a secret society inhabited by spirits. The anthropomorphic figures on the wall seem to be a mixture of human and effigy serving as ceremonial symbols.
The light background color creates a negative form next to the figure pattern. As has been remarked in another context, “sometimes this negative form can be read as a positive form creating an ambiguity between figure and ground. This reversal of figure and background is common in Kwakiutl art.” [3]
Ritual, although sometimes irrational, affords security and provides an order to the chaos of life. We may say "in visual arts, rituals also surround each work, marking key points in the creative process, as well as in its exhibition, viewing, and discourses on signification." [4] One might say that Lee invented a ritual: reading as a means of remembering.
Lee constantly uses signifiers to construct her work and extend the viewer's imagination. We find many shapes - from houses to bottles - in her works to project the idea of containers that can protect our existence, provide a healing place and power of story transferred. The rice paper she likes to use is very thin, fragile, and easily damaged - and thus a perceptive metaphor for our lives. Further, making art with such delicate materials requires slow deliberation and careful attention to detail, as does living daily life. In this way, value and appearance resonate one with the other.
Her installations are site-specific works that change the space to a transition of mind and home. She combines clues, beams, energy, light and shadow, and connections, and also guides the audience to watch and find directions. Lee emphasizes the connections between history and memory of the location that could be your village, community or city. The line is an element that allows the artist to connect the history and memory of her audience with herself. This line constitutes the form and the past of the previous "home”. In terms of structure, it shares an awareness with architecture, and she also hopes to use these clues to make people explore the past, and then to further look at the relationship between her inner home and the creative home. [5]
[Image above: Container, ink on book page, 9 x 12 in.,
2014~2019, Courtesy of the artist]
Lee said her work is inspired by calligraphy, indigenous culture, and ceramics. Her flat black silhouette painting style has the feeling of thick calligraphy. The sculptural nature of pottery and porcelain makes her thinking more three-dimensional, an outlook seen notably on a series of outdoor billboards. The visual images, inseparable from her signature black symbols, are the conduits and reflections of her artistic intuition. Rising directly from her unconscious, they are thus internalized into a kind of insight and presented.
What is "reasonable" and "normal" in our society is not necessary so in another. [6]
"A means of heightening the difference between "ordinary" and the "strange" ,....related contradictions serves as an important impetus for artistic expression with artists seeking to create a sense of order (rationally, logically) out of conditions characterized more generally by features of confusion and contradiction." [7]
Left: Boat and bike, ballpoint pen ink on book page, 7 1/2 x10 in., 2014~2019, Courtesy of the artist
Right: Packaging, Ink on book page, 7 1/2 x 10 in., 2014~2019, Courtesy of the artist
Lee writes words on the book-thick pages to express emotional communication with the author's work. In her view, the book carries the meaning of words, yet also the content and memories of the times. Reading is a mode and behavior of people's seeing. Through reading and paper transmission, people's stories and memories are evoked. The memory presented by humans is like the missing page. Through the visual reading of the artist exploring the extension of the paper after flipping, the audience creates visual language between viewing and staying between pages, and new content and multi-layered meanings are generated through time interlacing.
While Lee's art employs a discourse on allegorical and spiritual interpretations to reveal a hidden meaning for modernity, the line-connected symbols must be carefully interpreted to avoid being "conceived as antithetical to the modernist credo I ll faut etre de son temps." [8] p. 1029. She courageously transforms the most subjective to a objective expression in which the verbal is expressed as visual.
-by Luchia Meihua Lee-Howell, curator
[1] Ed. Robert Nelson & Richard Shiff, Ritual, Value, Critical Terms for Art
History, p. 301.
[2] Haoyuan chun(郝元春) Ox magazine, vol.18. July 1, 2017.
post/2017/06/29/% (專訪展覽18期, 揭開生命的記憶, 找尋內心的家──
訪《找尋:內心的家I I》 駐場藝術家李燕華 )
[3] Georgia A. Corbin, Native Arts of North American, Africa, and the
South Pacific, Happer & Row publishers, 1988. pp. 50-263.
[4] ed. Robert Nelson & Richard Shiff, Ritual, Critical Terms for Art History.
The University of Chicago Press, 1992. p.190
[5] Haoyuan chun(郝元春) Ox magazine, vol.18. July 1, 2017.
https://oxmagazine521.wixsite.com/oxmagazine/single-post/2017/06/29/% (專訪展覽18期, 揭開生命的記憶, 找
尋內心的家──訪《找尋:內心的家I I》 駐場藝術家李燕華 )
[6] ed. Robert Nelson & Richard Shiff, Ritual, Critical Terms for Art History. The University of Chicago Press, 1992.
