CHEN, Kuang-Yi

Dean of the College of Fine Art /

Professor of National Taiwan University of Arts

◆ What does “Art” mean to you? Which art piece gives you the most inspiration?

To be honest, art is a very complicated thing, it has many features. Sometimes, it can be seen as a decoration, a recreation, or an aesthetic object. We can also see it as a spiritual activity of human beings or a way of creative expression. To me, art is very fascinating, and the reason is just like how the philosopher, Hegel, put it, he said that there is this thing called “Zeitgeist” ("spirit of the age") It’s internalized by religion, yet externalized into the form of art. Therefore, I think the most meaningful and fascinating thing about art is probably because it presents “Zeitgeist (the spirit of age), ”  an embodiment of a person’s spiritual movements. If it’s perceived in this way, even though I study contemporary art for a long time, I think some of the much-dated artworks can instead better represent fit in the definition of art. For example, I’ve been doing some research on Rembrandt. His penultimate piece of art is called “Return of the Prodigal Son”, the images in that piece fits perfectly with its title. I think this kind of artwork indeed grows on the audience. There are simply deep spiritual movements in it.

◆ With your professional knowledge of art, what do you care about the most when viewing an artwork?

Since I specialize in art history, I have to view a huge amount of artworks, and I always try to view them with my intuition to avoid the so-called “Occupational Burnout". Because of what we’ve been trained for, we view artworks with certain criteria. It’s actually very simple since an artwork contains two parts, one is its substance, and the other is its form. The form consists of a few elements which include the artists’ expression through colors, lines, space arrangements, tension, or even motion. These are the factors to determine whether an artist is capable of perfecting his/her works. As for the substance of artworks, it actually represents the messages the artworks convey. Great artworks can deliver the messages clearly, so this is also something we pay attention to when viewing a painting.

◆ Regarding art collection, how do you see the relationship between art fairs, galleries, artists, and collectors?

We used to think that the relationship between these three was very clear. The artists simply create artworks, and the collectors are basically consumers. These two need a broker to lie in between, which would be galleries and art fairs. However, in this “Postmodern Era,” or with the concept of “Contemporary Art”, it has been overthrown a bit. Why? It’s because there are too many contemporary artists, and the artists create too many contemporary art pieces. This has made it harder to find the exact definition within them or to find their value. Therefore, nowadays, we tend to think that galleries, art fairs, and museums are actually the real producers for they produce the value of these artworks. They tell us which artwork has its value, so this is a bit different from the past.

◆ When it comes to Contemporary Art, what are the advantages/ disadvantages of Taiwan compared to the world?

Regarding Contemporary Art in Taiwan, I’ll share two aspects: One is the artist’s creative performances. I think Taiwanese artists are really energetic, and their original characteristics contribute to their artworks. However, there are also disadvantages:

Taiwanese artists are very inclusive, and they tend to follow suit when creating, so in this way, I feel that their artworks lack subjectivity. This is what I see from the aspect of artists’ creation. On the other hand, artists can’t produce great artworks independently since they actually need a suitable artistic environment. Also, Taiwan’s political situation is not very stable and is relatively disadvantaged so on a global scale, the contemporary artists in Taiwan are less competitive.

◆ How do you see the future development of Taiwan’s art market?

I am not an expert on the art market, so it’s a bit difficult for me to predict its future and the development in the next ten years. Basically, the art market will definitely be influenced by many factors. These factors will certainly follow the world's trends. Take Geopolitics for example, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a whole new global status has been established, which caused changes in the global art market, and Taiwan’s market is therefore affected. Then there’s the economic policy on liberalism which would also have an impact on the art market in Taiwan. As for the pandemic and the other related issues, they would certainly affect the future prospect of Taiwan’s art market. Moreover, for the young artists in Taiwan, will their artworks be the same as from the past after academic training? This will also serve as an important factor in the production of Taiwan’s art market.

◆ Your favorite (recently followed) artist/artwork?

My favorite artist is Matisse. I study art history, so I am very familiar with Matisse’s work, and I always find his works fascinating. It has the ability to combine tradition with modernity. The artist is also a man of virtue and very friendly. I think if an artist has excellent works and a great personality, it is perfect enough. This is one of the reasons why I like Matisse the most. However, my favorite art piece is not by Matisse. It’s actually “Black and White” by Malevich. It’s a very well-known art piece. I had seen it in books many times and had done some research on it. However, I had never seen the original until one day I finally had the chance to see it in person, and it felt completely different than that in books. At that moment, I was almost deeply moved to tears. Why? I couldn’t really explain. That artwork seems to have a mysterious magical power, and it’s certainly a very special piece of art.

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