Liú Yung-jen Solo Exhibition

Deep Breathing Field










Liú Yung-jen Solo Exhibition Deep Breathing Field


Date | 2018/04/21 – 05/20

Opening | 04/21 (Sat.) PM 3:30

Artist Talk | 05/05 (Sat.) PM 3:00, talk with Jeanv-Yves Liao

Venue | Powen Gallery MAP


Article / Ning Hsiang 

"Breathing" is the most basic activity we engage in as living creatures. When we stop doing it for just a few minutes, we die. As a necessary function for human beings, "Breathing" can be a phenomenon that has been reviewed for a very long time. As mentioned by art critic Jean-Yves Liao, "Discussion surrounding breathing could be science, philosophy, literature, or art." Since 1996, Liú Yung-Jen's work has been largely focused on the space between breaths. To him, breathing is the most primitive and simplest, but also the most complicated and subtle thing, in which he discovers endless possibilities during the interaction between the two media and urges him to continuously discuss the thoughts, space and spiritual meanings between breaths from spiritual practices that derive from physical concepts in his later artistic transformation.


From 1990 to 1998, Liú Yung-Jen studied abroad in Milan and continued his artistic creation, research, exhibitions and art reports at the same time. During that period, his creations gradually shifted from figurative to abstract, his creative media also changed from ink to oil, but the core of his artistic thinking remained oriental. After receiving his master's degree from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and returning to Taiwan, he began promoting and developing the concept of "breathing" in his artistic creations and as an artist, art critic and abstract art promoter, Liú has devoted himself to abstract art for over 20 years.


Concise color blocks, perfect arcs, and lively geometric patterns compose Liú's abstract paintings, establishing a distinctive visual language. These small, repeated arcs and curved line signify the abstraction of images from nature, suggesting actual physical objects such as hills, sheaves of grain, rivers, sails, windmills, the horizon line or stars. Yet these geometric forms are not meant to represent physical objects, but rather symbolize the myriad things of the universe, which also shows viewers an interface where the natural and spiritual realms can alternate. During an interview, Liu once said, “I want to create ambiguous forms, like semi-abstract shapes that are between abstract and figurative. My intention is to find a way to create forms that are beyond the geometrical dimension.”


In Liú's experiments with mixed media, he covers industrial produced lead foil with natural beeswax in many of his works, which, in contrast with the heaviness and blue-gray color of the lead, radiates a spirituality with its liquid, golden-yellow translucence. After the beeswax congeals on the lead foil, it produces a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't effect that renders the lead transparent through an alchemical transformation, while "Breathing" is expressed through rhythm and allows the viewer to clearly sense it in Liú's paintings.


"Liú Yung-jen Solo Exhibition - Deep Breathing Field" opens on Saturday, April 21 at Powen Gallery. Viewers are invited to feel the expansion of arcs and contraction of straight lines in this lyrical space between inhaling and exhaling, and via their sympathetic response with Liú's paintings, regulated breathing and stress relief are achieved. This healing effect hastens viewers to enter a pure and simple state of mind and is the state that Liu seeks with his paintings.






Deep Breathing Field

Liú Yung-jen


"Deep Breathing Field" is a lesson in uninterrupted thinking about painting and space. It is not only a philosophical belief in both the present and eternity, but is also an interpretation of current creative attitude. My attempt to explore the opportunity for opening up the field of vision gradually led to the visual image of paradox during the artistic transformation. A profound attitude of interconnection between breathing and drawing was formed, and I used this mindset of self-discovery as a reference point for artistic progress. I believe that a painting is an expression of personal view on life. Artists create visual images by painting, yet to avoid becoming trapped in rigid stereotypes, they must sincerely and passionately become profoundly aware of the essence of art.


