The Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai (born in 1980) is currently presenting a series of new works at the Parisian gallery mor charpentier. Entitled “As It Is”, the exhibition’s overall display offers a juxtaposition of drawing and photography, alongside a video installation in the basement (“Songs of Chuchepati Camp” in collaboration with the Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Tashi Gyalthang). Despite the variety of medium, Tsai’s artworks echo with one another, playing around the whirlwind of rounded shapes, transparency, and handwriting.
The unique space of the gallery - with its bright ceiling lights and dark varnished floor - enhances the physical encounter with Tsai’s works and their performative aspects. Reflecting onto the floor, her works plunge the viewer into a nebulous atmosphere, an infinite space in which macro and micro meet.
Two series are set side by side on the ground floor. The viewer first discovers three large ink and watercolour drawings on rice paper from her series “We Came Whirling from Nothingness” (2014). These sparse ink splashes centred around a dense core are inscribed with Heart Sutra - ancient texts found in Hinduism and Buddhism. Like an interstellar cloud of dust, the Chinese characters gradually disperse in the outer sphere into the void.
Turning right, the viewer comes across photographs from her series “Universe of Possibilities” (2016). Five round photographs invite us to rethink our conception of transience, while disturbing our sense of scale and perception. The seemingly strange planets made of swirls and spirals we are looking at are in truth close-ups of off-casts that had been discarded in mass quantities by commercial fishing boats along the coast of Central Vietnam. The words “Multiple Truths”, “Luminous Mind”, “Profound Simplicity” appear here and there onto the photographs.
Tsai has indeed developed a particular approach to the text / image relationship by populating many of her works with handwriting. Often referring to Sutra, these words are repeated over and over, revolving around one another. Tsai explains that she has always had a strong affinity for the written text, especially Buddhist scriptures. And this practice appears as way to decode her understanding of contemplation, meditation, and emptiness. As she describes: “Over the last nine years of my practice as an artist, people often ask me if I am a devoted religious artist or simply in love with the aesthetics of writing texts. Although I have always almost single-mindedly tried to explore one theme that is the Buddhist concept of emptiness, I never thought of myself as a religious artist. I always considered emptiness as a philosophical concept. In my daily life I am still trying to grasp this concept.”
Charwei Tsai graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Industrial Design and Art & Architectural History (2002) and has completed the postgraduate research program La Seine at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris (2010). She is editor-in-chief of Lovely Daze, an art journal published twice a year since 2005.
Charwei Tsai, "As It Is"
Exhibition until March 18th 2017
61 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
mor charpentier website