Tsai’s lines—whether circular or straight—move. While literally static on the paper, they contain within them the energy of the artist’s gesture as they endlessly redraw themselves before the viewer. The two major traditions which inform Tsai’s work—traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting and modern abstraction—share an important kinesthetic ground. Critic Harold Rosenberg’s description of Abstract Expressionism as “action painting” is in many ways applicable to Chinese calligraphy and painting: the paper is akin to the canvas which becomes “an arena in which to act” and what we see in the finished work is “not a picture, but an event.”
Tsai describes the action of her painting as “dancing in space and time with the brush.” Dance is a corporeal and temporal art form. What happens to all the corporeal movement of a dance as it is transferred to a painting? Where is its time? The energy or chi of Tsai’s dance is embodied in the form of works like Hooked (2017) from her “Icons” series. A thick black stroke broken by lines of light drives itself inexorably down the composition; but just past the halfway point the stroke stops and jerks itself impossibly upward against its own inertia, just momentarily, before gravity finally pulls it down again. As in The Concept of Time, the line in Hooked extends beyond the paper in both directions suggesting that we are glimpsing but a moment in a much larger, perhaps eternal, life of the line.
The velocity and force of Hooked, and of a similar work, Waterfall 04, are monumental. We generally think of monuments as immutable and immobile; but Hooked and Waterfall 04 are monuments in motion. Their gestures are suspended in time yet always moving afresh as the viewer’s eye follows their direction and the viewer’s body feels the magnitude of their force. Monuments are erected to be timeless in order to ensure the past is remembered in the future. In this way Tsai’s work is a permanent record of impermanence.
Extract from Dr. Robert R. Shane's Essay “Without Beginning or End” — The Trans-Temporal Art of Yeachin TsaiSee Original Works on Saatchi