TSONG Pu: Distant Proximity

In December, ESLITE GALLERY is presenting a solo exhibition Distant Proximity by National Award for Arts winner TSONG Pu. It will feature his new graphic and three-dimensional works created in the past two years, including Three Bamboo Joints, a 5-meter-tall installation to be displayed in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. TSONG Pu’s abstract creations are deeply influenced by minimalism, as he focuses on the experimentation and exploration of materiality, breaking free of established norms to build his unique personal style using a blend of rational and poetic vocabularies. In his new works, TSONG conveys his inner feelings as a response to the impact of recent events—the pandemic and the ongoing war—on people’s lives.

  • Exhibition Period:3 December - 31 December 2022
  • Address:ESLITE GALLERY ∣ B1, No. 88, Yanchang Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City 110055, Taiwan

“In recent years, happenings in outer space thanks to aerospace development and events like wars in other countries are so quickly disseminated due to how the way and speed of information transmission have advanced. We turn on our phones and are bombarded by so much information and videos. This shortens our sense of distance, feeling as if things are happening near us. They feel near, yet they may be far away. But then, things that are really happening close to us, like the pandemic, landslides, and elections, feel so distant, as if they have nothing to do with us. They feel far away, yet they’re actually close to us.” For the first time, TSONG Pu is responding to external events through his artworks, while at the same time showing his concern for the world and life.

The Distant Proximity series comprising of his new graphic works in this exhibition continues his signature technique of using 1cm-by-1cm chops to stamp out paint and content one square at a time. The stamped patterns look like various things—from paint dripping down, the flashes of war or perhaps the sparks of fireworks, to the mosaic grid pattern of computer pixel art. Taking the cities of Ukraine as his imagination, he gives the series a narrative title, which not only reflects on the enormous impact of the Russia-Ukraine war to the world, but also endows each painting with a poetic urban imagination.

This narrative extends to the outdoor space (at the entrance of Lane 553, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park), where the Three Bamboo Joints on display turns the flashes of missiles cutting through air into curved three-dimensional rods, allowing people to walk through and look up pondering on the impact of war on life and the environment.

TSONG Pu is representative figure of contemporary art in Taiwan. Born in Shanghai in 1947, he graduated from the La Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando de Madrid in 1978 before returning to Taiwan in 1981. Since then, he has been practicing with the spirit of minimalism. He uses 1cm-by-1cm chops instead of paint brush to create lines and color blocks. The mechanical action opens up a spiritual dialogue between the body and matter, revealing poetic aesthetic in the rational composition of his works, whether it is a two-dimensional graphic creation or a three-dimensional installation. In 2019, TSONG Pu received the National Awards for Art.

In his graphic works created in 2021, TSONG added hand-painted lines of ink wash brushwork in addition to the stamped squares. Though both involve mechanical and repetitive labor, they present very different flavors. For instance, in Saffron, there are four long squares on the white background, and the red rectangle block on top is created with hand-painted lines. In Sun,Moon, the red square adjacent to the stamped yellow block is also hand painted, giving the cool-tone abstract art a touch of warmth.

TSONG Pu began his art experiment on minimalism while studying in Spain. Then on, he has been working in this vein for more than 40 years without any sign of abated enthusiasm. Akin to how painter Muqi in Southern Song dynasty painted the Six Persimmons with just black ink yet each exuding a state of zen, TSONG Pu continues to explore the limits and the myriad possible variations in the minimalist world.

TSONG Pu was born in Shanghai in 1947 and came to Taiwan in 1949. After graduating from Fu-Hsin Trade and Arts School in 1969, TSONG enrolled into La Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando de Madrio in 1973 and stayed in Spain for eight years in total. In 1981, he returned to Taiwan and helped found some spaces of contemporary art such as Studio of Contemporary Art (SOCA) and IT Park, and he also became one of the representatives of abstract art in Taiwan.
The basic unit of TSONG’s painting is square stamp, by which he expresses the movement and self-autonomy of artistic ideas in the cubic or geometric hard-edge compositions. From grid dividing, stamping, to ordering, TSONG’s stamp painting recalls the technique of pointillists, but he aims not at mimetic representation. Instead, he seeks, through his formal language, to express the dynamics that “one breeds thousands.” The sequence and movement of the stamps and the varied density of colors reflect the artist’s mindscape that is both self-regulating and freedom-loving. Recently, TSONG introduces daily ready-mades such as aluminum and paper into his stamp painting, so as to underscore the overlapping or confrontation of microscopic spaces. The ready-mades of varied textures and weights may slant on the canvas or give rise to other figures. They become the visual foci and perform changes amidst order and harmony. “Change is existence,” said TSONG Pu. He has been regulating and simplifying his ideas and seeking differences in the same. He transforms everyday things into “rhetorical language and punctuations marks, making them poetic.”

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