Dray Walk, Shoreditch, E1 6QR www.encountercontemporary.com
Wait Until It Dries is a major exhibition of new works by acclaimed Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou presented by Encounter Contemporary today Friday 23rd of January at Ely’s Yard, Shoreditch. Finalist in the Zabludowicz Future Map Prize (2013) and winner of the KaoHsiung Museum Sculpture Award (2014), Chou is widely acknowledged to be one of the most engaging and forward-thinking artists of his generation. This show represents the first stop on an exciting exhibition tour which will end at the Taipei Fine Art Museum in 2016.
‘Shih Hsiung Chou engages with art history by manipulating the notion of oil painting to his own ends, creating experiments with material and form that drastically challenge past concepts of painting.’ (This is Art).
Wait Until It Dries marks a dynamic continuance of Chou’s Oil Painting series. His artworks consist of clear perspex forms filled with viscous black oil. Yet, the apparent simplicity of the artist’s work is deceptive. It fundamentally investigates the role of painting in the contemporary era, at once recalling and subverting a traditional medium, which has had distinct identity throughout art history. The oil in Chou’s unconventional paintings does not dry and his artistic gestures are not applied to a canvas. Instead, as the artist suggests, he is ‘practicing painting by other means’. Chou’s innovative Oil Paintings draw out dialectical relationships between material and non-material, being and non being, the known and the unknowable.
Chou’s symbolic and radical use of material is transfixing in its reflective stillness, its intimate disorientation. It evokes Richard Wilson’s exceptional 20.50 oil installation, first shown at the Saatchi Gallery in 1987. The impenetrable black surface of the artist’s oil-mirrors paradoxically intensify the viewer’s gaze. In this manner, Chou’s Oil Paintings initiate a psycho-physical exchange. They invite our speculation yet resist any fixed form or final explanation. The dark ‘void’ space within Chou’s work remains allusive, its absences and deficiencies are actively made present.
The artist’s works are caught up in a continuous process of regeneration. Activated by the viewer, they are fixed in a state of flux, ever present, yet unknowable. In this sense, Chou’s artworks are not so much objects as endless impressions, fixed in a timeless frame. As the artist himself has stated, ‘I intend to give the right to the audience, to form their own ideas when seeing their own reflection’. It is the disjuncture of this meeting – its uncomfortable irresolution – that holds our attention and gives the work its potent force. This process of grasping at the intangible is not a smooth one. It accentuates the imperfect relation between the self and its reflection.
Wait Until It Dries will remain on display until the 6th of February. This innovative and thought- provoking exhibition is certainly not one to miss. Grayson Perry once commented that ‘painters are fighting over the last original brushstroke’. In their radical revisioning of form and challenge to established painterly traditions, Chou’s Oil Paintings certainly address this problem.