The Charm of Wood Carving by Huang Pin Tong |"Fairy Whisper" Interview

October 5, 2022

Whitestone Gallery Taipei featured a duo exhibition by Huang Pin Tong and Miyako Terakura entitled "Fairy Whisper" from September 3 to October 15, 2022. Both artists create sculptures that feature infants and children as their motifs, and this time Huang Pin Tong is a wood sculpture whose highly realistic carving techniques and unusual fusion of natural objects and babies are very attractive. We interviewed the artist about the reason why she incorporates the limbs of infants into her works, which is one of the characteristics of her works, how the "The Tree of Life" series, the main series of works in this exhibition, was born, and her thoughts on wood sculpture and passion in creating them.

Huang Pin Tong “Light of Life” 2022, 21.5×97.3×87.2cm, Acrylic on Camphor wood

The motif of an infant that evokes the purest happiness and joy.

ーYour works are characterized by infants, especially when it comes to their soft and tiny feet. Can you tell us how you came to incorporate parts of that in your work?

Huang Pin Tong (hereafter referred to as "Huang"): The feet are the portions of the body that transport the self and the mind everywhere. When an object develops a pair of living feet, it is simpler to evoke the viewer's affection and empathy, allowing us to think in the shoes of others. Thinking and feeling from the perspective of the object, closes the gap between the person and the object being described.

Infants usually give people a sense of optimism, as they represent the purest, most carefree state of mind, whether it encourages us to contemplate the original purity of existence or when we see an image of a newborn. The inner urge to love and care has the power to separate us from the complexities of life and evoke the purest happiness and delight. This is the spiritual impact I seek and crave for in my artistic endeavors.

From left, Huang Pin Tong “The View of Summer Mountain” “The View of Spring Mountain” 2022, 12.0×14.5×17.3cm, Lacquer on Polystone

ーThe renderings of the plant and the feets are so realistically portrayed. What do you do in particular to recreate the realism? Please share with us the technicalities or vision in your mind.

Huang: Reality is a zero-distance existence, a living existence.

In my perspective, the sense of volume has always been one of the most alluring aspects of sculpture. My sculpting approach is predicated on the variations in line created by the extrusion of the volumes and their interrelation. Due to the strength of these volumes and the variations in details, the most essential element may make people intuitively feel that the objects shown in the works are real, and also allow the delicate limbs of the newborn to move through the whole form, expressing hope and happiness.

By observing succulents in everyday life, I have gotten a new appreciation for the lush body. Comparatively to the fullness of a baby's body, succulents have bloated forms. Nevertheless, there is a hidden relationship between the structure and dynamics of each plant and its surroundings, despite their mutable nature. From the process of plant growth, I discovered that plants exhibit the law of growth through their bodies, and through works that portray the vitality of plants from the inside out, I wish to demonstrate the inner source of endless life energy by combining these two images.

From the exhibition view, Huang Pin Tong “Summer Breeze” 2022, 40.3×84.5×116.6cm, Acrylic on Camphor wood

New "The Tree of Life" series that enchants with the beauty of the tree itself

ーMany of the works in this exhibition are from the new series "The Tree of Life" which are released in 2022. This visuals in the series are largely composed of human infant body parts and plants that are emblematic to your work. What were your intentions or ideas for the particular series?

Huang: In the process of creating wood carvings, interacting with the material, observing the texture of the trees, etc., you can sense that each tree has a distinct and beautiful life, especially from its annual rings, which appear to tell its tale. The trees represent humans, and each individual's life path leads to an unique soul state. I attempted to use the concept of trees to represent an individual's spiritual appearance, resulting in the creation of the series "Tree of Life." I feel that the beauty of each tree should differ.

When the inner soul is full of vitality, it reminds me of the growth characteristics of succulents. Their stable condition of energy allows for lovely blossoms to bloom at the appropriate time. Consequently, I wish to convey this beautiful emotion to everyone through the usage of succulents to reflect people's inner being.

