Matt Chun｜生之一瞬 Forming
For the Festival, I have considered the nature and semiotics of an individual material - clay - as it makes its passage through both natural and human environments, emphasising their mutual fragility and symbioses. My works are created from raw clays, dug from the Guandu Nature Park site and processed by hand; my first encounter with the material in its primal state. The clays are dried, soaked, sieved and massaged into a useable form, utilising sunlight, river water and tools carved from sticks and branches.
Exploring the Park grounds, I have also discovered the buried remnants of ceramic tiles and dinnerware; the material at the far end of its trajectory through industrialised processes, human habitats and domestic utilities; laid to rest in shards of debris alongside unprocessed clays.
Its trajectory evokes both the perpetual inevitability of its cycle and the fragility of our built environment; natural imperatives set against the relative impermanence of our social and cultural constructions. By exhibiting my clay sculpture unfired, I emphasise this act of ephemera. The work will quickly weather and break down, returning to its original state in the soil of the Park.
In its congregation of individual forms, my works echo the distant skyline of Taipei, which, like any civilisation, will eventually succumb to the same process of collapse and recomposition. I have also been influenced by Taiwanese ghost stories, narrative sculpture in local temples, and the playful participation of local children.
Let's meet Matt Chun from Australia, the artist of 2016 Guandu International Nature Art Festival!
Q: Why do you want to participate in this art project?
A: I've travelled some countries around Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, China, and Malaysia. I felt easy being in Asian cities. When I saw the open call of this art project, I realized I didn't know very much about Taiwan. So I did some little reading about Taiwan, and I want to see how Taiwan distinguishes itself from other Asian cities. Another reason is because I've worked on birds as a subject for quite a few years. I read that Guandu is a bird sanctuary, so I'm interested in this area. Besides, I like the idea of limitations when I'm working. The brief about only using the materials found at the park is really compelling. I also like the framework of the Art Project. So I'd like to take the challenge. I also found the motivation of the Park not necessarily about contemporary art. The primary concern is environmentalism. Having artworks in such a natural setting is not like a contemporary art institution can be.
Q: You said you did some reading about Taiwan online. What was it about? And how you find Taiwan after you really come here?
A: I read something about Taiwan's political situation and culture. I knew Taiwan has relatively free press, and people seem to have good relationship with each other. After I arrived here, I usually went hiking in Guanyin Mountain in the early morning. Sometimes I would have a cup of tea with people I met in the Mountain. In Taiwan, you're lucky to be able to reach national parks or nature reserves within short time even though you live in a big city. I also found here a city of food and drink. I run a little café in Australia, so I noticed that Taiwan has a strong tea and coffee culture. The love for food and drink kind of reflects how the culture interested in rituals and traditional crafts. Food and drink have a deep connection to utilization objects. Taiwan has a strong tradition of clay and vessels. It must have to do with the tea tradition here.
Q: You have a lot of experience in creating artworks with clay since you majored in ceramics in art school. What's special with the clay in Guandu? And what's the relationship between the local clay and your work?
A: In fact I'm still trying. The conditions of soil in each place are different. I still keep my observation on how the clay works here. At the first week I noticed the landscape afar in front of the wetlands. I realized the buildings in the cities are also made of clay even though they don't look like clay in the end. I will work on a miniature landscape model to force adults to take children's perspective seeing where we live in. What I'm presenting is the life cycle of human civilization. The clay can be used for modeling after process of collecting, soaking, so it becomes creamy and smooth enough as a texture. I also picked up some tiles from the Park. They might be some fragments from some constructions, and they were different life stage of clay. It shows how a laborious process could be back to its initial state. It is just like a performance. Each stage has its own story. Over a long time everything will return to the earth after all. Constructions and nature seem to be quite opposite, for one being human environment and the other being natural environment. However the material itself creates some kind of link. I think this responds to the theme "Based on a True Story" this year. So I'm taking a narrative approach to tell a story about materials.
Q: During the production process, many kids loved to come to play at your site. There're also different volunteers came to assist you every day. Do you find it difficult to focus on work with so many people around you all the time?
A: What happens here is totally normal for me. My café in Australia is just right side by side with my studio, so my customers can see me working in the studio. Sometimes they would come by and say hello. Having people come and go helps keep the working process playful, helping me not being so serious about the process. When I first came into the Center, I found that children love to gather around at the window area. So I decided to make something just their height. I always want to make work that children can engage with. I believe if a work appeals to children, it must have something related to basic human emotions. Working with different volunteers isn't an easy thing. I want this process to be more personalized for them, so I have to make changes to accommodate different people. It is just like play clays. All clays change a lot. I always have to deal with some unknown, such as its texture, humidity, weather, and so on. I tried to figure out something for everyone. Clay is a material of its personality. I challenged myself in only using what I found here. So as cooperating with my volunteers. And that has brought surprises too. The interaction is very organic. It is rather a decision made by materials, not by me. For me, art is always about the communication, so I share a process with people.
I'm an artist based in Bermagui, a small fishing village on the East Coast of Australia. My studio, on the town's main thoroughfare, offers a direct public engagement with my practice. Here, I make drawings, objects, portraits and illustrations for exhibition, publication and private commission. I also coordinate an open drawing workshop, operate a popular espresso bar and work as a freelance curator. In 2016, I have also completed separate tenures as artist in residence at Nishi Gallery, Canberra, and the Casula Powerhouse, Sydney.