Hsieh Chun-Te: The Allegorical Scuffle - Art Collector

Hsieh Chun-Te, RAW-Bitches, 1987-2011. 300 x 240cm.

By Jason Chung Tang Yen

As a pioneer of photography art in Taiwan, Hsieh Chun-Te started his course of creation in his teens. Sex, death, and surreal elements in his oeuvre are justified with a combination of reality and dreams. Often with harsh and poetical titles, Hsieh’s works explore the human psyche and the cruel facts with a mix of classical literature and news stories. This blend of fiction and reality results in stunning visuals that took meticulous planning and determination.

The 66-year-old artist began his photographic career first as a tool for sketching materials; his passion for photography eventually took over his love to painting. In every work, there’s a back-story, more than often, it’s heartbreaking or overwhelming. The intensity and raw, purity existent in his robust mise-en-scène emanates an instantaneous sense of insecurity or curiosity to the perceiver.

In his 1990 work titled RAW-Bitches, dancer models were hanged upside down like pork in the market. The artist remarked: “I overheard a journalist friend of mine who got beaten up during an investigation of human trafficking of a prostitution ring. Girls were captured then sold, some of them tried to escape.” One of the most impressive aspects of Chun-Te’s aptitude is the convincing appearance of its reality, the scary thing is not that it’s close to reality, but the idea of what it represents is actually real, that’s what is disturbing.

The atrocities of men, the macabre, the rituals and sexuality, told and recounted by Chun-Te’s noire and dream like stages, prove his exceptional capability of storytelling. Motifs such as bowler hats unconsciously link to its notorious Surrealist references; he is prone to link biblical components including lambs and angels in his works. An incredibly detailed planning is involved in his creation, he once intentionally flooded a roof of a building then took a picture of two figures fishing in the water with the fishing rods pointing into the street. The darkly comic composition stirs up curiosity and invite viewers to question the intention of their actions.

Chun-Te’s works, sometimes with fable like backstories, serve as a reminder of what is wonderful in life. He is very open about desire, this candid sincerity, frank and honest, is indeed a rarity in our time of lost virtues.

Hsieh Chun-Te’s solo exhibition RAW—The Flux of Desire shows at ArtDoor Gallery in Taipei from 5 September to 27 September 2015.

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