Chasing the Light and Shadow -- An Introductory Reading on Ting-Hsu's Artistic Journey
"As we are in this organic space, each photograph is the sample of time nourished by technology and sunshine, revealing the story alive in shadow and light." The viewers who find pleasure in chasing the light and shadow crouch down to make some wolf-like hand gesture, tempted for a selfie more than enthusiastically, to capture the innocent childhood which has no longer belonged to them. By rewriting it, every reproduction of Ting-Hsu's new samples again exotically inspires an exclamation in the crowd.
With regard to the necessity of the light-and-shadow’s existence and its artistic extension, the British genius photographer John Rankin Waddell has once mentioned in his work that photography is an art of light, while every moment of the constantly transformative light deserves our attention, no matter it is sunlight, candlelight, or the light emitted from the computer monitor. The Japanese writer Murakami Haruki has a similar sharing that not just people should confront their shadows, but also our society and nation should do the same, since we shall have enough patience to live with our shadows. Coincidentally, the two light-and-shadow catchers in the field of arts both have experiences working at different places and reverse night and day to seize the moment for their creative benefit, while the story about Ting-Hsu also began with the entanglement between Taipei and London.
With a dedicated passion for image collecting on the road in his photographic career,[U1] the world-traveling “photographic philosopher” Hiroshi Sugimoto in his Seascapes series sees the ongoing mutual-immersion between the sea and sky, as he consciously departs from the photographed objects and symbols to dig into a more profound artistic dimension. His exploration of the historical and philosophical visions immersed in the existing human knowledge has been engraved on Ting-Hsu’s subconsciousness for a long time.
Influenced and inspired by Hiroshi Sugimoto, the then student Ting-Hsu soon took the necessary liberty of working with multiple photographic narratives. Her serial Gazing in the Faint Light consists of the existing second-hand objects in the room, presented in a cold, implicit or even marginalized undertone by the interrelated darkroom, light, and shutter adjustment. When the camera's gaze transforms the lifeless object into an embodied portrait of warmth and modesty, the attempt, as in reminiscence of what no longer remains here, to find and to identify the gap between the object, the light-and-shadow, the person, and the existing reality is obviously deprived of its photographic function. Instead, it adopts a conceptual imagery narrative originating with photography itself to fulfill the practice of Conceptual Art.
The Encounter with London
When Hsu-Ting has just arrived at London to pursue the master's degree, she often walked to-and-fro on Vauxhall Bridge across the River Thames. Her From Vauxhall Bridge to Charing Cross is a photograph with a half-an-hour exposure taken as the artist walked between Vauxhall Bridge and Charing Cross, as its title suggests. Ting-Hsu kept pressing the shutter during the exposure, deconstructing the mechanical limitation of how the camera dealt with the external surroundings and events as it simply documented the light’s durational transformation on the body. When the concept of how the traces of light narrate the abstract space and shift is created, the art as it is should no longer be confined by Roland Barthes’s photographic ideas of “punctum” and “studium” but integrated and engaging in the image with the body. Photography is not just a creative medium to confront reality. The unique brushwork of the shifting sources of light can also be used in painting.
The journey in London has brought Ting-Hsu to realization as explained by the artist: “London offered me a brand new vision of perceptions and creative approaches, while its open-mindedness removed all the limitations in photography, creating endless possibilities with bold hypotheses, especially the different colors as noticed in the surroundings that encouraged me to take a more adventurous step in clothing or even in perception.” London, with its rich colors and creative energy, has impressed the artist with the dusk in July: the last blue glow lingered, and the silky air caressed the cheeks like a whisper. On some Sunday afternoons, the artist would take a walk to the grassland by the River Thames, where the green serene water and the banked splashes awaited. It was freedom from haste and fear. Here, Ting-Hsu thus stepped into the past of London as enchanting as in George Orwell’s Coming Up for Air. A composition with the interplay of photography, colors, light-and-shadow, and mixed-media thus began to characterize Ting-Hsu’s artistic practice.
The artwork Day Dream breaks away from the conventional photographic frame, while its lightspots, the speed of light, and the arc of the aluminum board constitute an asymmetrical existence with an open vision for contemplation. Viewers begin to engage in the images of the visual space. Between viewing and being viewed, the subject and the object are constantly exchanging their positions, creating an alternation of an objective, observation-only distance and a close struggle which is intimate and yet ambiguous. A similar example can be found in Breakfast in the Snow, where the abstract photographically-depicted panorama features the daily routine as the main narrative. The intertextualized imagination and communication between the artist and viewers openly construct a new relation clearly suggestive of conceptual art, as perfectly seen in the artwork as well as space.
Ting-Hsu's recent solo exhibition 04:53:77 at IT PARK tries to combine photography and exhibition space. Its title may suggest a code, scale, or the fiction dawn time, pre-establishing a virtual perception right away accompanied by the contrasting nuances of the bright colors and the black-and-white shades of light and shadow to dive into the unique world composed by the artist where the dimensions of distance and time become out of focus in the extreme quietness. In her Under Xiaoyouken Bridge, the artist maintains the authenticity of art, the main concept of “Aura” that Walter Benjamin proposes in his “A Short History of Photography.” The spatial and temporal distance created by light and shadow as emphasized in conceptual art not only expands the aesthetic distance, while the purely abstract expressions also evoke the reminiscent aura of the history and memory from the far past, thus offering a critical stance against a civilization suffering the information bombardment of the aesthetics of reproduction.
Interestingly, as contemporary arts reaches beyond the borders of aura, Ting-Hsu's artworks are no longer the viewed objects. Let us return to the beginning of the article. We have noticed in her 04:53:77 that viewers not only enjoy creating an interactive mechanism with the artwork, but some even “re-produce” the context. The dialogue with and the selfie-taking of the other is organically included in the light and shadow to become the work itself.
At this post-historical moment of traditional art, the philosopher Arthur C. Danto has once mentioned that we should not just follow the forms and approaches developed by our predecessors. The artist should create the artwork of their own while it should also reflect the time they are living in. We have to find the most appropriate expression for the immediate situation. If you know that Ting-Hsu has always chosen one artwork from thousands, you would not cast doubt on her absoluteness.