Chen Han Sheng Solo Exhibition

After the Explosion







After the Explosion - Chen Han Sheng Solo Exhibition


Artist | Chen Han Sheng

Opening Reception | 07.20.2019 Sat. 3:00 p.m.

Artist Talk | 07.27.2019 Sat. 3:00 p.m. Talk with Laura Wang

Duration | 07.20.2019 – 08.18.2019 (10:00-19:00 Closed on Mondays)

Venue | Powen Gallery Map


Coexisting with Crisis?  A third kind of slack farming season! After the Explosion--Chen Han Sheng Solo Exhibition


In 2019, artist Chen Han Sheng held his third solo exhibition “After the Explosion” in Powen Gallery. Inspired by a noise barrier wall, his work tours the area between the Ren Da Industrial Park (Renwu Industrial Park and Dashe Industrial Park) and the Chingyun Temple in Dashe District to describe daily co-existence with crisis in Kaoshiung's agricultural industry and petrochemical industry.


A graduate of Taipei National University of the Arts Department of New Media Art, Chen Han Sheng began his solo exhibitions in 2016 with “Green & Gray” and “The Last Farm Boy.” The genesis of both exhibitions is in the agricultural livelihood of his family. His works are an analogy between the labor of art and the labor of farming and explored him as an artist and his relationship with his family.


Chen Han Sheng launched the “After the Explosion” from the Green Memorial Wall in Sanzhong Road, Ren Da Industrial Park. He observed and delved into the daily life of Dashe District both inside and outside of the noise barrier wall. In addition to labor, he also discussed the definition of another type of "slack farming.


Chen Han Sheng is adept at power equipment and traditional fiber crafts, which he demonstrated in his past solo exhibitions “Playful Objects” and “Symbiotic Seedlings”. In this exhibition, he used spring blossom artistry to reproduce plants commonly seen in the Dashe District. He combined them with motorized devices while using wood grain and hand-painted glaze porcelain to suggest the surrounding mountains in Dashe. 


A green wall monument is installed in the display window outside the exhibition space. On the monument is a record of factory incidents such as unexplained gas leakage, wastewater discharge and machine explosion that spurred the construction of the explosion-proof wall. The exhibit, “After the Explosion”, is an imagery of the factory explosion scene in the year that the artist was born. In addition to the factory chimneys and oil storage tanks, embellishments from the door-god of Chingyun Temple are also part of the portrayal. The door-god of Dashe Chingyun Temple is drawn by Tsai Tsao-Ru, an important Tainan temple artist.  Chen Han Sheng combined the images of cranes, lions and deer in the door-god figure to symbolize the connection between local beliefs and local industries. Stainless steel door panels commonly seen in households are combined in screen style to metaphorize isolation and obscurity associated with walls, which provide protection or perhaps to reduce the awareness of crisis?


The change in industrial structure has resulted into different types of farming slack in Dashe. One is the slack at the end of farming season, the other is a slack by abandoning farming. Craft is a way for Chen Han Sheng to examine contemporary art and labor production. Through his solo exhibition, he explored his relationship with his hometown and fulfilled a third kind of farming slack with his art.


After the Explosion not only echoes the current situation in Chen Han Sheng's hometown, but also the difficulties confronting the development of petrochemical industry and agriculture in Kaohsiung, which is the epitome of Taiwan's industrial transformation.






Reaching the Land, Nearing Mythologies
— About craftsmanship and challenges in After the Explosion


Article by Laura Wang


From Green & Gray, The Last Farm Boy, to the After the Explosion, Chen Han Sheng has steadily and clearly pushed the boundary of his exhibition into addressing social issues. If the mutual stare and diminution of agriculture and industry is the main path through which Chen Han Sheng initially explored his artistic language, then his technique of using Twined Flowers and ceramics as a medium has bestow upon him a broader spread of ideas within the framework of big issues that this article also hopes to ponder.


