A Cultural Adventure Across Continents: New York City, Yogyakarta, and the Silk Road

About Chien-Ying Tseng (Recipient of 2017 Fellowship)

As a visual artist with a background in traditional Chinese ink and gouache painting, Tseng bestows the Chinese media with a sense of spirituality, in an attempt to express the different states of human mind in modern society.

Tseng's Record of His Grant Trip

As a contemporary Chinese ink painter, I constantly encounter and question the relationship between traditional aesthetics and contemporary art. As a result, I wish to explore ways to reinvent the traditional, and to survey art practices of different cultures under the influence of globalization. So here I am, enlightened by the cross-cultural journey in the United States, Indonesia, and China, and ready to share new discoveries with you. 

First stop— New York City, United States: A city with constantly changing art exhibitions, shows, and museum collections, New York City proved to be an art hub that fosters unexpected creativity, history of treasures, and transformation from the old. I was able to attend exhibitions one after another and visit the hipster locations in Brooklyn. Most importantly, the cultural and artistic exchange with other grantees from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and China was priceless. To me, the coexistence between art and life, as well as between people from different backgrounds in New York City is truly an embodiment of everyday aesthetics.

Second stop—Yogyakarta, Indonesia: In contrast to New York City, Yogyakarta seemed to be another planet in a parallel reality. Not only it is a suburban city, but also a historical World Heritage Site that exemplifies the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural traits of Indonesia. During my visit to Yogyakarta, I witnessed the Asian Performing Art Festival, in which the dancers from India, Thailand, and Japan performed at the restaurant, garage, parking lot, and outdoor yard. This scenario not only reflected the free spirit of the performers, but also that of the local people. To fully immerse myself in the culture, I tried the local cuisine, watched the sunrise at Borobudur Temple Compounds and sunset at Prambanan Temple Compounds, visited the local shadow puppetry, shopped at the local market, and studied batik (wax-resist dyeing applied on cloth).   

During my time in Indonesia, I observed two interesting facts about the art scene. First, the advanced handicraft workshops functioned as "factories" to help turn the vision of artists from across the globe into artworks shown at galleries and art institutions. Second, local artists usually join a "collective" or a multi-purpose art space that could be used as a workshop, studio, gallery, etc. Overall, Yogyakarta demonstrates the different possibilities of art created through multiracial background and the interaction between humankind and environment.

Third Stop—Silk Road, China: To deeper understand the five thousand years of Chinese history and civilization, I focused the last stop of the grant trip on the four main Buddhist grottoes along the Silk Road. Awestruck by the historic beauty of the Buddhist statues and the archeology of the grottoes, I was able to step into the past and admire the skills of the artists and sculptors who made the stone seems alive. 

Along the route of Luoyang, Xi'an, Tianshui, Lanzhou, Zhang Ye, Dunhuang, Datong, and Beijing; I visited from the great plains to the deserts and witnessed drastically different weather, civilizations, temples, and cuisine. As a result, I gained a new perspective on the traditional Chinese culture that has nurtured and influenced me so deeply.

Last Stop—Taiwan: While I expected to have questions answered through my fellowship, I returned home with more questions from this cultural encounter. One solid fact that I took away from this experience is the importance of interaction between people and their environment, which together form culture — the beginning of creativity. And I also look to connect my work with the environment in which I live in. An art critic once told me, "I’ve seen a lot of artists and works, but your works are very personal. This is very precious, so don’t give up on this personality." Her compliment helped me identify and cultivate my inseparable relationship between art and my homeland, Taiwan.

Chien-Ying Tseng, Female Member 2019, 77.5x88cm

 

Chien-Ying Tseng, Souvenir, 2019, 95.5x76 cm
Asian Cultural Council