To begin with, in those almost deformed semi-architectural constructions, it has always been placed with one or multiple slim human figures whose spirituality remains but flesh and body are deprived of. Whether the figures are walking or pausing, secrets are hidden in their sunken eye sockets. These secrets are never the same but they belong to each individual. Never are we able to understand their thoughts, or actions. Perhaps, rightly because of this, these sculptures possess the serenity as such. Lost, wandering, diverged, or pondering, silence is the common language amongst these human figures.
Gladly, the figures made by Val (1967-2016) always have the power of storytelling. Although sculptures may never voice or move, through various subtle implications and outlining, we still project our own imagination towards these sculptures inevitably. These figures enable different people to observe different stories. More importantly, those stories match the feelings we have deep down in that moment. It is as if the sculptures or the human figures are coming to life.
To begin with, in those almost deformed semi-architectural constructions, it has always been placed with one or multiple slim human figures whose spirituality remains but flesh and body are deprived of. Whether the figures are walking or pausing, secrets are hidden in their sunken eye sockets. These secrets are never the same but they belong to each individual. Never are we able to understand their thoughts, or actions. Perhaps, rightly because of this, these sculptures possess the serenity as such. Lost, wandering, diverged, or pondering, silence is the common language amongst these human figures. Gladly, the figures made by Val (1967-2016) always have the power of storytelling. Although sculptures may never voice or move, through various subtle implications and outlining, we still project our own imagination towards these sculptures inevitably. These figures enable different people to observe different stories. More importantly, those stories match the feelings we have deep down in that moment. It is as if the sculptures or the human figures are coming to life.
The architectures that surround or resemble the human figures often have a life of their own. Either having edges and corners or entirely rounded, this group of architectures displays a temperament of tenderness. Guided by the breeze or the gravity, they seem supple yet rigid. Soft in the frolic lines and areal shape; hard in the thick yet malleable bronze materials. It seems simple and easy, but not necessarily so. The density of the architectures not only comes from its components, but the visual presentation itself delivers the conflicted imagery of hard and soft. At times, it has a flexible yet tenacious image, just like tofu or jelly. Other times, it is flowing like a stream. More frequently, it shows the perseverance like a long bamboo stick. Under the influence of wind, the sculptures present the strength aroused from the abstract silhouette itself. There is no danger or fright; the human figures elegantly and naturally walk inside, on top of, aside, or in the middle of the architectures. Despite pacing on the beams, these human figures take each step steadily. They fully enjoy this situation, nonchalantly being at peace with themselves in the same place. Maybe, the features of such sculptures are reflective of their creators. Residing in South East Asia, Val freely travels around the world and continues her creation process in every corner of earth, which allows her works to exuberate a strong sense of freedom.
Val once said that she wished her artwork could become large-scale public arts, with the human figures equal to the size of us actual human beings. This way, audience could meet these sculpture figures at eye level, and roam with them in that twisted, deformed, and fantastic architecture. Indeed, with encouragements from people all around, Val successfully enlarged the 20-centimeter high sculptures to 500-centimeter ones in height. Unfortunately, after her largest public art, a 36-meter artwork, was finally established in Mid Taiwan, a car accident ended Val’s life and the peak of her creation halted unexpectedly. Eternally, she returned to her faraway hometown on the other side of the world. She never had the chance to witness the final presentation of that large-scale public art.
Occurrence 1: Encounter with Philippe Staib by serendipity
Philippe has been running art gallery since 25 years ago in New York. Yet, in his eyes, Val is irreplaceable despite the many other more renowned artists that he has represented. Because of her father’s career, Val traveled a lot in her childhood. Thus, her hometown consists of lands spreading across South America, Africa, and Europe. Philippe and Val’s agency relationship is an intimate one that the agent visits artist’s studio in Bangkok two to three times a month when Philippe is in Bangkok. Their discussion covers arts, creations, exhibitions, philosophy, and even metaphysics, a common interest that they share. This close collaborative relationship has an impact on both of them. In Val, Philippe observes the liberty unconstrained by any customs. For someone who is unfamiliar with art business, Val is able to explore the boundless universe outside of her own little world from the conversations with Philippe. Val did not return to Europe when she grew up, but she continued on her creations in South East Asia. Val’s artistic creation spanned 13 years, during which the exhibition, selling, and promotion of her works were mostly commissioned by Philippe and his art galleries.
