Ehagaki (post card) and the sea of Toshien:about Shiu Sheng-Hung’s solo exhibition – Sanchuan State

 

Author: Chen Kuan-Yu

 

From one of the longan trees in the backyard of grandma’s home (Toshien, Zuoying District), Shiu Sheng-Hung’s work extends a historical trace back of personal memories, family tree, and the history of colonized Taiwan. In this exhibition he showed two sets of works interweaved by personal memories and Taiwan history. He developed a series of artistic exploration focused on the national history and his personal growth process by the ways of narrating stories and documentaries, printing out the maps, portraying images, and painting based on historical materials and photography.

Opening the secret gates that shows paths sided by broad trees to seashore. These paths connect the coastline of Shoushan mountains and have been a military restrict area since Japanese colonial time (except some hiking trails which were allowed for recreation). This Zuoying–Shoushan coastline deployed military harbor, marine training base (Toshien), ammunition depot, and radar station. So that, the Zuoying inhabitants became the only group that lived near the Toshien seashore but never got close to it. However there are still some break points for this restricted area. Shiu Sheng-Hung used one of them to get near the seashore, and gazed at this native but unfamiliar, restricted sea.

The particularity of the gaze is that it’s really a gaze. It is not a full vision sight, but instead of a micro, narrow, closed-up point of view. Shiu drew near the sea and watched the ripples, the breakers, and foams of the sea. He framed those variable and transient waves yet reformed them with the feelings he sensed while he was wandering through the paths and watching the seashore. The point is not focused on the continuous sense of time and the wave motion which is impossible to be reconstructed. It is to give introspection to the sea of infinite varieties with photographic frame scenes and the abstract painting skills. This series of work may be the reconstructions of fragments of sea shore living. However the most important meaning is to make up the crevice due to the lack of connections with the sea in the seashore livings.

The introspection between the seashore life and the historical fate of Taiwan are promoted the series “Ehagaki”(繪葉書). Shiu turned to gaze the “ehagaki” which means post cards in Japanese. These postcards showed the Yushan Mountain Range(新高山), Snowy Mountain Range (次高山), national parks and scenic spots, the photographs of which were hand-coloured by artists, and published by the Japan-ruled government. In fact, those representative images became part of the colonists’impressions of southern Taiwan.

The series of “ehagaki” is about painting those post cards again. However, the aim is not to make mere copies of them. Shiu Sheng-Hung collected the data of “ehagaki” and analyzed the post cards with color chips, then he re-formed the construction of the color. Compared to the original post cards, the details and colors are transformed into other kinds of colors, pen touches and textures. Shiu wants to use re-painting as an action to interpret, to introspect, and then to give a new meaning to the original egahaki. More specifically, those images from “ehagaki” are unseen landscapes and projected spaces. Shiu has never been to those places, and would be impossible to go back to that time. Meanwhile, what if he just struggled in the historical materials, pen touches, reprogrammed colors and shiny pigments even he did lot of effort to trace back the time and space?

Shiu Sheng-Hung’s “Seashore” and “Ehagaki” seemed to be surrounded few topics. The first is the penetration that body (and the photography equipments) pass through the restricted area (navy area), the second is the imaginary archaeology to former space (same navy area, but was the military harbor in Japan-ruled period), the third is to discuss the meaning of the dispositions of public scenic spot, and the colonial points of view to those locations printed on post cards. In the end, he tried to comb out the shattered face of his personal and collective memories by dealing with the historical materials, documents and by representing “ehagaki” as an artist.

Therefore, the “seashore” is a physical action developed from two patterns of memory  painting and photography. The “Ehagaki”is to foreshadow the stories mixed with families, egos, and the people on this island (Taiwan) in a frame of historical and memorial. It is to tell those stories through the colonial point of view, the way the Japan empire modernized Taiwan, and his own cognition of history, feelings, and memories.

Back to the former question. The relationships between the series “Ehagaki” and the original ehagaki did not merely stop at purely imitation. Whether it is from the Yushan Mountains to the Takao state, or from the Snowing Mountain to the bygone Takasago Park, the “Ehagaki” series is the artist’s deliberate intention to interpret historical documents through transfer of colors, pigments, skills and emotions. Those scenes, which might change or disappear, can only be imagined through the post card, as though through a small window. Those imaginations are like the brush strokes in Shiu’s paintings. Perhaps the iridescent effects of his habitually used pearly pigment have transformed into an intention that refused to be gazed.

The artist knows during the fifty years long ruling time, the colonial policies had been keeping modifying.And the change after war. Toshien District had been turned into military harbor after Taiwan Expo in 1935 for facing pacific war. This part of Taiwan historical facts are not only taken as a whole period time in the series of “Ehagaki”, but most importantly as a fate. Shiu Sheng-Hung started from the longan tree in his grandma’s yard and opened the gate of restricted area to gaze at the seashore of Toshien. He looked back at the fate of Taiwan in the series of “Ehagaki”. Those art works are telling the history of this land, and the connections between different lives and the same sea. It also reformed the histories that shaped this island. Those histories are the re-gazed history, the prohibited history, and the history of construction and destruction.