Posted by: mel | November 26, 2009

Lie Fhung: Portals to ‘Corporeal Dream’

Jakarta Post | Carla Bianpoen ,  Jakarta | Arts & Design | 26 November 2009

Indonesian Hong Kong based artist Lie Fhung (b. 1969) explores the tangible realities of a woman’s body in her solo exhibition titled “Corporeal Dream”, at the SIGIarts gallery in Jakarta. Profound, delicate, and with a fine sense of what the body is about, the works, which speak of a thorough research linked with personal experience, reveal a unique artistry.

Hidden Growth II, another artwork depicting Lie Fhung’s reflections on women’s doubts and decisions relating to their bodies and lives

Part of the exhibition still deals with the dilemma of whether to have children explored in earlier exhibitions. And while the theme came about after her personal struggle some years ago, her work now encompasses other women’s doubts and decisions relating to their bodies and lives. Her research includes a questionnaire designed for women who ordered a scrapbook kit, made and sold as part of her digital scrapbook business on ztampf.com.

She also explores the issue of ancestry that she, as a Chinese Indonesian, had to face in cases of discrimination. Once again, an issue she has experienced personally transpires in her work, growing beyond the personal. While she uses 19th and 20th century European traditions to display ancestral and family portraits in framed clusters as a model, it is the potential parents and their descendants that are the focus of her work. “It is also a homage to those that could have been or would have been embryos, to those seeds and eggs that never met to procreate,” she adds.  

Lie Fhung’s Hidden Growth III, a work inspired by the dilemma of whether to have children, part of her “Corporeal Dream” exhibition in Jakarta.

Lie Fhung says images were created on a Mac computer using a Wacom tablet and a stylus in Photoshop, substituting conventional canvas and paintbrush. They were then printed on quality artist canvas as well as ink, and coated with a protective layer, resulting in prime quality prints.  

Reinvented with the computer, or computer-painted, the images are set in a dim atmosphere, resembling photos that have been lying in drawers for dozens of years, but in the artist’s mind, reflect the doubtful future of the embryos.  

Delicate and with a dreamy sense of tenderness, the man and the woman on the archival quality digital prints have wings, as if they were ready to fly into the adventure of procreation. Wings also appear in images of pregnant women, indicating access to any kind of freedom, including to reveries of fetuses in various positions. Not surprisingly, Lie Fhung also explores dreams based on reality, thoughts or figments of the imagination. “I dream every night,” she says. The dreams are so intense, that she will always feel tired when waking in the morning.  

Lie Fhung’s Hidden Growth III, a work inspired by the dilemma of whether to have children, part of her “Corporeal Dream” exhibition in Jakarta.

Images from the Dream Archive series feature in 19 boxes, called portals, along the largest wall of the gallery. Each box, an altered KOLO Havana box of 12.5 x 9.75 x 2.75 centimeters, has a “door” that can be opened revealing the many subjects and objects of dream.

One box contains an acrylic painting of a black-colored image of a figure hanging in suspension against a background of dripping paint, while another box shows a ceramic fetus behind an optical glass, or a fetus behind bars, covered with beautiful decorations in the fashion of lace.

One portal depicts the heads of a couple made out of ceramic, with fine copper protruding out of the portal, which can be interpreted as dreams disappearing like smoke in thin air. Family portraits on archival quality digital prints emanate a sense of yearning and melancholy.

The more realistic Hidden Growth series deals with tumors and cancer that so often secretly attack the woman’s body.

The dark cloak made out of silk that comes down from the figure as an elegant long veil, is Lie Fhung’s metaphor covering the harshness of what is revealed so broadly and clearly in the near-realistic installation of ulcers next to it.

“Corporeal Dream”, an exhibition with three themes that share a concern with the physical body and the subconscious and spiritual realm, shows how Lie Fhung has successfully blossomed from an exquisite ceramic artist, whose work Flight was purchased in Korea, to an artist of multimedia expertise, while continuously deepening her artistic concepts.

