Selected works by Shuchen Udden are on display in the Majestic Theater art gallery daily through the end of May. Admission is free.
I was born and raised in Taiwan, but I have lived most of my adult life in the United States. While my cultural background is obviously Asian, my self-training in art all occurred here instead.
Every time I return to Asia, however, I become more aware of certain things that I once took for granted. Certain things make me mindful of my own cultural hybridity, something Taiwanese are particularly prone to. This is especially true when I now look at architecture and the Chinese script.
The pinnacle of East Asian visual arts is calligraphy, which is often combined with representational painting in a single work. Often calligraphy involves cursive characters so abstract that even native speakers cannot always read them, since the point is immediate expression of the individual artist, not the literal meaning of the characters or the landscape. Moreover, unlike Western paintings, Chinese calligraphy and painting possess an ephemeral quality: fast-drying ink on paper or silk, resulting in an immediacy with little chance for later revisions. The Western tradition, by stark contrast, is based on slow drying oils where paintings can take months to complete, and any detail can be subject to subtle modifications.
These paintings all represent representing either the Chinese script or Asian architecture, yet all are rendered by Western means. All the Chinese characters here are embedded in natural landscapes, yet all were slowly rendered via oil on either canvas or wood. Likewise, the pieces of architecture here from either Taiwan or Japan are also rendered in Western form, both in terms of medium and composition. These express where I truly am in my life: always two places at once.
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