Cutting a Dotted Line of Thoughts with a Pencil: About “Blind Spot”, James Ming-Hsueh Lee Solo Exhibition


Article by Wang Sheng-Hung


Apelles of Kos is an active Greek painter that lived during the era of Alexandra the Great. There was a story about him challenging his then competitor, Protogenes, to a painting competition where they showed off their skills. In order to boast his outstanding painting skills, Protogenes drew a delicate and masterful line that no one had ever done before. However, Apelles was more skillful, as he drew another finer line over Protogenes’s, thus divided that one line into two.


If the existence of a line always implies the division of a paper or canvas, causing the formation of a border, which creates new relative relationships (intra-territorial and extra-territorial, body and background). Then the meaning of “drawing a line” is never simple because boundary delimitation must be accompanied by the establishment of “law”; which depends on the ability of the portrayer to attach the meaning of order to things or to reconstruct order.


But what Apelles did was a little different. At least in the eyes of Giorgio Agamben, he did not simply draw a finer line that was more skillful than his opponent. Instead, he (re)depicted the practice of depiction. Or to be more precise, the so-called “The Cut of Apelles” [1], to explain the representational meaning behind a line – the definition and partition of “law” – which is a strategic way to redraw and re-divide boundaries. Through the execution of “divides the divisions”, the original operational logic of the “law” is suspended. It is this method that this legendary Greek painter rendered his opponent’s boundary the loss of its effectiveness.


James Ming–Hsueh Lee’s new solo exhibition “Blindspot” obviously contains his personal version of “divides the divisions” or “redepiction of the depicted”. This exhibition exists a virtual, conceptual line, which penetrates all of his exhibiting works. The pencil is undoubtedly the most important image in the “Blind Spot” exhibition. It symbolizes the traditions of sketching, and for a long time (through the depiction of images), the fundamental way for humans to give meaning to everything: Establish outlines, define foregrounds and backgrounds, and set up various perspective and spatial relationships. However, James Ming–Hsueh Lee has no intention to guide us to understand the way he manages and portrays his subjects, but to garner interest in the “law” by highlighting on the method of representation (No matter if this “law” is in the form of Euclid, Da Vinci, Velasquez, or Foucault.) The pencil stuck out on the window by the gallery's door has fully expressed the artist's intention. The enlarged word "Sword" on the wall is the division of the painted white wall in practice; it is also a physical expression of the triple equation, "pencil line = cutting line = boundary line of the law". Using this piece of artwork as the starting point, the artist playfully uses the breaking and reallocating of various kinds of symbols to toss audiences into an ambiguous realm where the doubt of signification is everywhere. It makes an unstable state of the image and its reappearance to become an issue.


To see it in a bigger picture, "Blind Spot" always has reserved when showing any clear targets of depiction. It only focuses on the clever installations of non-existence. For example, Nameless Exchange Project, it is a piece of artwork that portrays the current issue of the delivery economy on the surface; it invites the audiences to explore the exchanging relationships between "artwork/commodity" and "devotion/giving". But the artwork's installation onsite can also be interpreted from an even more classical point of view: A drink picked up from a green stand, it is the nonpresence of the object in fact; the pictures being recorded on the camera but never developed ever. They are no doubt the absence of the portraits. OOXX on the other side of the exhibition is also using a similar stance: What it presents is only the enlarged pencil version of tic tact toe; it can be completed easily by only a few strokes. If the audiences wish to look for imagery that the artist put more thoughts on, they will only find that the artist seriously painted the tool of depiction (pencil) itself. However, they are all given a secondary status as attachments; they can be described as the remarks of editions and are placed by the side of the canvas where it is hard to notice them.


Obviously, all of these are the suspicions made by James Ming-Hsueh Lee. He constantly leads us to focus on the mechanism of an image's reappearance, and not to focus on the external appearance of an object. It is like a hint from the color dotted artwork, Stardust, located on the wall in the back. All of these dot figures can be the color stains from chocolates, and they can also be seen as simulacra of starry night sky. Yet, the focus should not be on identifying which one is true, or even falling into the misunderstanding of skepticism where every image (or depiction) cannot be trusted. All of these simplified paths for thoughts are points that "Blind Spot" wishes to deliver. More precisely, the goal of this exhibition is to divert people's focus on indulging in reappeared objects and to refocus on the inevitable of symbolic games that must come with the practice of depiction itself. However, it is not a kind of stance that is seclusive with pure subjective aesthetics, but rather to think and explore how to create some kind of agile "reading gap" that is full of potential between the audiences and the settled law of things (those rigid and snobbish law of reality). It is like that when people look up to the stars, their thoughts can always swing between observing in calm and silence and roaming freely. This is more stepping on the "dotted line" rather than on the "solid line", which is commonly referred to as thinking in constellations, and it is in fact the best gift that contemporary art can offer.


[1] Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Patricia Diley (Trans.) (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 50.