We recently peered inside the studio of Evelyn Rydz (Drawing Fellow ’10), one of the nine Boston-area artists currently exhibiting at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston’s 2010 James and Audrey Foster Prize Exhibition.
Further exploring the art-making process of the finalists for the prestigious Foster Prize (six of whom are past MCC fellows), we welcome Fred H. C. Liang (Painting Fellow ’04, ’08), who shares the origins and creation of his multi-layered work Dream of a Thousand Springs.
Wandering into the Dream of a Thousand Springs installation, the viewer is submerged in a floating, dream-inspired world.
I specifically created the installation for this ICA exhibition, with its dimensions, spatial, lighting and counterpoints in mind. Its composition, execution and presentation are respectively drawn from Song Dynasty Chinese landscapes and Jian Zhi paper-cut techniques. These are meditatively disciplined approaches that once fused, produced a lushly complex aquatic/terrestrial environment.
At the core of my work, I use various personal and cultural references as a way of tapping into the universal questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? Essentially, these considerations help frame events that lead to our current circumstance, and thus make us who we are.
In this particular work, uncovering such answers involves the confluence of a promised box, a secret language and family genealogy. These connections join personal and historic events, and provide the means to reclaim both a displaced portion of family history, as well as lost cultural history. The narrative begins with my mother’s desire for a daughter, after the successive births of three sons. Forty years later, my daughter’s birth finally fulfilled this yearning.
Its accomplishment required my mother pass select personal possessions and secrets – concealed within a precious box – to her daughter.
This transmission from mother to daughter is akin to how the secret language of Nushu, known as women’s writing in China, was passed. It was a lost language shrouded in secrecy for almost a thousand years, but accidentally discovered during the early days of the Cultural Revolution.
This mode of communication, invented by women in southern China, enabled them to pass information among themselves undetected. Up until its accidental discovery, Nushu primarily remained hidden with only vague references sprinkled throughout Chinese literature. Consequently, much knowledge of Chinese women’s lives may have similarly remained missing from its historical record.
It is my hope that once my mother shares this enigmatic box’s content with my daughter, the secrets imagined, revealed, and conjured with its opening will carry the family’s legacy forth among its future female descendants.
The text for this piece is adapted from Fred H.C. Liang’s audio commentary for the Foster Prize Exhibition.
Images: all images are from Fred H.C. Liang’s installation DREAM OF A THOUSAND SPRINGS (2010), ICA 2010 Foster Prize Exhibition; studio photos are taken by Katie Chaiban and Alex Dusterfeld; ICA installation views are taken by Charles Mayer, staff photographer at ICA.