TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — New York-based Taiwanese artist John Yuyi (江宥儀) kicked off her new solo exhibition in Taipei last week, inviting visitors to walk into a fantasy world and experience an array of visual sensations.
The exhibition, “Eye Sees No Lashes,” opened at TAO ART Space on Jan. 9 and will last through Feb. 20. A total of 16 artworks, ranging from images to installations, are on display. Some of them are straightforward and will be familiar to the artist’s social media audience, while others tend to be more conceptual.
“We began with a clear idea that we will not simply exhibit photos,” said curator Robin Peckham, who is also the co-director of the Taipei Dangdai art fair. “Instead, we intend to demonstrate Yuyi’s creative ideas through objects and space,” he said.
Yuyi is an artist with various dimensions, Peckham observed. The artist, named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 Asia list in 2018, rose as a star on the internet with avant-garde visual images. In addition to visuals shown on social media, Yuyi is capable of creating tangible work that fits into space, said Peckham. Yuyi embraces local Taiwanese culture, but at the same time, she is also attuned to the American and global arts arenas, added the curator.
Speaking about her first solo exhibition focusing on installation art, Yuyi said most of the artworks were created in 2020, but they reflect the ideas and inspirations she had gotten over the years. Some of them were even crafted or conceived during her quarantine period after she returned to Taiwan last year at a time when the pandemic began sweeping the U.S. “I have craved doing installations in Taiwan,” said Yuyi, adding the same aspiration would be more difficult to achieve in New York given its extremely high-priced spaces.
John Yuyi and “Eye Sees No Lashes” (TAO ART photo)
Yuyi specializes in applying the images of her body parts on layered graphic designs realized through various materials. This characteristic can be easily found in “Eye Sees No Lashes.” Human eyes — a motif in the exhibition — appear on movable devices, contact lenses, as well as fabric. The work “Eye Sees No Lashes” features a 2.4-meter mannequin wearing a long gown with long blue synthetic hair. Strands of hair are stitched to the gown, on which the artist’s eyes are printed.
Yuyi, however, said she has never really thought about what eyes mean to her. Eyes are part of the human face, and it is the face that has long been her focus. “I will pay extra attention to wrinkles on people’s faces, and the degree of moisture on the skin: all the details on their faces,” said Yuyi, who described eyes as having the ability to gaze while being a feature that can be observed.
Visuals created by Yuyi are dynamic, twisted, and complicated. In the piece “Making Eye Contact with Leaves,” many human eyes are printed on plant-shaped devices spread across an exhibition room decorated like the surface of a barren planet. The eyes constantly move around with the swirling devices, presenting the anxiety and insecurity of modern people in the internet age, according to the gallery.
“Making Eye Contact with Leaves” (TAO ART photo)
Founder of TAO ART Space Vicky Chen (陳薇捷) said she has long followed Yuyi on Instagram. The idea of “doing an exhibition that is different and unique” was birthed after having known the artist through Peckham, Chen said, adding that the show is meant to be interesting and delightful.
Despite gaining her fame through rich-colored and daring visual work on Instagram, the artist has had an evolving perspective on social media. “Back in 2016, I had a very positive attitude toward social media,” said Yuyi. It's a platform where “you can let other people see your work without the need for an actual space,” she said, noting that it allows people living on an isolated island or in a remote village to be seen.
“But later I started trying more challenging things, and social media has become saturated with KOLs (key opinion leaders) …. I came to this observation that many people, and I mean creators and those who try to make other people see their work, have been kidnaped by social media,” she said.
Having collaborated with luxury brands like Gucci, Maison Margiela, as well as WIRED magazine, the artist stressed she has been trying to “take back control” lately, even though it might have some repercussions for her commercial work. “I have become aware of such a thing as endurance,” said Yuyi. “If you want to stay on the path for a long time, you should do what really makes you happy.”
John Yuyi and “I Lnife You” (TAO ART photo)