The life of the fool is marked by ingratitude and apprehension; the drift of his thought is exclusively toward the future. Forgetting the good that has been, he becomes an old man this very day.
Ten years into his quest for the essence of truth, Yang Mao-Lin continues to dissect and reconstruct the symbols of his personal desires, as well as elements of his cultural environment. He analyses his inner being through a series of mixed-media experiments, Wanderers of the Abyssal Darkness, The Lasting Spring, and Glittering Soul. Mementos: 2022 Yang Mao-Lin Solo Exhibition inherits the creative impetus of his original Quest for Mandala series—an inquiry into the true meaning of life. By painting and carving the likenesses of native flora and fauna, as well as popular fictional characters into wooden sculptures, the artist pays a nostalgic tribute to memorabilia that have played an important role throughout his life.
The greatest blessing the individual may receive is the empowerment to arbitrate an era's historical narrative such that neither the individual nor the era itself becomes lost in the mists of time. Through creative renewal, the individual may preserve the cultures of bygone eras and protect the present era from obsolescence amid rapid cultural evolution. Yang's creative practice has inquired deeply into the Taiwanese consciousness, and with his finger on the pulse of local culture, he has created a diverse body of work in pursuit of activism, retrospection, and introspection over the last several decades. From his early Graphic Hero series, which pays tribute to fallen rebels; to his MADE IN TAIWAN series, in which art, politics, history, and culture intersect to establish a pluralistic Taiwanese identity; to his ongoing Quest for Mandala series, in which he seeks to construct a narrative of selfhood through the exploration of various native Taiwanese plant and animal species, Yang's works serve as relics of the various chapters that he has experienced throughout his life. The artist configures ideas and images from his life into his work, expounding the continuous reproduction and transmission of culture, while tracing local cultural lineage, and in so doing, discovering his personal identity.
In his playful and mischievous manner, Yang has been exploring the colonial hybridisation of Taiwanese culture by creating wood and bronze sculptures that express reverence for fictional characters in contemporary culture since 2002. The artist connects the imagery of popular fictional characters that live in the collective childhood memory of the public with the traditions and hierarchy of Taiwanese Buddhism, thereby synthesising common cultural emblems and the most consecrated spiritual figures in human civilisation. Yang deifies canonical figures from cartoons and comics from his childhood—such as Peter Pan, Astro Boy, Tetsujin 28-go, Boss Robot, and characters from Star Wars—by inserting them into a Buddhist ranking system. In this way, the artist has developed a new interpretation of personal faith that combines cultures of belief in different eras, and his juxtaposition of solemnity and wit integrates the seemingly divergent customs.
Featuring over 40 new pieces spanning three series of works—The Lasting Spring, Wanderers of the Abyssal Darkness, and a collection of mixed-media sculptures of pop culture figures as amine gods—Mementos examines Yang's creative intuition. The artist's repeated depiction of the raven is not an attempt to create a political metaphor nor an act of authoritarian resistance, but a celebration of its luxuriant darkness and resplendent composure. The motif of the clouded leopard and lily not only invokes the history of native ideologies, but further serves as a commemoration of an extinct species and an expression of longing for nature and truth. While retaining the irregular textures and natural characteristics of the wood—ranging from pine, camphor, fir, juniper, walnut, to Taiwan incense cedar—he creates wooden sculptures of figures from popular culture in the manner of Jataka Tales, which depict previous incarnations of the Buddha as various Bodhisattvas.
Yang Mao-Lin, a wanderer of the abyssal darkness, surfaces from the mysterious depths of the sea for a momentary escape into the mystical forested mountains, seeking perfection within organic imperfection. For Yang, whose works from the 1980s reflect upon cultural symbols and amplify the localisation and democratisation movements, his creative impulse continues to spark. The artist challenges himself through the conflation of inheritance and innovation, seeking continuity across generations with a flair for the absurd and the romantic.
Press release courtesy Tina Keng Gallery.
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