• Sacred Realm of Flowers──A Preliminary Look at Fu-sheng KU’s Art Chia Chi Jason WANG Looking back at the contemporary art...

    Fu-sheng KU’s first solo exhibition in Taipei, 1961.

    Sacred Realm of Flowers──A Preliminary Look at Fu-sheng KU’s Art

    Chia Chi Jason WANG

     

    Looking back at the contemporary art scene in Taiwan from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Fu-sheng KU’s powerful expressions of deformed human bodies still stand out today, striking the same visual and emotional chord as they did back then. Unlike his contemporaries in the Fifth Moon Art Group or Ton Fan Art Group, most of whom were immersed in the exercise and practice of Chinese or the so-called “Eastern” symbols in an attempt to establish a visual vocabulary system that can contend against Western modern art, KU’s creative enlightenment set off from his personal “body” and directly addressed its present-ness, expressed through his distinctive distorted and metamorphic style. 

     

    If we were to say the artists in the Fifth Moon Art Group and Ton Fan Art Group primarily adopted the “grand narrative” approach of continuing the spiritual subjectivity of Chinese literature and art as their attitude and way of responding to modern art, then KU almost completely went the other way. He returned to the body as the dwelling place of his emotion and spirit, and went so far as eliminating all references to history and reality from his paintings. As KU’s close friend Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai once said, “Fu-sheng KU’s paintings are all projections of his inner world. He seems to be completely indifferent to the outside world of reality.” In other words, KU’s early paintings highlighted a rather individualistic sense of existence conceived on intuitive and sensual bodily perception.

    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 越過虹橋 Over the Rainbow, 2005
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 越過虹橋 Over the Rainbow, 2005
      NT$ 200,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 心痛 Heart Ache, 1999
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 心痛 Heart Ache, 1999
      NT$ 222,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 雙翼 Wings, 2010
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 雙翼 Wings, 2010
      NT$ 200,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 雙胞 Two of a Kind, 2011
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 雙胞 Two of a Kind, 2011
      NT$ 968,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 愛慕 Fascination, 2009
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 愛慕 Fascination, 2009
      NT$ 980,000
  • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 你和我 You and I, 2010

    顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU

    你和我 You and I, 2010

    In his paintings, the human body, whether it is vertical or horizontal, forms a sharp contrast with the canvas. The gloomy, melancholic colors, and the astringent, parched, and heavy textures, make the distressed body that seems to be unfulfilled all the more dramatic. Also, the canvas itself becomes the institutional boundary that restricts the extension of the body, thus alluding to an existential dilemma of nowhere to go, and even revealing a certain sense of martyrdom. 

     

    However, as KU pointed out, there is also a kind of “youngness” in the body. Even in loneliness and melancholy, the glee of youth peeks through. Not only that, many of his works convey the body consciousness between dreaming and awakening, and in this way subtly conceal the real identity of the human body in the painting.

  • Exhibition view ( Slide left / right to see more images )

    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 企尋 Seeking, 1999
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 企尋 Seeking, 1999
      NT$ 220,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 快餐 The Food Series:Fast Food, 1982
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 快餐 The Food Series:Fast Food, 1982
      NT$ 422,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 貪飲 Boozing, 1982
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 貪飲 Boozing, 1982
      NT$ 450,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 色誘 Temptation, 1994
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 色誘 Temptation, 1994
      NT$ 225,000
  • After KU went to Europe and the US, particularly during his time in New York, his headless human bodies became a more obvious and open formal motif that appeared in large numbers of his paintings. In 1964, Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai revisited KU’s studio in New York. According to his observations, KU’s paintings of this period had broken away from his previous “Blue Period” in Taiwan: “His paintings in this period are still dominated by the human body... but these human bodies are free of the rigidity and gravity of his earlier days, as they take off the ground and become more colorful.” To Pai, “Fu-sheng KU’s paintings have transmuted from his early immobile melancholy to animated anxiety.”

     

    The “animated anxiety” that Pai refers to is in fact a movement that is constantly running or running away. Since the human bodies in the painting don’t know where to run to and sometimes appear to be floating, it is likely to interpret them as a projection of anxiety that has no place to settle or a psychological lack of direction.

