Taiwanese artist Tung Ming-Chin is a master of transforming wood into pensive, emotive sculptures. His smoothly polished pieces transform as the viewer moves around them, slowly revealing surprises. Often dealing with themes of inner emotion and the subconscious mind, his sculptures regularly show figures trapped within the wood, pressing themselves against the outer layer in an attempt to break free.
His 2013 work Breath is a metaphor for “the transformation of a physical space into an inner psychological space affected by vision.” Below the wooden humps, which almost emerge from boxes like tortoise shells, limbs subtly jut out and lead the viewer to ponder the mystery encased within. In Inner Turmoil, the artist transforms wood into seemingly thin tissue paper nailed to a wall. From within, a person is pushing against this barrier, testing the limits of the space. This negative and positive space created by the figure can be viewed as a way to explore his inner unrest.
Other sculptures use familiar cultural symbols, such as in Between Round and Square: Past, Present, and Future. Here, Ming-Chin plays with the forms of a traditional jade cong and jade bi, which symbolized earth and sky in ancient Chinese culture. By using these familiar forms, he’s able to play on nostalgia while looking toward the future.
“The work is presented in the prismatic form; the appearance of the object demonstrates the passing of time,” he writes. “The bottom of the pillar lays the ancient jade cong and the plastic bottle sits on the top. The hidden part in the middle implies the development and imagination of square and round during the course of time in the past. On the body of the pillar are mostly utensils, and from the utensils we can see the change of times and the lifestyle of people. Time passes and people change, but some truth and aesthetics will last forever.”