Canonization of the Gods — The Pure Land of Maha: Yang Mao-Lin Solo Exhibition

13 - 30 May 2006

2006 Creation Narration


During the past four or five years, I always feel like I am a craftsman. I enjoy working and the sense of delightfulness physical labor brings me. From the painting in my earliest days to computer image production, woodcarving and wooden furniture and the latest clay sculpture and copper casting. People may find my transformation abrupt. I seemingly jump from one subject to another rapidly; however, to me, this is a smooth and rightly transformation. Isn’t this what artistry is all about? This is not about what you have done, but what you intend to communicate through such action?


In fact, just when I was doing copper casting over the past two years, I was also painting and carving woods and wooden furniture. Creations, to me, are not always about what kind of materials are selected but how to communicate my ideas loud and clear to the audiences with the application of these materials on hands.


Past, Present and Future are the three ages once said by Buddha. People, in any era, always delude some kinds of heroic or idol characters via illusion, fairy tale and stories and fantasize that these virtual heroes would one day save the common people from this hopeless world. This seems to be the only way they could obtain satisfaction on mentality and be rescued.


My latest copper casting series are the illustrations of such contemporary phenomena. By combining justice, morality and the supernatural power that would rescue the world, I rearranged the identifies of the supernatural characters and reimburse them familiar cartoon and comic roles such as A-Chiang, Invincible Vajradhare, fairy tale characters such as Peter Pan and Alice, pop idols like the King of Rock and Roll (Elvis Presley) and Marilyn Monroe and other virtual characters invented by myself. These new supernatural characters and heroes all have distinct rides such as ancient creatures like saber-toothed tigers, dodo birds, Ms. Chou worms or exaggeratedly enlarged common insects such as cockchafer and lady bugs. I created the forms of these Buddha as the symbol of every person’s most truthful inner benevolence and mercy.


Buddha said, “To realize the truth is to become a Buddha”. Buddha could be every where and everyone in this universe like the sand in the Ganges. Since everyone is able to realize the truth and become a Buddha, Buddha’s dharma certainly could be expressed differently along the changes of mindsets. As some cartoon and comic characters are highly recognized and remain common in cultures throughout several generations, they are already Buddha on certain levels. 


During the time of Buddhism missionary, which was in the era when education and written language were not popularized, images of Buddha and their hand postures were the most common method of “figure” to communicate one’s mission to civilians. The state of such information hand-down through generations was similar to the influences cartoon and fairy tale characters had on the emotion of our generation.


The idea of transforming cartoon and comic characters into immortal roles was the extensive creation from my previous thoughts of creation. I started to incorporate cartoon and comic characters into my creations ever since 1996. These characters have become relatively the most important and meaningful figures in my pieces. I firstly drew discussion on “infiltration and impacts of colonial culture vs. growth and creation of principle culture,” and used the figures of foreign or secondary cultures as the metaphor of immortal being in traditional civil culture. Some people found the metaphor sarcastic and believed I intended to sarcastically criticize the derivatives of multiculturalism.


My creations in young age although often challenged and criticized the main streams, the strong and firm attitude however had allowed myself to confirm my personal worth and values as an artist. Now that the environment are going through changes, my personal mindsets and age change along with it subjectively. I now believe that aside from being a rebel, there are still several ways to communicate ideas. In fact, talk about it from the simple eugenics point of view, new-born mixes are always the healthiest and most outstanding and intelligent breeds who adapt to changing environment in the fastest pace.


In Taiwan that we live in, cultural development, from historical perspective, continues to produce new contemporary culture as the derivatives of multiculturalism. Human race goes through same integration and mixes that formulates new DNA compositions. The culture and races in Taiwan are still evolving unceasingly up until today. I believe this is the key reason the people and culture in Taiwan has such strong vitality. I never wish to challenge or criticize such cultural integration; just in the contrary, hybrid culture or multiculturalism to me, is more like an angelic fortuitousness, which should be praised and celebrated.


Standing here and look back to my previous states, my creation often focused on the elaboration of absurdity, disorder and wicked minglement of realistic characteristics in the general cultural environment. Although this was my most “in-form” exhibition about multiculturalism, it was still unable to fully manifest my attitude towards this type of cultural reality and phenomenon. Only until I incorporate foreign secondary cultural figures such as Astro Boy, A-Chiang, Doris and Pokemon Pikachuand illustrated these characters with immortal reputations of imprints or back-lightings could I finally for the first time, announced my undeclared attitude and claims about multiculturalism to public.


Buddhism talks about transmigration. I assigned the cartoon and fairy tale characters I relate closely to the reputations and images of Buddha, Bodaisattva, Deva and Vidyaraja. This series of creation is elaborated by copper castings. The traditional forms of Buddha are now displayed as wicked cartoon characters. Although you may find them not much different from traditional copper-cast Buddha or even more solemn and harmonious, this series of creation, in fact, is the thoughtful extension of my previous woodcarving pieces, which I had chose to display the final artwork via space installations. Although this “The pure land of Maha” borrowed the creation concept from “Inviting the Immortals III,” the new copper casting creations were no longer restrained by the raw specification of wooden materials. Copper had allowed more gigantic and various styles of castings. At the same time, the dim lighting effect on mental surface created the visual and spiritual linkage to the kind and humble ideology Buddhism intended to communicate. 


The process of clay sculpture and copper casting was also a new craftsmanship challenge to me. It took me great efforts and times to finally be skilled at woodcarvings and wooden furniture. Now that the materiality of clay sculpture and copper casting is completely in the opposite of woodcarvings, although arduous hardship continued to trigger my tendon inflammation, the enjoyment of new learning and creation result counterbalanced the pain. I especially enjoyed the process of coloring; I was able to apply my skillful paintings onto these copper creations. Such scarce and visually abundant creation pieces allowed me to forget about the hard work and enjoy the delights.


Looking at these familiar and adorable cartoon and comic characters stood out of the crowds as gracious Buddha with solemn images and hand postures, I could not help to smile and feel at ease.