TRANSLATION | Eugenia Yang
In the wake of the pandemic and to avoid all unnecessary social gatherings, Enya Fashion Queen invited artist Ms. Yi-Chu Chuang who used painting as the language to convey her feelings for a special collaboration for our latest issue. Quietly creating in her studio, she pondered, what she can do for Taiwan? “Hang in there, Taiwan,” she whispered under her breath. Simple and succinct, it gathered this unsurmountable energy. Igniting hope, she drew a painting of a lovely little girl symbolizing her blessing for Taiwan in this particular time of hardship.
Girl Praying for Taiwan
With the colorful brushstrokes roaming free on the xuan paper, Yi-Chu Chuang spent two days in her studio to finish the painting titled “The Girl Praying for Taiwan.” On the right hand side of the painting is an innocent girl holding a bouquet of tulips, a flower symbolizing eternal blessing, elegance, charity, and wealth. With a warm expression, she is praying sincerely and hoping the pandemic will end soon. In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of people are coping with depression and anxiety caused by the current situation in Taiwan. The whole nation is on a level three lockdown, schools are suspended, and most of us are working from home. Deep in this social panic, people are unable to connect with one another like they used to. Yi-Chu Chuang intended for the tulips to not only be a representative of health and safety, but also an emblem of the tenacious vitality the Taiwanese people hold. Perhaps in this special time and through a continual exploration and growth, art still stays true to itself when encountering the challenges of society and never ceases to help us cope with the anxiety we are facing.
Entrusting Emotions with Art
Passionate about painting ever since she was little, Yi-Chu Chuang grew up under the guidance of famous artists, such as Chi Mao Lee, Nianzu Hu, and Ku-An Hsu. Her paintings became more refined and vivid. Master Lee was perhaps the key mentor who changed her painting style with his one piece of advice: “Never stick to the rules, you need to merge the past and the present.” Yi-Chu Chuang began to learn how to integrate modern fashion into her paintings and allow each brushstroke to fully capture her attitude towards life.
And the timeless classic poetry that endured, or the so-called “poetry is a speaking picture, painting is a silent poetry,” had also accompanied Yi-Chu Chuang through her youth. Among all of them, Song Dynasty poet Qingzhao Li was her favorite. Drawn by the poet’s unique style and flow of verse, Yi-Chu Chuang is constantly rereading the poet’s work and knows each line by heart. Like in the famous poem Wuling Spring that depicts the life of Li Qingzhao—the joy of her childhood, the love life she shared with husband Mingcheng Zhao, the happy married life everyone envies, and the sorrow after the marriage ended—every bits of her life is hidden between the lines, all we had to do is read closely. This is how life becomes the origin of art. Once she entered the field of painting, Yi-Chu Chunag naturally injected these poems she loves into her artworks. Her soulful emotions—whether it’s the irony of life, her expression of emotions, or her dissatisfaction towards the current situation—become a merging of poetry and her art creations.
It’s Not Life that I’m Painting
“Art is inseparable from life,” said Yi-Chu Chuang. It is precisely because the creators are able to nurture their emotions in life, that they are capable of channeling that emotion into objective substances and bringing them to life. By trusting her emotions with art, art is then equipped with a soul—the perfect exemplification of Yi-Chu Chuang’s love for artistic creations. If her thoughts are pure, so will be her artwork. Without impurities and distractions, the originally meaningless art medium is infused with the creator’s inspiration and ingenuity. Through the selection of scenes and the process of creating and processing, the tension in the work reflects the artist’s subjective emotions and further connects with the viewer’s imagination. To be honest, whether or not the pandemic subsides or gets handled, it will be hard for us to return to the life before everything happened. It is merely impossible to live carelessly, especially with all the lives we’ve lost along the way. Therefore, this sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic not only has changed our daily lives, but also the way we think, including our artistic aesthetics.
An Artistic Healing
British philosopher Alain de Botto once said, “Art can offer a grand and serious vantage point from which to survey the travails of our condition.” So when we are panicking and feeling anxious, what does art do for us? In that moment, perhaps the context of art is all about “comfort” as it desperately hopes to provide remedy and healing for the world. This is exactly the mission art embodies from a societal perspective. Art maximizes its own power and is always ready to heal the “cracks”caused by the crisis and hardship we encounter.
To Yi-Chu Chuang, painting and creating art—like music, drama, poetry, novels, and more—is capable of affecting the emotions of the viewers. If you cry, they shed tears. If you’re happy, they are smiling. This is the power of art therapy. In the time of a pandemic, artistic consumerism is changing and the value of art therapy is yet to be discovered. Perhaps in the future, if the pandemic becomes the new normal, this subject matter will gain its popularity. Aestheticism and petty bourgeois will lose their appeal and be replaced by bigger themes, life problems, and societal trends. People will focus more on health and what it means to live in a healthy way, in terms of life, mentality, and relationships. A photo of kissing with our masks on seems to be more ironic and painful than romantic. Maybe in this unsettling world, a pursuer of art is never wealthy but possesses the ability to heal others. In this conversation with an artistic creator, as Yi-Chu Chuang reflects upon the story about a student who is struggling with dementia but never forgets to wish her happy birthday each year, I am once reminded of the kindness of this world we live in.