Animal Farm:The Paintings of Su Wong-shen

Introduction

Chia Chi Jason Wang │ Curator

 

It was back in 1988, as part of a solo exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, that Su Wong-shen first unveiled several large paintings of dogs and cats attacking and chasing one another. Subsequently, in the 1990s, he more consciously and systematically employed the stray dogs he saw in his environs – particularly the old alleyways of Tamsui – as a concept in his art. Today, nearly three decades later, Su has gained a name for himself in the Taiwanese art world, and considerable kudos, for this long-running theme.

 

The title of this exhibition is “Animal Farm,” not only practically reflecting Su Wong-shen’s long-standing distinctive choice in subject matter, but also intentionally invoking associations with the popular novel Animal Farm (1945) by the British author George Orwell (1903-50). Imitating the form of a children’s book, Orwell made all his main characters animals, but his work was actually a political novel satirizing the Soviet Union’s descent from democratic revolution into dictatorship. The animals Su painted early on were mostly dogs and cats – unlike Orwell’s bestiary, which included all the typical animals to be found on an English farm. Another dissimilarity was Su’s locus of observation: the two species’ relationship as natural enemies, and their beastly natures. The scenes he presented were frequently inhabited by stray dogs and cats that had been abandoned by humankind. Reduced to a life on the streets, they lived out a social theater of survival, with human cities or towns serving as the stage where their struggles were performed.

 

 “Animal Farm” is also a major exhibition that serves as a retrospective, featuring over 110 works representative of various stages in Su Wong-shen’s career, starting from the late 1970s, as well as works of fresh vintage. Furthermore, in order to afford a glimpse at the artist’s creative inspiration and the evolution of his painting concepts, we also present a number of drafts, studies, sketches and personal notes made by Su over the preceding decades.