Breathing is a kind of molecular exchange or molecular-infiltration that results in the gain of energy through conversion. Anybody can create as long as they are breathing. The difference is that some people disbelieve while others willingly give up creating, but no one can give up breathing. I will not give up either, for together, both move forward in steady perseverance. Breathing is an instinct as well as a method. I live because of my instinct to breathe, but by using specialized training, I involve my breathing in my drawing to deeper penetrate the ethereal. Breathing is the most primitive and easiest, yet most intricate and mysterious thing to do. When I give up everything, the very last thing I have left is breathing. Breathing is an in and out exchange, a breathing dialogue of oxygen. Thoughts can also breathe, and are the oxygen of the soul. As long as you are inspired by my work, a two-way dialogue exists between me and you. When feelings are triggered, dialogues result. With in and out exchange, there is breathing, and therefore life. After stripping off all nouns, breathing is the only remaining verb I have. The triangular pile of yellow husks is the most embryonic stabilizer left after all living matter have been peeled away. That triangular bundle is tasked with the existing tug of war between posture and environment. It must move, and attempts to resist the surrounding blocks of colors and achieve an evenly matched angle with the environment.


I am usually fascinated with the shapes of alien forms that emerge after their surfaces have disintegrated. These are the true internal forms within the exterior. They are the revealed subconscious forms after intellectuality has been disassembled. Becoming reacquainted with these images is a pleasure because they are real, simple and genuine. With the mutual compromise and block out between shapes and between colors, a new order and musical movement are formed, and everything happens as naturally as breathing. My painting progresses with the mutual interlacing of arcs and blocks, and I attempted to make them appear light yet full of insight. The starlight on the surface of the massive block fades in and out, and has the power of dissolution and even the greater power to imply space. I am inclined toward conveying elegant communication through the silence of the block surface. I believe that the art of painting is the hub of life creation. Like the portal to my breath, it proudly remains standing through trials and tribulations. Hidden in the seemingly random and chance encounter of the space construction are prescribed coordination and non-coordination.


An image is an excerpt of life; it is the expression of life's dilemmas and experience rather than life's decorative object. Does my attraction to duality reflect the Gemini inside me? I have wondered, but have not found the answer. Anyone can be caught in the antagonism of duality; it is a problem in society, in life, and in art philosophy. Crystallization and dissolution embody duality. Inhaling and exhaling, with and without, heritage and subversion, fullness and emptiness, big and small, figure and ground, dark blue, bright yellow and sky blue ...... how should the integration of these mutually circulating philosophical perspectives with the crystalline image of personal original life force be manifested in a piece of work?


The encounter between the starlight and the triangular bodies under the rhythm of breathing permeates into a deep state of consciousness. It is a long, essential journey of natural transformation that is both a perpetual cycle of repetition as well as a boundless process of change.



The Vibrant Universe at Birth

Materiality and Spirituality in Liú Yung-jen's Paintings


Text by Jean-Yves Liao (Art Critic)



The people in Taiwan's indigenous Bunun tribe greet each other with "Unina?", which translates to "Are you still breathing?" in the Han language. In other words, they use the phrase "Are you still breathing?" to mean "How are you?"

This expression reveals the apparent humor of the indigenous people, yet it also reveals the aboriginal philosophy of life and naturalistic view toward the universe. Being able to breathe is life, and being alive is good, suggesting that many things can be good. To be able to breathe is to have life, and hence the ability to create.

This emphasis on breathing and its exploration has existed since ancient times, and is a tradition in cosmology. Ancient Western cosmology explored the origin of the universe, and thinkers of the time once believed that all things come from water, earth, fire and air, of which air was believed to be the origin of all creations.  Regardless of humans or the world, air was considered the source or foundational elements of their origin. Moreover, air is an element of life, and breathing is a life activity pertaining to air. Likewise, ancient Chinese cosmology also explored the substances and activities of the beginning of the universe, and early thinkers proposed the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Although air is not included, that suggests that air is not only a non-substance, but also a form of principle beyond the bound of substances. Therefore, in subsequent Taoist and Confucian ideologies, air, or qi, is a principle of life that connects the body and the spirit to achieve unity between the spiritual and the material. In other words, both oriental and Western ideological traditions have devoted themselves to exploring qi and attached importance to breathing, a life activity that concerns all creatures in the universe.

Discussions on breathing may be scientific, philosophical, literary or artistic. The paintings by artist Liú Yung-jen have long been an exploration and interpretation of breathing.