    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 池塘 The Pool, 1982
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 池塘 The Pool, 1982
      NT$ 296,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 配合 Coordinated Partners, 1995
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 配合 Coordinated Partners, 1995
      NT$ 350,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 渦 Swirls, 1995
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 渦 Swirls, 1995
      NT$ 422,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 景觀 The View, 2014
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 景觀 The View, 2014
      NT$ 968,000
  • Without a head means death. In a literary sense, KU’s “headless man” imagery may also be understood as the symbiosis of death and rebirth. Facing the superego expected of him by the social institution and his family background, KU chose to dissociate and alienate to return to the calling and identity of his id (true self). KU achieved self-enlightenment through art and bravely opened the body that’s originally covered. In this process of identity enlightenment, the “headless man” declares the death of the old identity with the bearing of self-imposed exile, and in the midst establishes the integrity of his true self. 

     

    Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) once analyzed the decapitation of Medusa in ancient Greek mythology from the perspective of psychology. From the images of Medusa as seen throughout mythology and art history, Freud straightforwardly equated decapitation with castration. In contrast, KU’s spontaneous choice of using the image of a headless man as a symbol of his personal body representation and his painting style also point to feminine aesthetics.

     

     

    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 成雙成對 Twosome, 1965
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 成雙成對 Twosome, 1965
      NT$ 160,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 縛 Bonding, 2001
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 縛 Bonding, 2001
      NT$ 220,000
  • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 七彩環 Ring of Color, 2014

    顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU

    七彩環 Ring of Color, 2014

    Since the mid-1960s, KU’s representation of the bodies not only became more unrestrained and lyrical, but also soft and gentle at times, as more colors entered his works. According to friends who knew him well, KU habitually used himself as the model. This means his paintings can also be seen as reflections of his personal emotions and desires. The difference is that, compared with the solitary human body of earlier periods, KU’s paintings from this period onward gradually showed the interaction of more than one human figure and person, particularly suggesting the yearning for affection and the pursuit of love. 

     

    In the mid-1970s, KU moved from New York to San Francisco. Since then, the shapes and colors of his works became even more colorful, while the composition became somewhat more three dimensional. At the same time, there was a more lively blend of the elements of reality and fantasy. His representation of erotic desire remained the same, and he also added fantasies and identification with feminine beauty.

  •  
    Collage study by Fu-sheng KU
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 虹的一端 One End of the Rainbow, 1978
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 虹的一端 One End of the Rainbow, 1978
      NT$ 338,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 飛去 UP UP and Away, 2010
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 飛去 UP UP and Away, 2010
      NT$ 980,000
    • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 兩人世界 The Two of Us, 2009
      顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 兩人世界 The Two of Us, 2009
      NT$ 1,012,000
  • 顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU, 無題 Untitled

    顧福生 Fu-Sheng KU

    無題 Untitled

    In retrospect of KU’s life journey and artistic expression, he gradually established his physical identity between the dissociation of his social identity and personal exile. In the process of returning to his id, he found spiritual and creative freedom. His art is the rendition of his personal body and desire. Like a poem of life, his creations belong to a feminine aesthetics that pursues not only beauty, but the yearning for love and peace of the mind and body. They are also brimming with joy and songs that sing the power of life.

    NT$ 80,000
  • Fu-sheng KU  1935-2017

    Exploring the meaning of life, KU’s creation centers around “man” as a vital subject, so that his oeuvre can be associated with modernist and existentialist philosophy. As curator Chia Chi Jason WANG once commented, “Fu-sheng KU’s creative enlightenment began with the individual’s ‘body’ and he strives to capture the ‘present.’ Depictions of distortion and deformation are commonly found in his art.” Many of KU’s human bodies are deformed and elongated, a style that is unique and impressive even today for its visual convulsion and emotional infectiousness. Fu-sheng KU says, “I paint man’s inner self as well as his feelings towards the outer world; man’s relationship with man, or man’s relationship with his surrounding environment and nature. Life is a riddle and a dream. Life is fragile.” The complexity of human nature, interpersonal parting, the mysteriousness and desires of the body, and the dream and reality of life… these are the ideas that pervade his art. KU’s works exude a rich literary quality, constantly reflecting on the issues of human existence and infused with intense feelings and drama.

    AWARDS

    1960 Honorable Mention, 6th Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil

    1963-1965 Elizabeth Carstairs Scholarship, Art Students League, New York, USA

    PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

    • Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, USA
    • National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan
    • Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
    • Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • Above article written by Chia Chi Jason WANG

    Sacred Realm of Flowers──A Preliminary Look at Fu-sheng KU’s Art

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