Shih Hsiung Chou: Wait Until It Dries, Encounter Contemporary, London

Taking place in Encounter Contemporary, a nomadic gallery initiating unexpected ‘encounters’ with cutting-edge contemporary art practice, Wait Until It Dries is a major exhibition of new works by acclaimed, engaging and forward-thinking, Taiwanese artist Shih Hsiung Chou.

The artist engages with art history by manipulating traditional oil painting to his own ends, creating experiments with material and form that drastically challenge conceptions of painting. This exhibition is a dynamic continuance of Chou’s Oil Painting series, consisting of clear Perspex forms filled with viscous black oil. The apparent simplicity of the artist’s work is deceptive: it investigates the role of painting in the contemporary era, subverting a historical medium, through oil which does not dry and is not applied to a canvas. This is, as the artist states,‘practicing painting by other means’.

Chou’s radical use of material is transfixing in its reflective stillness, and its immediate disorientation could be compared to the effect of Richard Wilson’s 20.50 oil installation, first shown at the Saatchi Gallery in 1987. The heavy, thick black surface of the artist’s oil-mirrors intensify and confuse the viewer’s gaze. Chou’s Oil Paintings invite our speculation yet resist any fixed form or final explanation as their dark ‘void’ remains allusive.

The artist’s works are caught up in a continuous process of regeneration activated by the viewer’s gaze, movement and perspective. Accordingly, they are not so much objects as endless impressions, fixed in a timeless frame. The process that they set in motion, of grasping at the intangible, accentuates the imperfect relation between the self and its reflection, the eye and the reality.

Shih Hsiung Chou: Wait Until It Dries, until 6 February, Encounter Contemporary, Elys Yard, Dray Walk, Shoreditch E1 6NJ.

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1. Installation view of Shih Hsiung Chou’s Wait Until It Dries. Courtesy of Encounter Contemporary.