Excerpts from Fragmented Continuity: The Artistic Transformations of Yang Shih-chih, Chia Chi Jason Wang
As an example, Yang Shih-chih cited traditional Chinese medicine’s view of the body as a living whole forming its own universe. She also drew an analogy with Chinese calligraphy, describing the corresponding relationship between the brushstrokes that formed a character and the calligrapher’s vital energy, averring that the completion of an entire work of calligraphy was an aesthetic act moving from the small wholeness of individual parts to the greater wholeness of the whole. Aided by the traditional Chinese view of the body and art, the form of Yang Shih-chih’s art underwent a tremendous shift in the late 1990s.
She specifically developed a set of painting procedures combining doodling and collage, even bidding farewell to oil and acrylic. Turning to ink as the medium for her art, she would brush the ink or apply color on either xuan or cotton paper with unrestrained movements. Sometimes on the same piece of paper she would mix lines drawn with different materials, such as her customary pencils, or water-soluble charcoal pens or crayons.
Doodling serves to release control of the mind and the hand. It does not have its own will or concrete objective. It does not exist for the sake of any concept. Yang Shih-chih relates that after amassing doodles for two or three weeks, she would turn numerous pages upside down and cut out fragments of various sizes and shapes with scissors. Facing the blank canvas in front of her, she would ponder how to select the fragments spread all over the floor to form a section that corresponded with the thoughts engraved in her mind, then piece those brushstrokes together into a collage.
Yang Shih-chih’s collages are a process of repeated honing and continual modification, overlaying and overlapping. Even though an infinite number of possible forms should exist, what aesthetic roots, operations of the consciousness or deep cultural structures ultimately guide the compositions of her images? From 2004 to the present day, images stirring associations with the earth, such as landscapes, trees, rocks or flowers, have always been clearly visible in her paintings.
Instead drew from her personal inner spirit as the source of her scenery, immaterial spiritual spaces have become the aesthetic pursuit of her latter-period art. Revisiting the tradition of calligraphy and ink painting, she seems to be trying to amplify the expressive methods of ink by accessing the vision of modern and contemporary art. Her acts of deconstruction and reconstruction are not done in order to be eclectic or to correct an error, but to build a true expression of her feelings and personality, to aptly express herself, to forge a bridge with tradition that leads to a new creative path.
Just as her “holistic view” focuses on an organic state present in nature, emphasizing an interconnected cycle, so a modern and contemporary artist should be able to extract nourishment from tradition to cultivate her own cultural sustenance and aesthetic foundation. Quite clearly, after establishing a new connection with tradition, Yang Shih-chih has in fact been able to carve out a new trail with skill and ease, discovering a uniquely creative way to express her own poetics of art.