“From the paintings of my respected master Van Gogh, I’ve witnessed this precious gift. I hope that through my own efforts, others might accompany me in this same way. I will be true.”
Jou LiYan paints outdoor
Classical themes of flowers, still life, skulls, portraits, and the dinosaurs that have recently become the subject of contemporary paintings, are transformed into the rhythms of brushstrokes and the tones of passionate color. Jou LiYan pushes past the stereotypes and decorative notions of these themes, expressing a progressing freshness, a purity, and the vast and unbound space of life within his paintings.
He paints instinctively, extracting clarity and order from conflicting turmoil; simultaneously, through his familiarity and reverence for Post-Impressionism and Fauvism, he inherits the passions of the likes of Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse. Jou LiYan endeavors to reflect this same life and romance he himself has found within the canvas.
The vigor of painting and the radical and unrestrained nature of color inform the powerful inner charm of Jou LiYan’s works. The active surface presents artist’s preferred subject —– the dinosaur series, which began in 2017 —– depicting creatures that we have never actually seen, but are born from our imagination. The sturdy bodies of dinosaurs often expand to fill the entire visual field. Their unknowns are perfectly presented in solid colors, and the exaggerated bodies, coiled in struggle, redefine form and physique. It is evident that these paintings are not traditional renderings of these characters but personal expressions that blend Jou’s intuitive emotions with the vivacity of the projected objects. For example, in “No.1” (2017) two monsters wrestling in the foreground symbolizes Jou’s unrestrained enthusiasm and energy as a freshman, as well as the maladjustments and conflicts he faced in his first year in college; or in “No.2” (2017), which presents a gloomy expanse of dark gray-green, expressing the true feelings of losing one’s love from that time.
“For me, vitality has always been the fundamental element I use when considering whether my paintings are abundant enough, and this subject of dinosaurs is a key memory that has accompanied me through my development.”
The dinosaur series also marks the beginning of the immersion of art history within this young artist’s works, a theme which continues throughout his career. “No.11” (2021) is reminiscent of Matisse’s famous painting “Dance”. Its simplification and dismantling of perspective seem crude, but it evokes a profound verve and rhythmic dance —– a tribute to life. Although fighting is cruel, it is proof of the vivacious and the enduring. The paired appearance of dinosaurs also reminds people of Max Ernst’s painting “The Barbarians”, full of Freudian metaphors, private myths, and childhood memories — barbarians plunder and course imagery convey the artist’s interior emotions, the reality of encountering anxiety and forging one’s identity, as well as his expectations and disenchantment with the world; Jou LiYan also paints primitive and beautiful monsters lurking in his memory, as if they were dark romantic dreams, while at the same time resisting the current era’s trend of unconsciousness.
A wonderful fusion of mystery, beauty, and the ominous
The vitality of his youth is obvious in Jou LiYan’s works. Yet, Jou’s still life and portrait paintings, are part of a traditional artistic lineage that spans thousands of years. The artist regards the historical theme as the primary subject that he is eager to explore most and presents a beautiful fusion from the context of an Asian artist. The pure-beauty of form of still life is like the blooming of flowers, which are open but mysterious in Jou’s brush. These forms come from every great artist’s easel; a small wooden table in the humid summer of Taiwan is no exception. Under the leaping, bright, and elegant petals, there are always skulls. Jou LiYan returns to pre-Impressionistic objects, internalizing the mystery and depth of his paintings without end.
Last but not least, “Self-Portrait” (2018) depicts the artist himself, one who has deeply assimilated painting. From Jou’s self-portrait we see Van Gogh’s own blue background, expressive brushstrokes of the face, and eyes brimming with the determination of an artist. He has become the 22-year-old Jou LiYan, wearing a red shirt we are well aware of.
Jou LiYan (b. in New Taipei City, Taiwan, 1996) exhibited “Jou LiYan Solo Exhibition” at the Baodou Coffee Art Space of the National Taiwan University of Arts in 2021. Several of his works have been collected by private collectors.