Hell Screen


Installation consists of scrim screen and neon light tube suspended with strings. The overlapped weaves of the screen fabric refracts light in a certain way that will creates a wavy visual efffect.

Hell Screen is inspired by the short story of the same name (aka, Jigokuhen, 地獄變 )  written by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. The story took place surrounding Yoshihide,a talented yet reckless and arogant screen painter, and the Lord of Horikawa. a well-respected and powerful feudal lord who emoployed Yoshihide’s daughter to serve in his mansion as a handmaiden. Yoshihide had been infamous for his temper and his ambiguous relationship with his daughter; however, people still regarded him with some extent of fearful respect because of his skill of being able to paint uncannily vivid and grotesque scenery.  The Lord of Horikawa, someone who also had been plotting over Yoshihide’s daughter one day commissioned Yoshihide for a screen painting as a challange to the painter’s arogance. And the subject is the sight of hell. Yoshihide’s method, one that made him distinct from any other painters on this earth, requires close observation, or even simulation of the would-be objects in his paintings. In order to fulfill his task, Yoshihide had his diciples to pose as suffering bodies in his studio and deliberately exposed them to wild animals that would attack them; all while he was sketching down what happended at site. As the painting proceed, the only one thing left in the work is the sight of a flaming ox car carrying a beautiful woman falling into hell’s fire. Yoshihide couldn’t painting with about seeing such thing for once. Hence the Lord of Horikawa granted his wish and called him to an empty yard in the midnight. In the center of the yard, it was the Lord’s ox car. Insdie the car, a woman dressed in gorgeous garment was chained to the carriage. That woman was Yoshihide’s daughter. Before the painter could do anything, the Lord’s guard had lid up the car. Yoshihide first was in shock and unspeakable sorrow. In another moment, he face unfolded the joy of budhist enlightenment ( 法悅). A month later, Yoshihide finished the painting that would haunt the Lord of Horikawa’s mansion for years to come. And the painter hung himself the day after the task’s completion. 

There were many potential interpretations of this story and I couldn’t find a particular position for myself iIn the winter of 2015. Hence I started a formal replication project as a way of contemplation. The story took place in the Heian era of Japan, hence the first thing I looked into was different models of ox cars used by different levels of aristocracy at the time.

Ox cars references:

The form of the ox car got simplified and modeled to the following shape:

Then to neon:

The choice of medium was out of the practical reason: the school was offering a neon workshop. And neon carries the connotation of an object of desire in its usage as advertising signs. Such characteristic sketchily respond to the moral dilemma of Yoshihide: to be a father or to be a painter. 

Admittedly the project was pretty half-baked. However, the process of making the neon model drove me to a further consideration of what I’m seeking from the story, which leads to the project My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.  What is it in the story that moves me? What does it remind me of?  The story speaks to a fundamental part of my existence as a art student studing abroad. The story forced me to acknoledge the fact that when I’m away, my parents’ physical and mental health are decaying by days. I know that it’s only a matter of time for them to collapse amidst the polluted environment and distressed relationship. Yet I don’t want to return to them at all. I want to stay, where I can pusuit my artistic freedom even if it doesn’t bring any reward. 


Object of Desire

Critique on Buddhism 

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