Born in 1958 in Chihshang Township, Taitung County, which is located between the plains and high mountains in the Eastern Rift Valley, Liú Yung-jen has breathed the world’s freshest source of air. In 1979, he was accepted into the Chinese Culture University Department of Fine Arts where he specialized in ink painting and built his foundation in oriental artistic thinking. Even as a student, he held numerous ink painting exhibitions and searched diligently for the roots of oriental culture. After graduating in 1983, he continued to specialize in ink monochrome media, and attempted to extend beyond the traditional into the modern. During that period, he also worked at the Council for Cultural Affairs and expanded his periodic and international perspectives in art. In 1990, he was determined to study art in Italy, and his creations gradually shifted from the figurative to the abstract. Particularly after he entered the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan in 1991, he began to explore artistic concepts. His creative media also changed from ink to oil, but the core of his artistic thinking remained oriental. In 1995, he received his master's degree from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera.  After returning to Taiwan in 1996, he wholeheartedly developed his solo exhibition entitled "Complex Cube of Deep Breathing" organized by the Dimension Endowment of Art, an advocate of contemporary art, where he began promoting the concept of breathing as the core idea in ​​his artistic creations. 

Over the last two decades, Liú Yung-jen has used breathing as his theme, and continued painting and holding exhibitions. The compositions and colors of his paintings have become increasingly refined, and his artistic interpretation of  breathing has become increasingly mature.   He now has his own unique personal style, and has created a new path for post-war Taiwanese fine arts. In particular, he has created aesthetic vision for moving abstract paintings from materiality to spirituality.


As a professional artist, Liú Yung-jen relies on in-depth material research as his foundation to achieve a more solid and profound spirituality.

His artistic creations have gone from ink to oil, and the change has given him a keen sense of observation and reflection toward the material basis of his media. This change does not represent abandonment of the oriental for love of the Western, but is in fact an extension of his spiritual exploration of oriental media into Western media. In other words, spiritual exploration remains the subject of his concern. However, he does not believe that oriental media is the only way to express this dimension. Rather, he believes that as long as the core of oriental spirit is mastered, even the use of Western media can capture the desired depth of one's spiritual pursuit.

Therefore, since using Western media in his creations, Liú Yung-jen has penetrated the historical source of Western painting by returning to the even more ancient origin of Western painting before the emergence of canvas oil painting. In murals, he sees the planes of the material; in woodcut paintings, he sees visual simplicity; and especially in alchemy since the Middle Ages, he sees the mysteries of pigments.

Basically, Liú Yung-jen artistic creation can be simply called oil painting. However, a closer look shows that his painting substrate does not include only canvas, but may also incorporate wood, or wood and canvas with metal foil. As a result, the additional materials in his painting substrate produce visual levels, structural levels and meaning levels.  Likewise for his pigment media, he does not only use oil paint but also carefully blends beeswax into his pigment to produce visual translucence and dewiness in the color and gloss. With his professional techniques and sophisticated study and mastery of the materiality of these media, his paintings manifest unique spirituality that bespeaks a vibrant universe at birth.



Liú Yung-jen's paintings are devoted to the exploration of breathing. This breathing is not limited to human breath, but includes breathing in nature and even the breathing of the entire universe. Therefore, in his paintings, breathing is neither expressed in figurative images or abstract symbols, nor assigned images or symbols from a single life or landscape. To see the composition and intricacies of his images and colors, we must re-learn how to view his painting based on his understanding and interpretation of breathing.

Since Liú Yung-jen is not a realistic landscape painter, his universe is not confined to the spatial scope of perspective. Therefore, his composition is not three dimensional but a flat layout, and his universe and life phenomena occur in this plane. This is analogous to a farmer who cultivates the land on which both his feet are planted, and where his land is not in a three-dimensional space. It is also like many of the earliest ethnic painters who simply carved on rock surfaces, and whose land opened toward every physical activity that was conducted. They did not construct three dimensional space and shapes.

The composition in Liú Yung-jen paintings is precisely the unfolding of such walking activity rather than a cube or sphere. The universe he sees is not hidden; it is a universe where our feet can go. It is also in this plane that his layout can be seen without having to rely on geometry and perspective.

On the other hand, when Liú Yung-jen holds a painting tool, he becomes a cosmic cultivator of the canvas or substrate media. He sees the universe on this plane, and sets up landmarks for the breathing activities of the universe, thus creating a painting. For Liú Yung-jen, being able to inhale and exhale conceives meaning; and being able to generate meaning is creation. In other words, one must be able to breathe in order to paint; and being able to paint confers the universe a greater spiritual dimension. Breathe, and transform the universe from material to spiritual.