Sphere, Circle & Sky

By Jo Hsiao for Chen Hui-Chiao (陳慧嶠)

Chen Hui-chiao is adept at combining symbolism and allusion with the perceptual methodology of readymade objects to create works that have a profound impact on the viewer. Her perception is derived from the human soul, exists in a spiritual space that is uniquely that of the artist and comes with a mysterious cosmological point of view represented here by a distinct type of systematic understanding – abstract geometry. For Chen, only through such a simple creative context is it possible to reveal the essential nature of art. In “The Sphere” she shows eight works from the Ping Pong series and four from the Needle and Thread series. The word “ping pong” is derived from the sound the ball makes as it zips back and forth between two players. Moreover, the ball is the smallest and lightest “round” object used in any ball sport. It is also a key element in the creative thinking of Chen Hui-chiao.

In the Middle Ages, many scholars believed geometry, astrology and astronomy were inextricably related to divinity. The ancient Egyptians held that the circle was a divine and perfect pictograph given to Mankind by the Gods. There are records of circles from the earliest human histories, with the sun, moon and plants examples of circles in nature. From the ancient Greek philosophy of Pythagoras, Parmenides, Anaxagoras and Archimedes to 20th Century theories of time and space, circles are primarily an abstract representation of perfection, that originate in a clearer understanding of the rhythms and rhymes of nature. However, this outlook is ultimately based on a geometric understanding of “circles,” and the idea of a universal character based on simplicity and harmony, compatibility and independence.

When Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) first discovered that the orbit of the planets was elliptical, Mankind was able to learn and imagine even more about the distant heavens and space. In other words, knowledge has come not from pursuing the perfection of the circle, but rather from exploring the reasons the circle is imperfect. As such, the rational understanding in which “time never dies, the circle is not round” is a universal abstract concept that relates to our perceptual knowledge of a specific concrete object, while the focus of aesthetics is the perfection of perceptual knowledge.

Chen Hui-chiao first started using ping pong balls in her art work in 1997, and since then they have become one of her main creative media. In mathematics, Euclid wrote discourses about spherical geometry and number theory, pointing out that in three-dimensional geometric space the sphere is a perfect symmetrical body. In physics, spheres are rolling objects that collide or accumulate and occupy space. In Chen’s works spheres symbolize planets that revolve on their own axis, but “moving spheres” are also an allusion to the reform movement, in the sense that reform is an important force promoting the development of society and civilization. In other words, movement is a process of change that lies in between potential and realized realities. In music, the word “interval” refers to the pitch differential between two notes. In the “Apartment of Art” solo exhibition in Munich, Chen Hui-chiao takes the sphere as an analogy for the relationship between high and low on the musical scale, extending the visual image of “ping pong balls” to musical notation. Aesthetically, Chen juxtaposes the expressive methodology of abstract geometry and readymade objects, though in terms of color she prefers monochrome painting.

Chen Hui-chiao extends material “spheres” with no apparent limit, the objective being to affirm the essential non material transformation of spiritual consciousness. This constitutes an attempt to return to a metaphysical discussion – wherein we see being in those beings that exist and reality in real world phenomena. For Chen metaphysics = transcending physics, and as such she places no particular emphasis on discussing “phenomena” preferring instead to focus on discovering “the truth,” which for her means existence itself and the basic character of all real objects.


陳慧嶠擅長以象徵隱喻、結合現成物的感性手法,創作出讓人極為深刻的藝術作品。她的感性從心靈誘發,在她的性靈空間裏,帶有神秘的宇宙學觀點,而這裡的宇宙觀是一種有系統的認知——幾何抽象。對她而言,只有藉由單純的創作語境才能有效地揭露藝術創造的本質。「球體」共將展出8件乒乓球系列的作品,以及4件針線系列的代表作。乒乓球因其打擊時發出Ping Pong的聲音而得名,是球類運動中最輕最小的「圓」形物體;亦是藝術家陳慧嶠創作思維中主要的元素。

多數的中古世紀學者認為幾何學、占星術以及天文學,跟神性有著緊密的連結。古埃及人認為:圓,是神賜給人們神聖而完美的圖形。圓的出現早於歷史上的記載,太陽、月亮、植物等都是在大自然裡能夠觀察到的圓。從畢達哥拉斯 (Pythagoras)、巴門尼德 (Parmenides)、阿那克薩哥拉 (Anaxagoras)、阿基米德 (Archimedes)等希臘哲學到20世紀的時空理論,圓,最初是一個完美的抽象概念,它起源於對自然規律的洞悉與領悟。歸根結底,立足於「圓」的幾何知識;其核心思想是簡單與和諧、相容與獨立的共相性質。

然而當開普勒(Johannes Kepler)發現行星軌道是橢圓,反讓我們開啓更多關於那遙遠天際的知識與想像。換言之,我們的知識並非來源於追求圓的完美,而是來源於探索使圓不完美的原因——時間不逝,圓圈不圓——圓,我們可以說從理性認知是普遍抽象的概念,從感性認知是特殊具體的事物;而美學所訴諸的對象就是感性認知的完善。

從1997年起陳慧嶠便開始使用乒乓球,這幾年更成為她創作中表現的主要媒材。在數學上,歐幾里得 (Euclid) 寫了關於球面幾何學及數論的作品,並指出球面是在三維幾何空間內理想的對稱體。在物理學中,球是能碰撞或堆積與佔有空間的一個滾動的物體。「球體」在陳慧嶠作品中除了象徵天體中自轉的星球外,「運動的球體」亦可隱喻為改革運動,改革是推動社會文明發展的重要趨力,運動即是介乎潛能和實現之間的變化過程。在樂音裡,音程 (Interval) 是指兩音之間的音高差距。在慕尼黑「藝術公寓」的個展裡,陳慧嶠更進一步地將「球體」類比成音階的高低關係,將「乒乓球」的視覺意像蔓延至樂音的記譜方式。在美學上,陳慧嶠運用抽象幾何的表現手法和現成物並置,色彩上則承襲自單色繪畫的觀念。