From the exhibition view, the latest "The Tree of Life" series

ーThe majority of the works in this exhibition were created in 2021 and 2022. Has there been any changes in your work or motifs after the pandemic?

Huang: In fact, basic sketches for the series of "The Tree of Life" were finished in 2016 already. In 2019, I actually began to develop them one after another. During the 2020-2022 pandemic, people spent more time at home and began to pay more attention to their living space. It became a trend in Taiwan to cultivate plants at home and on their balconies in order to find a little peace and quiet during a chaotic period.

On such days, I began noticing ever more closely at my succulent plants that I’ve grown over the years. Their growth and the way they store energy from the sunlight made me realize that tranquility and stability are what people truly need. I hope that one day we can all find it within ourselves to blossom beautifully.

A sketch of the "The Tree of Life" series.

ーThis is a duo exhibition titled "Fairy Whisper”. Terakura is an artist who creates ceramic works, and both of you have a similar motifs. How do you feel about her work?

Huang: When I first encountered Terakura's work, I felt a sense of calmness. The expressions in her works appear sometimes with lightly closed eyes, as if meditating and at rest or dreaming. At other times, they have a serene expression, that communicates the essence of returning to our core spiritual nature. The works of Terakura are a source of inspiration and comfort. In this day of fast information change and hectic lifestyles, her works remind us to take a moment, calm our emotions, and comprehend what our deepest and truest self needs. Terakura's works offer serenity and can bring a smile to anyone's face.

Exhibition installation view of Miyako Terakura’s work

Highly realistic sculpture supporting an eccentric formative style

ーYou graduated from the Department of Sculpture at the National Taiwan University of the Arts and later worked as an assistant to Beichen Yang, a well-known contemporary realistic sculptor, and have continued perfecting your craft. What makes you gravitate towards sculpture?

Huang: The sculpture's presence in the room reflects the concept in my mind. As a consequence of its representation as sculpture, we may perceive the variations in sculptural form from a wider variety of perspectives. Also, the conversational link between sculpture and space offers more amusement. The warmth and softness of the wood gives me a happy glow, the rhythm of the carving process is gradual and relaxing, and the volume and shape changes can be felt. As a result of their separation, I find the wood carving really fascinating.

At the artist's studio.

ーDo you have any must-have materials or tools that is essential to you in order to create?

Huang: My own state is the most crucial aspect of my production. I pay close attention to the intricacies and alterations of daily life. I must remember to be calm and actually listen to my intuition. I am patient and slow when crafting, and I am always at ease. In addition to a pleasant disposition, a sharp carving knife is essential to my creation.

Chainsaws are sometimes used for large works.

ーWhat are your future plans and what new challenges are you planning in your production?

Huang: In the future, I’d like to express the beauty of the natural landscape, hoping to portray a wider range of challenges through sculpture, and to incorporate my own understanding and appreciation of life and nature. I’m interested in presenting the close relationship and rich diversity between nature and human beings in a poetic way, and I look forward to creating an even more diverse ethos that highlights the charm of the medium.

At the artist's studio.

ーPlease share with us any remaining comments or thoughts .

Huang: I believe that an artwork that soothes the heart is an act of spreading love. The greatest joy of being a creator is being able to care for others through your works and to make others feel the warmth, happiness, and delight.

Huang Pin Tong “Early Summer is Coming” 2022, 24.3×22.5×47.7cm, Acrylic and Oil on Camphor wood

The new "The Tree of Life" series unveiled at the "Fairy Whisper" exhibition is an eye-catching fusion of succulents and infant legs, an eccentric style that is sure to catch the eye, but closer inspection reveals that the realistic-looking infant limbs and plants and the warmth of the wood grain make the work even more appealing. A video of the production of this series is shown at the exhibition. Please visit the online exhibition to see the details of the works and the process of production.

View Exhibition Details »

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