Pace Gallery Beijing usually features long-established contemporary Chinese artists, which is why Lee Tzu-Hsun was such an unusual choice. The Taiwanese artist’s first solo exhibition in mainland China showcases his creations: big, complex sculptures powered by electronics and machinery.
Tzu-Hsun created the series, entitled Mechanical Soul: Aliens Aircraft, after moving his studio to Beijing from Germany, where he studied and lived for 13 years. This new collection consists of pieces that explore the balance between seemingly contradictory qualities, such as the lifelessness of machinery versus organic life, the scientific versus the spiritual, figurative versus abstract, and rational versus emtional. The viewer is met with dynamic kinetic sculptures, each labeled with a space-age name like Venusian Aircraft No. 2 or Plutonian Aircraft No. 2.
Lee Tzu-hsun early works in his studio in Germany.
Lee uses a painstaking process to build his sculptures, which he does with the help of just one assistant. Each piece is composed of layers of wood painted over to look like metal, along with wiring for the mechanical parts, a science that Lee spent years learning. Though the work itself invokes the image of a technological mad scientist locked in a lab, creating these beautiful, deadly robots, Lee sees the tech aspect of his work quite differently.
I don’t necessarily have a passion for technology, but the artwork demands that kind of outcome. The research and creation process is painful to me. When you are creating, you are just merely executing your ideas, dealing with the technicalities. But you are looking to make a wonderful thing, so for that reason you have to be patient.
And for Lee, patience is essential to the work, considering that on averge a piece takes about one year to produce. The largest pieces can take up to three years.
A fascinating aspect of Lee’s process is his perceived disconnection from the creation of the work itself. He is humbled by the inspiration that calls on him to create. As he puts it, “I believe that the artwork itself develops and evolves. I am only an observer. I participate in, and facilitate, the art’s development to the best of my ability to make the work perfect, " Lee says.
Venusian Aircraft No. 2, 2011
Uranian Aircraft No. 1 & No. 2, 2011
Plutonian Aircraft No. 1, 2012
Images courtesy of Lee Tsu-Hsun