Metropolis: An Omni Vision (2000)
I have long been fascinated by the idea of coming up with a concise formula that could radically, fully and reasonably explain all the phenomena between heaven and earth.
It is not clear what has motivated me to undertake such a quest. So far, I have gone through a process from initial intoxicated infatuation to that of mental clarity and emancipated senses.
The thought emerged while I was studying in Japan. Using the annual Japan Architect Residential Design Competition as a forum, I presented a new temporal/spatial concept—“omni-symmetry,” based on my interpretation of the histories and theories of Chinese and Japanese architecture. Subsequently, in a series of actual or theoretical design exercises commissioned in Taiwan and in the U.S., the concept was repeatedly refined and expanded during its real-life applications. Meanwhile, I was preoccupied with the inquiry of the fundamental generating principles and dynamics of all the temporal/spatial/human/material elements. At this juncture, too, a happy family life but an unhappy career prompted my solitary search—from architecture to art to life in general and back to myself—all meant to challenge the mind, amplify the vision, probe the instinct and accelerate the unlearning.
My relocation to Hong Kong had the following implications: a dual task in teaching and learning; a bittersweet reflection on life; and a total immersion in drawing and photography. All of them afford opportunities in the microscopic scrutiny and continuous witnessing of the real and illusory worlds. It is, however, the intimate encounters with the trees and bamboo groves and the so-called urban backyard that touched off the ultimate realization. My recent publications in micro-vision photography and macro-vision drawing amount to visual illustrations of my “omni-symmetry” concept in its various manifestations.
A pen, a pad and a folding chair are my only tools for outdoor drawing sessions. Equally basic are my concepts, techniques and compositions, which are so simple that the young boys and girls who gather around and watch me draw understand my intentions readily. They also react with joy and thrill. To them, I may just be another wandering street artist, but it is an image that serves me fine and rather matches the ascetic monk of my self-image.
When I draw, a draft or an outline is out of the question, let alone preconceived ideas or schematic sketches. The spontaneity is beneficial in facilitating both precision of observation and expression of total confidence. I draw with the pace of a turtle, the slither of a snake, the rhythm of a fish, and the humming of insects. It is comparable to the tectonic processes of spiders’ web weaving and birds’ nest building. With the conviction that equates time with life and its every ticking moment, I proceed with religious perseverance.
When I reach a destination, I always take a leisurely stroll in order to gain rough impressions of the place. After such a ritual, an anchoring object is selected and placed on the blank sheet. A second object is chosen to pair with the first as if engaged in dialogue. A third object is then added to communicate with the previous two, and so on and so forth. The idea is to quickly establish and unveil conceptually and visually orientated contrasting and complementing relationships. After a number of such seemingly random mixes and matches, all elements in this visual field automatically plunge into a chorus of interactive plays similar to symphonic suites or choreographed dances.
Theoretically, halting the drawing at any point does not deprive it of its completeness. However, when the density and layering of images reach utter congestion, visions of myriad vistas become inevitable. Is this not a true reflection of reality? It is not my intention if such scenes cause readers dizziness in viewing and frustration in comprehending.
In fact, my drawing process is characterized by a liberation of the mind and a lack of premeditated designs. During the actual execution, however, habits dictate discipline and forbearance while intuition propels logic and composition. Every move seems to gravitate around the central theme of balance and symmetry. Sometimes, in a spur of the moment, I tend to improvise freely by injecting decorative motifs and life’s symbols, resulting in a spectacle of multiplicity and vitality.
When the drawing is finished, it evokes all sorts of images, ranging from a live performing stage to a refuse junkyard. Each character in this drama, whether costumed or naked, countenanced or masked, taking up its role or playing out its part, revolves around the invisible axes, manifesting the ever-present contrast/complement relationships of the temporal/spatial/human/material realms. In short: omni-symmetry.
In one corner of the universe somewhere in this galaxy, the Earth, self-rotating, revolves around the Sun with its axis on a tilt, resulting in the different seasons and varied day and night. The Moon, circling the Earth, gives rise to ebbs and flows, the new and full moons.
At all corners of the world, air, water, earth and fire join to produce sound and fury, color and shade. This collaboration, at times elegant and fascinating, at times dazzling and electrifying, takes the forms of wind, cloud, thunder and lightning. Everything on, above and below the Earth’s surface, without exception, revolves along with the Earth on its axis, and in turn, the Sun’s axis, in a perpetual flux of symmetrical balance and balanced symmetry.