This is Lie Fhung’s third solo exhibition since 1995. After obtaining a Bachelors of Fine Arts, majoring in Ceramics from the Bandung Institute of Technology (1994), she began attracting attention in her second solo exhibition at CP Artspace in 2005 with her work Flight featuring delicate wings made out of translucent porcelain.

It became one of the two works representing Indonesia in the fourth CEBIKO Biennale 2007 and was subsequently added to WOCEF’s (World Ceramic Exposition Foundation) permanent collection. The same work also features in the book Contemporary Ceramics by Emmanuel Cooper, published by Thames and Hudson, October 2009.  

— Photos by Carla Bianpoen

Corporeal Dream

A solo exhibition by Lie Fhung
20 November – 12 December 2009
at SIGIarts Gallery
Jl. Mahakam 1 No. 11
Jakarta 
62 21 726 0949

Lie Fhung’s Dream Archives

SIGIarts | 11 November 2009

“The body seals and conceals a hidden language, and language forms a glorious body” [1] 

I was very much impressed by the images of fragile wings in two of Lie Fhung’s exhibitions, spread across 2005 –2008 in two different venues in Jakarta. In the exhibition of “flight” (CP Artspace, Jakarta, 2005), the partially-glazed, tiny porcelain wings appeared as if in mid-flight. Before the dark background, these objects resembled a constellation of silent stars or twinkling fireflies that slowly moved away from sight. 

Some of the times, the objects seemed to find themselves unlucky, “lost” in empty bottles that were hung upside-down, seemingly falling downward and swaying from the ceiling of the exhibition space. The wings were caught in spiraling steel wires that created an impression of complexity or distortion. The strong steel ties carried us downward to earth while the blackened background brought us to an unlimited horizon of adventure. Did the coupled wings represent the eternal soul of lovers?

In her subsequent exhibition, “Sincere Subjects” (SIGIarts, Jakarta, 2008), Lie Fhung still presented such enchanting idioms. The wings, however, had spread, looking more robust. The ties that previously bound them have disappeared from the sight of the audience that had the chance of comparing her works in the two different exhibitions. 

Several solitary white wings were made of strong but flexible canvas fabric. Floating at the similarly-white walls, the wings formed imaginary inverted arches, resembling a pre-flight preparation. Fantasies of paradise were still there, but they were more related to the image and presence of a female figure, whose structure resembled that of a wayang puppet. The pregnant female body, with the frames of wings on her back, seemed to insinuate something that was never complete. The whole body was full of the motifs of human fetus, just as the inside of the womb was thoroughly revealed to the audience, and a variety of tattoo-like pictures and scribbles squiggled all over the body, looking like worms. No less prominent than the image of the human fetus were fragments of the phrase “to breed or not to breed.”

Lie Fhung said that her works are none other than the embodiment of a personal project that involved all of her imaginations, fantasies, dreams, questions, and anxieties about all things personal. I have called her exhibition at the Sigi art space—and those of the three other artists, Jose Legaspi, Melati Suryodarmo, and Ugo Untoro—as a statement about the artist’s sincere stance. Yes, indeed, it was the sincerity of the subject that is not merely aware of its status as the “subjectum”, the subject-substance, but also as “subjectus”, with all the humility about all shortcomings. It is not the total subject that determines matters, but a subject that is present with a gaping hole created by the awareness about the lacking self, and therefore contains and recognizes ambiguity. 

The Realm of Dreams

In this exhibition, it is clear that Lie Fhung more closely approaches the two main aspects of her own personality. The first one includes what she calls the realm of dream, which is a world that is linked with her existence as a woman. The most obvious sign is the series—which continues until god-knows-when—of “to breed or not to breed” that serves as the first part of the exhibition theme. 

