WU Hsichi







WU Hsichi: Border


Artist | WU Hsichi

Duration | April 16 – May 22, 2022 (10:00-19:00 Closed on Mondays)

Artist Talk | April 16 Sat. 3:00 p.m. Talk with Ming Turner

Venue | Powen Gallery map


A Border without Boundaries: WU Hsichi’s 2022 Solo Exhibition


Written by Ming Turner

(Associate Professor, Institute of Creative Industries Design, National Cheng Kung University; Visual Art Director, National Cheng Kung University Art Center)


In 2022, Wu Hsichi will launch his solo exhibition, Border. Created in 2021, Border is a series of composite media creations, based mainly on the use of pastels. Portraits outlined with thick black borders are typical in the creations of this artist, and these can be seen in many of these works. Wu Hsichi believes that the human body is a kind of cage. By removing the hair, gender characteristics, and other physical features, and leaving only a pure portrait, the compositions seem to be self-portraits of the artist himself. In their composition, the portraits, feature huge eyes and smiles that lament the secular world, gazing down on this world from different angles.


The primary technique in pastel painting involves smearing colors on the drawing paper repeatedly using the tip or the side of the pastel sticks, then rubbing over the surface with fingers, while preserving the strokes and lines of the pastels on the paper. Sometimes, the artist will lightly apply color to the paper with the side of a pastel to reveal the texture and grain of the paper itself. To become familiar with the characteristics of any medium, an artist must experiment constantly with the creative medium, and it is through the particularities of the medium of the composition that the artist manifests his or her unique technique. This technique can further demonstrate the thoughts and ideas that the artist wishes to communicate. A characteristic of oil-based pastel is that it does not require an oil medium to achieve the color overlay and saturation of oil painting. The pastel pigment itself is loose and fine, which are characteristics that are difficult to achieve with other creative media.


Wu Hsichi has been creating oil-based pastel compositions since 2010. He has continued to experiment with creative materials and has found his unique method of creating oil-based pastel works. At the same time, he has also broken away from his early “big abstract series” style. In his oil pastel composition, Hsichi first layers his pastels on the paper, then scrapes off layers from the surface. The bottom layers of the pastels are deeply ingrained into the fibers of the paper itself, thus preventing the problem of it flaking off easily as with traditional pastel paintings. Using this innovative technique, Wu Hsichi’s works always manifest a kind of misty beauty that is both lyrical and romantic. Viewers can clearly see the fiber texture and grain of the paper itself. At the same time, the apparent sheerness of the pastels reveals multiple layers of different colors. Such details and texture are difficult to achieve with other creative media.


Wu Hsichi was born in JinGuaShi in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City, Taiwan, in 1965. He began practicing Zen in his twenties. He lived in Nantou for 15 years, but moved to the Yilan coast six years ago to live in semi-seclusion. Hsichi’s works demonstrate his sensitivity to colors. His creations have always been colorful and highly saturated, while at the same time, the multiple layers of color changes are always revealed in the details. His creations do not clearly express Buddhism or Zen, and his compositions also differ from the black and white or monochromatic features of typical Zen paintings. Nevertheless, his works always reveal his understanding of the human world, and a comprehension of human nature and the spirituality of Buddha, and the hairless portraits in his works resemble a shaven monk. His works are rich in figurativeness and symbolic representations, a good example of which are the rocks in his works, which resemble people in meditation.


Hsichi often uses straight, absolute outlines in black, white, or blue, to depict the profile of people, mountains, plants, and flowers that are highly adorned and chromatic, and then uses additional lines to shape natural landscapes and human figures. In his compositions, his impression of Guishan Island from his childhood memories is also often reproduced in the form of an isolated island which is being watched constantly by a portrait of a figure that seems to be the artist himself. Although Hsichi does not define this series of pastel works as abstract paintings, his compositions are nevertheless rich in abstract figures and lines. They depict nature and scenes from the artist’s mind in colors which are simultaneously gorgeous, romantic, and joyful.


Plato once said, “Abstract paintings are an alternative pathway to spiritual reality.” He believed that patterns without figurative images (such as circles, squares, and triangles,) present an absolute and irreversible beauty. Therefore, the lines and colors in a painting can themselves be the object of appreciation for viewers. Artists do not need to accurately reproduce natural shapes or scenes in their compositions. Abstract art does not have a specific appearance, shape, or aesthetic symbol, and the degree of abstraction varies in the works themselves. From the enormous artistic canon of the twentieth century, abstract art can be categorized into several basic types: linear, color-related, geometric, emotional and intuitive, brushstroke, and minimalist.


Wu Hsichi’s Border series displays a series of images which are imbued with a metaphysical spirituality that is manifested through abstract forms. The works both illustrate the influence of Western art trends, and depict an oriental “dry landscape” images and the concept of Zen. They signify the ups and downs, and the light at the end of the tunnel of Hsichi’s life journey, while blooming with spiritual joyfulness. Indeed, these works portray a spiritual “border” which has no boundaries.