Her slim and graceful figure often in earth tone clothing delivers a temperament of stability and natural vibe. Coupled with her soft talking voice, Val’s fervor is never a one-sided passion, but a mutual communication. Val looks anxious when she is by herself at the exhibition. However, when someone inquires or starts the conversation, Val instantly becomes the person who introduces her own artworks most eloquently. She shares her creations with audience in excitement and confidence. In fact, Val did not have an education background in arts and the skills needed for creation mostly come from her own experiences or advice from others. Perchance, that is why there is always a unique beauty in her creation. The products of this ordinary, subtle, and conceptual aesthetics allow us to meet. Her multicultural upbringing frees her from the constraints caused by the difference between nationality, race, gender, or ideology. Val perceives and understands her surroundings, the society, or even the world from her own perspective. Nonetheless, it is not always so. The attitude she held when she first had contact with the soil or the so-called additive sculpture was definitely different than today’s. Just as the interview I had with Val two years ago, Val possesses the sophistication with a blend of French romance and exotic sentiment. Her smile and voice seem to embrace all that happens in our vast world.
Occurrence 2: Val, Gin Huang, and Gin Huang Gallery
When it comes to the reason why Val’s creations receive such large amount of exposure in Taiwan, one has to mention the person who makes it possible. Back in 2004, Gin devoted herself to working at a top art gallery while still studying in university. Besides working at Lin& Lin Gallery at the early stage of her career, Gin also held a position at Soka Art Center in Beijing later on. Gin shared that although she experienced many frustrations because of a lack of ability, vision, and interpersonal skills back then, she has sharpen a sense for artwork and has cultivated professional techniques during the process of becoming more and more competent. A graduate from National Taiwan University of Arts, Gin had grown within these years of trials and tribulations. However, it was not until when she worked with Philippe and met Val’s artworks that she began to settle and became a professional art manager. Right now, she has founded her own art space, “Gin Huang Gallery,” in Da-Zhi and collaborates with Philippe to manage Val’s artworks. A little over a decade is the time frame of Val’s sculpture creation, which surprisingly happens to be the same amount as Gin’s efforts in realizing her dream. The sunrise beam is glaring yet glowing. We start to wonder, is this also destined.
Regarding Val’s art creations, what Gin admires the most is the perfect balance that Val strikes between the abstract and the concrete. Val always abstracts the most concrete part in a sculpture but also gives the most hypothetical image a body. The combination of these two distinct ideas is certainly different from students who received professional trainings in arts. It takes a lot of time and efforts to experiment the many techniques, calculation, molding, and composition of an artwork. Yet, Val is curious and passionate about everything just like a child. Perhaps, Val is as curious about the sculpture models that she makes with her own hands. Such eagerness to learn and try new things shows a huge difference from the traditional standardized education. Val’s unique way of thinking and experiential learning endow her with a special power, the liberty and vitality that spring from within.
Occurrence 3: Re-encounter Val
We have already known one facet of Val from the depiction above. To be more precise, it is only one amongst the many facets of Val. However, it is not possible to get to understand Val more directly or thoroughly now. What we could see and reach are left with these fragments of words. Instead of being depressed and melancholic, a person as positive as Val would definitely hope that people around her could carry on their lives peacefully. The last thing she wants to see is that people do not move on because of this car accident. Today, Gin Huang Gallery is officially open and Val now has a place in Taipei. The gallery promotes Val’s creative works exclusively in her last two years with Philippe Staib. Meanwhile, Gin Huang Gallery also sells other rising artists’ art pieces. Small yet sophisticated, the gallery fits perfectly with Val’s small-size sculptures. Along the way, there will be more young artists and middle-age pillars of strength joining.
Occurrence 4: Punctuation
In fact, Val who resides in Bangkok is only a face of her. The other half of her has a life in Paris. She was once a professional marketing manager in Paris. It took her only two years to change the trajectory and pursue a career solely in arts. Luckily, she met Philippe in Bangkok soon enough. In 2004, with positive feedbacks coming in from her first solo exhibition in Bangkok, Val has built a reputation of her own and has gained confidence as well. To encourage Val to create even more ambitiously, Philippe offered Val three assistants. Moreover, in hoping that Val can continue creating without any concerns, Philippe also assigns his own administrative assistant to work for Val.
It is time for an epilogue. In comparison to words, I would like to make an ending with punctuation. Punctuation can travel through time and space, and still deliver the messages it carries. This set of punctuation is often used, “!?” Indeed, it is a combination of a question and an exclamation, just like the amazement, curiosity, hesitation, and attraction that Val’s artworks bring to us. These artworks in front of us could not be described in words, but our hearts and minds are filled with emotions and imaginations upon watching them. Yet, before we could fully grasp these feelings, it is cut off by a ruthless accident. Val’s works then become an enigma, or perhaps an incident of consternation. However, we need not fall in a total despair because the artist has already left with us a multitude of pieces to appreciate, among which the most spectacular ones are preserved in Taiwan. The destiny has brought Val’s artworks to Taiwan and her aesthetics is forever kept here.