Lie Fhung celebrates dreams as all mental activities that include thoughts, images, emotions, wishes or desires, hopes, dreams, fantasies, and even aspirations. This subtheme is represented in a variety of images produced using the technique of digital printing: family pictures in oval frames, presenting winged men and women, the guarantors of human predecessors. There are also images of torsos and iridescent egg-like fetuses. Lie Fhung likened these images to that of the clusters of family pictures that are commonly found in European houses, following the 19th–20th century European tradition. 

Is the issue of women with offspring a family myth? Or is it an adventure of the mind (“a dream”) that inherently exists in every woman? Images of women that Lie Fhung makes in relation to the ambiguity of “to breed or not to breed”, I think, more or less affirms the feminists’ idea that believes in the unbroken semiotic link between the female art(ist) and the particularity of her biological body. 

At the same time, by expanding the boundaries of what she calls “dream”, Lie Fhung has linked elements of her subconsciousness with her consciousness. This, perhaps, is indeed a project that will stay ambiguous: between an (art) project about the (subconscious) dream, and dreams that are none other than the real project of her (conscious) life. Life, therefore, is the dream itself, nothing more and nothing less. 

“What sense is there in continuing the present when one has seen the future?” asks Alan Lightman in Einstein’s Dreams. 

The body and the altar

The second issue is related with her reflections about the body, especially the female body. On her website, which we can visit at http://liefhung.com, are female torsos hanging before a series of works depicting images of growth or developments. Apparently, this shows the link between the process of “becoming” and “being”, between the potential/possible and the actus/materialization.

Lie Fhung documents the unexpected growth of her “becoming” torso. To her, here lie two contradictory potentials: the constructive development and the destructive diseases. The two extremes are hidden behind the myth of the torso’s beauty. Is the artist creating metaphors about the social myths that give rise to the bitterness about the body and the essence of the female self? These works constitute the second part of the exhibition, i.e. “Hidden Growth.”

The third part of the exhibition, “Dream Archive”, is a project of works of installations consisting of long-lasting archival boxes. These objects are containers seemingly holding the archives of dreams arranged to resemble a portal. The contents are varied: objects, paintings, digital prints, and a variety of works that she has made herself. 

Is this portal of archives actually the manifestation of the body, the temple that holds a million dreams?[2]

Or is it an altar? A personal altar that invites an exchange of words, a conversation, involving the audience and talking to them?[3]

The second part of the subtheme “Dream Archive” is a collaborative “in progress” project involving the exhibition audience or those who visit her website. It consists of a book that can store any writing, drawing, or scribbles coming from the audience’s realm of dreams. Lie Fhung will present the final stage of this project in her next exhibition. The interaction with the audience is based on the awareness to go beyond the personal, and at the same time serves as a new medium to capture public dreams. This will re-create the link between the personal and the social. 

Lie Fhung says that scrapbooks are generally related with women’s habit of recording just about anything—but mainly the intimate and the personal. (Remember, for example, Frida Kahlo’s famous diary.) Touchingly, however, The Universal Scrapbook is meant to be a universal scrapbook, going beyond the particularity of the female realm and simultaneously re-affirming it as a medium that is common among artists.

Hendro Wiyanto

Exhibition curator 

Notes:

[1] Quoted from Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, Columbia University Press, 1990, p. 280.

[2] Carlos Fuentes: “The body is the temple of the soul. The face is the temple of the body. And when the body breaks, the soul has no other shrine except the face”. (Quoted from “Introduction” in The Diary of Frida Kahlo: an Intimate Self-Portrait, p. 8)

[3] Kay Turner writes: “An altar can never merely represent; there is no altar made for art’s sake alone. The personal altar always invites communicative exchange: it engages the viewer who, moving beyond the simple seeing of altar images, begins to use them, to encounter them, to speak to them” (Quoted from Lucy R. Lippard, in Mixed Blessings: New Art in A Multicultural America, The New Press, New York, 2000, p. 82).

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