Despite its elegant appearance, Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains, in fact exposes the increasingly serious problem of air pollution in Taipei. Chang’s work highlights the damaging effects of air pollution on health, causing asthma and the abnormal hyperplasia of cells which leads to cancers and tumors.
Over the past year, the artist has collected samples of air from across Taipei city, transformed the suspended particles of pollution within these into ink, and documented the process on film. During the exhibition, Chang is inviting asthma sufferers to take part in a six-week workshop where, under the instruction of an art therapist, he will use this ink to convey their feelings on canvas. Here, the work evidences the impact of air pollution on individuals, families and society, and these collectively-produced paintings can be considered a political action: a proposal for societal change.
The work borrows its title from a classic work by the Chinese landscape painter Xia Gui, due to the significance of blank space in Chinese ink painting. Used to indicate cloud, mist, sky, water or smoke, these ‘empty’ spaces also refer to qi (chi), a cosmological term for that which is formless, but bestows life. Originally, qi was used to refer to all gaseous substances, and since air is essential for us to breathe, qi has been considered the principle of life in Chinese painting. In appropriating this title, Chang references to the sheer weight of substances, and health consequences, contained in the air that surrounds us and that we might otherwise think of as empty, clean and pure.
For the opening of the exhibition, Chang produces new iterations of Xia Gui’s Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains using his pollution-inks; these paintings will slowly be replaced by those produced in the public workshops.
Wan-Chen Lee, assistant professor, Institute of Environmental Health, National Taiwan University
Chuan-Heng King, art therapist certified by Taiwan Art Therapy Association
Yi-Chun Lai, project manager
Hsien-Kang Tsai, video photographer
Ting-Tong Chang, born 1982 in Taiwan, lives and works in London.