Artist | Charwei Tsai
Charwei Tsai (left) and Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Tashi Gyalthang
- Chinese Name: 蔡佳葳
- Born: 1980
- Birthplace: Taipei City (Northern Taiwan)
- Did You Know That …?
- Seeking to offer a platform for exchanges among artists from around the world, Tsai launched the curatorial journal “Lovely Daze” to present contemporary artworks and writings by young artists through curating “exhibitions” in the journal.
Charwei Tsai is an artist who incorporates Buddhist concepts in her experimental films, photography, calligraphy and installations to explore the constantly shifting relationships between mankind and the natural world. Her artworks have been widely showcased across the world, including Beijing, Bogota, Budapest, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo.
Born into a family that runs a famous business in Taiwan, Tsai chose not follow her cousins’ footsteps and join the family business. Instead, she became the only artist in the family after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, fine arts, and history of architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2002.
As Tsai’s family collects a large volume of Buddhist texts, she started reading the Heart Sutra since a young age. However, her interest in Buddhist only deepened later in university when she became friend with a Tibetan student whose easy manners and calmness deeply impressed Tsai.
In 2002, Tsai volunteered at a Tibetan culture center in New York and gained insight on the complex Buddhist perception of the relations among religion, art and symbols. Inspired, she created the “Mantra” series and had her international breakthrough when “Iris Mantra,” “Mushroom Mantra,” “Tofu Mantra” were featured at Foundation Cartier in Paris in 2005.
In the “Mantra” series, Tsai writes down text on a flower, tofu, and mushroom – which are respectively used as a metaphor for femininity, neutrality, and masculinity – to express the idea that text and ideas don’t disappear along with the decomposition of the physical vehicle.
In 2007, Tsai joined an artist-in-residency program in France and the experience of living in abroad inspired her to create the “Etrangere” line of photographic works. Each picture features an alien-like octopus written with French word “étrangère,” her Taiwanese passport number, and the significance of being a Taiwanese in Chinese characters to express her feelings of alienation as a foreigner in France.
Tsai had her first solo exhibition in Taiwan in 2011. Titled “Elemental Light,” the exhibition spanned photographs, videos, and multi-media installations. Revolving around the recurring theme of the Heart Sutra, it highlighted Tsai’s contemplations on religion, spirituality, and the environment through her application of text to organic and inorganic materials.
Her latest project is titled “Hear Her Singing,” which records her observations on female refugees and drifters in Europe and the Middle East. It was triggered by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, when Tsai became more aware of the plight of asylum seekers.
The film project recorded 30 women who were each asked to sing or recite a song related to her childhood, family memories, or homeland, presenting an individual’s life story and influential images through a poetic and universal approach.