For Jui-Pin Chang, painting is an outlet to express her emotions, and an outlet that occurred almost magically. Pin began to paint by accident. While cycling in London she got hit by a bus and hence, the miraculous and painful way towards inner self-discovery was made. The accident turned out to be a painful way to learn, but it had a sweet result. Pin leaves her style open and her paintings open to interpretations. It’s rare for an artist not to seek a particular status or be related to a particular genre. Through unrelated and unreferenced prisms of artistic devotions, the viewer is left to seek his or her own interpretation. Pin explains that she is driven to be the best painter in her own right, rather than associate herself with fame, fortune or even recognition. This permits her to translate messages through a distinguished and a unique style. Being a woman, a mother, a teacher and possessing a natural curiosity for the world, it became apparent to her that the concept of ‘rose-tinted glasses’ was not dead. In fact, society has simply forgotten about it in our modern day and age while we are loaded to the brim by unlimited resources of information.
The painter’s interest arose when the necessity to highlight and mirror people’s fears of the truth and reality – and to translate those to world – became overbearing. Much like any audience, we love stories where we are the protagonists and the message deflects from our shortcomings as individuals. When I first encountered Pin’s paintings it seemed like the world she painted was engrossed in utopia. The societies she paints seem exclusively populated by whimsical characters running around as if in a cartoon. The little men seem painted in a paramount stream of power and subsequent opposition to it. The canvas screams of power, motion and fascination with both. Perhaps, the in-motion characters provide an eye-opener into a world where cruelty is rampant, empathy irrelevant and power excludes from punishment. Perhaps, it is much more like our own world than we realize, hence the surrealistic style makes a tongue-in-cheek suggestion of would-have-been, but in reality which already exists. The Bucket Man permanently in motion, seem not to lose any time but to inject the audience with thoughts of a hurry. To tease our tails of conscience and to wake us up to the world that surrounds us, as if to say: ‘‘look, we are running.’’ But it is up to you the viewer to do something to change our world. That is what really counts.
The aspect of power heightens when British Royalty keep rolling out into scenes from her works. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria and the present Queen all crop up frequently. The prominent feature of power is an abundance of wealth. Paying homage to the Dutch painters of the 16th century, Pin doesn’t try to include symbols to personify objects and their significance in today’s world. The aim is simply to remind that the royals are just ordinary people like you and me, but with power and wealth that most of us could only dream of. She paints them with special buckets adorned with gems and jewelry. ‘’In real life they always wear buckets too – just like the rest of us. In fact, perhaps more so. Their power and wealth creates a bucket’’ she notices. Pin explains: ‘we never see the real person, just their crowns and the trappings of royalty. So take away the crown and put a bucket on the head. What is the difference? Who are they really? For instance, what would Prince Charles be like if he was just an ordinary working man who lived in a council house without any of the trappings of royalty, or if he was unemployed? Who can ever get near enough to these people to lift their buckets and find out? Nobody, I suspect.’’ The only person who escapes, it seems, the curse of the bucket it Mao Tse Tung. ‘’It is true, I don’t paint him with a bucket,” admits Pin. “But then Mao is different.’’ She goes on to explain that during the Cultural Revolution he was likened to God in China. When religion was banned, the Chinese people worshipped Mao and were taught that he had the answers to all their prayers. That was their religion. The Red Book was used instead of the Bible and was supposed to have the answer to everything. Pin goes on to explain: ‘‘you don’t need to put a bucket on Mao. His face is already a bucket. Nobody knows the real Mao!’’ This rings true with all the leaders, kings and queens and questions our need as a society for authority. Do you we leave the power in the hands of others? Or do we take our lives into our own hands and make a pretty good shot at it? This sounds much too idealistic and ambitious, but so do our expectations of those who are handed that power – and what we expect them to do with it.
The dialogue between an interviewer and a painter has fascinated me. Mostly, interviews are surrounded by publicists and PR people. The nature of magazines also produces focus points of the questions. I was interested in curating an exhibition, which merges the worlds of paintings and words and puts them next to each other. Paintings are understood by all humans regardless of their language and yet, words are restricted by cultural misinterpretations and limited by mentalities. However, symbolism constructed within shapes and colours, which signify differences among various traditions, also separates the viewers based on backgrounds, beliefs and cultural orientations. Therefore, in that sense they are both equally challenging mediums – both opposing each other and aliasing. I shared this concept with Pin and she challenged this right back: ‘’ Sometimes painting is more immediate; you don’t have to sit down and read something. It is there in front of you to look at. More in your face, perhaps. Yes, you can turn away. But you have already seen it and therefore it has had an impact. With a book, you can read one page and then throw it away. The rest of what the author is trying to say, his message, is lost on you.” Perhaps painting is more powerful, too, because there is no language barrier. A painting can reach our across boundaries, across cultures and across language. Yes, a book or a poem can be translated into a different language so other people can read it. But when that happens – no matter how good the translator – it is changed, and perhaps something is lost in the process. “A painting, though, is the same in every language. Everybody sees the same image. Of course they may have their own interpretation of that image and of the message or meaning behind it.
That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. There is no right or wrong way to interpret my paintings. “For instance I love to watch how children react when they see one of my paintings. Invariably they think the Bucketmen are cute. They see them as being happy and sweet. Then of course they wonder why they are wearing buckets. And they wonder whether they should wear one too. The reaction from adults is different. Some grown-ups also see them as fun. But others see them as menacing and frightening. Perhaps the observer is really seeing inside himself or herself when he or she looks at the Bucket Men. And if that makes them think – both about themselves and about the world – then that is surely not a bad thing.’’ Perhaps, adults see the beyond the little caricature men and vivid colour displays. Either way, if the art work challenges and provokes food for thought it has succeeded in its purpose.