The Craftsmanship in After the Explosion: Stitching Metaphors

There was a critique of Chen Han Sheng's similar category of early work, Green & Gray, describing the exhibition as a manifestation of a "valiant attempt at stitching[1].  It is not until this exhibition that this act of "stitching" in Han Sheng's creations finally emerge. The significance of the "stitching" occurs at two levels. First, before the birth of his work, Han Sheng used the activities of craft to "stitch" three types of work that the public regard as distinct, namely art, crafts and agriculture. He overlapped the meaning manifestation of the three activities, blurring the universal boundary of spirit and flesh. The second level is in the presentation. The technique adopted by Han Sheng quietly "stitched" together metaphors that are scattered throughout galleries - nature, legend and time. This is because the essence of craft represents not only the display of skills, but also embodies historical and regional cultural content. Hence craft always appears alongside imagined original nature and religious rituals to become the indefinable landscape spoken by the artist.


[1] Chang Yu-Yin.  The Daily Family History of "Coexistence and Co-prosperity" Between Agriculture and Industry.  ARTCO, 2016.


It can be said that in selecting craft as the carrier, Han Sheng's works are closer to the land in their activities, and their metaphorical expressions nearer to mythologies.  Yet in contrast, such a choice also poses challenges for the artist in terms of forms, especially since the relationship between craft and art is constantly being challenged and redefined.


The challenges of craft as a vocabulary: Why use it? For whom?

In recent years, dialogues arising from the use of craft as text have become a trend in contemporary art. Some of this arise from market response. Artists who are not from European and American cultures are inevitably expected to show regional quality to highlight their differences from dominant cultures. Hence craft becomes a convenient and distinct local symbol. It quickly labels the origin and intention of the creator, and has become a doctrine for socially provoking reality. This trend has further highlighted the difficulty of differentiation and the importance of delving deeper.  When a creator chooses craft as the carrier of communication, he must realize that only he can profoundly understand the connotation of the craft technique through his own unique perspective, and respond appropriately to his context. Only then can his works rise above techniques and open up new ideas. 


For example, in his contemporary curation last year, Feng Cheng-Tsung adopted tools historically used by the Thau tribe for fishing to create his earthworks installation.  He shared that in addition to basic field visits before each creation, he has also established a set of methodology for craft deconstruction. This analytical process compares the perspective of different craft text, and is incorporated as a part of the work to enrich the unique perspective of the creator.  


Choosing which identity to adopt in a craft is also a question akin to the issue of original sin. When the background of a contemporary artist is not related to the context of the craft, the artist himself must tread carefully in the positioning of his work since this pertains to how his work will converse with the viewers, and whether the content of his work can connect with the language of the technique. 


In the workshop Tribe Against Machine co-founded by non-indigenous artist Shih Wei-Chieh and curator Chang Chia-Wei, they distinctively assumed the identity of a digital tribe to dialogue with traditional tribes on the issue of weaving. However, they did not neglect to use "the emotional lack of the digital generation" as a call to bridge the two opposing positions. As such, they resolved the problem of "inappropriate assumption" that may arise due to the identity of the creator.


From the above event, it is not difficult to understand that crafts itself is a rich but weighty text. It requires careful study and processing by each creator to translate a work into the appropriate context; otherwise, the craft would only be reduced into a form of shallow means. Han Sheng is cautious in confronting such a challenge. He directly learned the technique and the knowledge from Shih Li Mei, who specializes in Chinese Twined Flower in Lukang. Then, he supplemented the research of this technique, and applied it to the series of Small Playful Objects. This series extended the form of preserving Twined Flowers as a dowry in the hope chest and replaced the traditional Chinese flowers in its visual content with rustic hometown crops. He abandoned the crimson silk thread commonly used by the Hakka people, and instead adopted an emerald green that is more consistent with the personal essence of his creation. 


These divergences indicate his reflections on the established content of the medium and his intent to incorporate his personal creative context. Regrettably, in the relationship between his personal identity and craft text, we have yet to see a definite link to harness the two together.


Fortunately, the creator is ambitious. From individual to collections, Han Sheng's series of exhibitions are constantly expanding in dialogue. His layout of symbols has become more refined and restrained, generating expectancy about how the artist will further create novel content in response to the relationship between mythology and land.


[1] Chang Yu-Yin.  The Daily Family History of "Coexistence and Co-prosperity" Between Agriculture and Industry.  ARTCO, 2016.