[7] Op cit., p. 194. . "A means of heightening the difference between "ordinary" and the "strange" , ....related
contradictions serves as an important impetus for artistic expression with artists seeking to create a sense of
order (rationally, logically) out of conditions characterized more generally by features of confusion and
[8] ed. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, The Critique of Originality, Art in Theory 1900-2000, Blackwell Publishing,
2002. p. 1029.
[Image above: Crying in the rain, Ink on book page, 7 1/2 x10 in,
2014~2019, Courtesy of the artist]
Q & A internalize the scenes
Q & A  (LL: Luchia Lee-Howell YHL: Yen-Hua Lee)
LL: The concept of ocean and boat for you-is it related to the elements used in your works? Why is the family so strong in this series?
YHL: What is life? What are we pursuing? What is home? What is memory? I illuminate these concepts though artistic dialogues. Through the process of creation, I gradually understand more. The great mysteries of birth and death are located at home as well as growth and well-being. Home has a physical manifestation, but its mental and emotional dimension is what I try to address in my art.
[Image above: Flowing river, ballpoint pen ink on book page,
7 1/2 x 10 in, 2014~2019, Courtesy of the artist ]
experience the ocean as a kind of homesickness and longing for my hometown, because Taiwan is an island. I visit other countries to make art, and find myself also facing the sea. The movement of ships - their coming and goings, the ups and downs of the ocean - reminds me of distance and makes home all the more precious.
LL: Which historical masterpiece or genre and time have had the greatest influence on you?
YHL: I am deeply influenced by both the East and the West. Since I was young, I have studied Eastern culture, especially Chinese literature, calligraphy and painting. I love Zen painting. I use simple forms to talk to nature in my life, and use artistic language to express nature to people’s hearts. As to artists from
the West, I especially study Matisse, how to maximize the power of the image to show the shape and maximize the energy of the image. I also like the Surreal school. I often rely on my subconscious mind and creative techniques in my works
LL.Have black images, paper-cutting, or primitive art affected you?
YHL: I have loved Chinese calligraphy since I was young, and I like to use original mural totems to explore aboriginal culture.
Chinese calligraphy has enlightened me as to how to abstract text. When I create, I use the precepts of calligraphy in my study of how to express my views on people and things in my life.
When I was studying in Taiwan, I often went to aboriginal tribes all over Taiwan to explore culture and rituals. I was very interested in native totems. Inspired by their culture, I used simplified totems to describe my unique culture.
(To read the Chinese version click here)
Public TV interview in Taiwan (conducted in Mandarin), 2012   https://youtu.be/sozfICfGs7w
Public TV interview in Taiwan (conducted in Mandarin) 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY7xo42G4oc
Top: Billboard Art Project, San Bernardino - Corona-Riverside, CA, 2011. Courtesy of the artist
Bottom: Billboard Art Project, New Orleans, LA, 2011. Courtesy of the artist https://flic.kr/s/aHsjxjrviv
Yen-Hua Lee was born in Taiwan. In 2002 she graduated from the National Art University of Taiwan. She received a Master of Arts from the University of Dallas in 2004; and she earned the MFA in 2007 from Northern Illinois University. She has won many awards, including First Place at Studio Montclair 2008, First Place at Newark Arts Council’s Open Doors 08, First Place at West of Center Art House in Northville, Michigan; she has also been granted several art residency fellowships. Her work has been shown in Taiwan, China, Japan, Germany, Austria, Italy, United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Poland Russia and U.S.A. She has had more 30 solo shows, among them: Dallas Contemporary, Dallas USAYingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan Rena Bransten Gallery, SF, U.S.ANational Tsing Hua University Art center, TaiwanCentro cultural Antigua, MexicoOX Warehouse, Macao Foundation, ChinaCooper Union school in NYCCentro Cultural Gonzalez Gallo, Jalisco, MexicoCYCU Art Center in Taiwan NY Studio Gallery in NYCThe Taipei Cultural Center in New York City and Gallery Uno in Chicago, etc. She also had a group show at the inside-out art museum, Being ,ChinaZarya center of Contemporary Art ,Aomori Contemporary Art Centre ,JapanNational Taiwan museum of Fine Arts,TaiwanPier-2 art Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan Yingge Ceramic Museum in TaiwanKaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in TaiwanTaitung art museumTaiwanChina ceramic museumChina the Katonah Museum in NY, U.S.A, Masur Museum of Art in LAKorean culture center in NYC, Westchester Biennial ’08 , ’10 and ’12 in New York and ARWI International Art Fair in San Juan, Puerto Rico ’07 etc.
In Between, Ink watercolor on book page, 7 1/2 x 10 in, 2014-2019. Courtesy of the artist
Searching for spiritual home series detail
(Berkeley and San Francisco), mixed media, 2019. Courtesy of the artist
More information about artist Yen-Hua Lee (李燕華)
Internet Profiles
Rena Bransten Gallery:

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