eastern gouache on canvas
46.5 x 40.5 cm
Chung Shun-Wen’s grandmother, Chung Tai-Mei, was an extraordinary and resilient woman who lived to be 97, and the artist has fond memories of this strong character who coped courageously with repeated hardships and tragedies. She now features in many paintings from a series of works made between 2008 – 2009. After the death of this indomitable matriarch, Chung began to record her vivid memories of her grandmother’s well-worn clothing. Using an ancient technique, in which ground natural pigments are mixed with a binder of animal skin glue, she recorded the patterned, faded fabrics of garments worn by her grandmother over the years, textiles that immediately evoked her presence. In extreme close-up, Chung painted sections of clothing, focusing on patterns, and including details of pockets, hems and buttons. The resulting abstract painterly surfaces are redolent of lived experience and domestic duty – more than eighty years of farming, cooking, cleaning, laundering, ironing, and looking after children and grandchildren. Cropped sections of the floral fabrics symbolise the close relationship between Chung Tai-Mei and her grandchildren, and the admiration that she inspired. Grandmother’s Clothes 1 (2008) depicts the front of a silky shirt, patterned in maroon and white. The artist has carefully painted details such as the seams around the breast pockets, and the tiny stitches around its button holes. It is as if the shirt has just been lifted from a chest of drawers, a slight scent of camphor wafting from its folds; you imagine the gnarled fingers of the artist’s grandmother slowly fastening her buttons, preparing for the day.