An exclusive interview with Mr Patrick Sun on “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now”– By Melvin Chew

Mr Patrick Sun at Press Review of Spectrosynthesis

Non-profit organization Sunpride Foundation co-hosts with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei, for the first ever LGBTQ Arts Exhibition in its premise. “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” is a three-year initiative that has finally come to fruition, just in time for Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage: a jubilant year of liberation for greater equality!

“Spectrosynthesis” is a combination of two words, “spectrum” and “photosynthesis”, to explore the kaleidoscopic colors observed in the rainbow, as a central theme to the rich diversity of the LGBTQ community. Just as light from the sun is an unbiased elixir for the necessary growth of all living things, it also symbolizes as a beacon of hope towards an optimistic future for the community.

Sunpride Foundation believes in supporting artistic practices and the promotion of equal rights through meticulous research and discourse on contemporary art – qualities which reverberates in this first ever LGBTQ Arts exhibition held in a major Asian art museum, run by the government, to advance social inclusion.

Rainbow in the Darkness by Chuang Chih-Wei

With over 50 works by 22 artists, the exhibition showcases a melting pot of issues from gender equality, identity, novelty, social oppression, stigmatization, lust, as well as the poignancy of life and death. The works, curated under the vision of Sean Hu, span nearly half a century of creation. He hopes to present a slice of art history by zooming into the life stories of the post-war Chinese LGBTQ community.

The first ever LGBTQ themed art exhibition to run in the liberalized climate of Taiwan, in a government-run museum, is a paradigm shift for Asia. While not an unfamiliar concept, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, two prestigious British museums, had also organized large-scale thematic exhibitions displaying several LGBTS artists to honor and highlight artistic achievements without discrimination. The event hopes to promote human rights – a long-term effort of the British society.

ELEMENT interviews Mr Patrick Sun, the Executive Director of Sunpride Foundation, in an exclusive opportunity to hear about his motivation and aspirations for the LGBTQ community, in conjunction with Spectrosynthesis, and how it is such a timely event, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.

Olympia by Tzeng Yi Hsin

ELEMENT:  Please share with ELEMENT readers your personal relation with art.

Patrick: I have always been interested in art. To me, entering the world of art is like stepping into a garden with secret doors leading to even more beautiful ones. It can be a delightfully creative experience. I started collecting traditional Chinese paintings as early as 1988 when I frequented Hollywood Road, a district in Hong Kong famous for antiques and curios, in my formative years of career. Subsequently my interest has evolved into contemporary arts, and four years ago, I decided to focus on gay Asian art because it fuses two of my passions – LGBTQ rights and art. 

ELEMENT: Which piece in the collection do you resonate most with? Why?

Patrick: Xi Ya Die’s “Sew” gave the shivers when I first chanced upon it. The paper-cutting artwork depicts the artist’s struggle as a gay male, in his time, living in the countryside. To restraint his physical desires and mental torments, he would toy with the imagination of sewing up his genitalia. Even though I grew up in the city, I can relate to the artist’s grave sentiment to conform. I am happy to see the younger generation, at least in some countries, facing lesser obstacles to coming out of the closet. Rewind a decade or two, being proud of your sexuality requires courage as the society generally treated LGBTQ individuals as perverts. Everything you hear about being a gay male back in those days were very negative.

Artist Xi Ya Die with his art pieces “SEW”

ELEMENT: How are the artists pivotal in “Spectrosynthesis”?

Patrick: We are thrilled to have support from the 22 artists from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, including the Chinese Americans and a Chinese Canadian, as they offer diverse perspectives towards the historical understanding, cultural acceptance and political development of the ethnic-Chinese LGBTQ community. These issues explored in “Spectrosynthesis” are cross-generational, cross-continental, and of different gender orientation. The artists are pivotal in showing the dilemma that others may face in the contemporary world as well. These artists have also conjured their creativity to highlight the social issues for this showcase.

ELEMENT: The exhibition took three years of planning. What were some of the challenges and considerations for this timely debut?

Patrick: When we first initiated the exhibition three years ago, we did not predict that 2017 would be such a milestone. In this respect, we are very lucky to have MOCA Taipei’s support and Sean Hu’s expertise! I believe the challenges were mostly to source for suitable artworks, especially works from artists from different generations, such as Shyi De-Jinn and Ku Fu-Sheng, as it was not an easy feat for them to come out of the closet in those days. It is commendable to have their works displayed in this exhibition. Over the past years, the curatorial team went across Asia, Europe, and the United States, conducting extensive studies, employ field research, studio visits, data collection and oral accounts to make this event possible.

The Room at the Top of the Stairs by Ku Fu Sheng

ELEMENT: How do you think “Spectrosynthesis” will impact the society’s view of the LGBTQ community in Asia?

Patrick: I hope this exhibition will appeal to the LGBTQ community as well as the public. I believe this is the right direction and equal rights for the LGBTQ community will be achieved eventually. The road to marriage equality already took Taiwan thirty-one years, counting from the day Mr Qi Jia Wei first challenged the court in Taipei, so it is not going to happen overnight or by a single person’s effort. I hope this exhibition can allow the public to garner a more realistic view for themselves of what LGBTQ life is like in the present, and has been like in the past. And I hope it helps to open dialogues between the general public and the LGBTQ community leading to better understanding and acceptance.

ELEMENT: Do you see the exhibition becoming an annual event to push the boundaries for the LGBTQ community with aspiring LGBTQ artists across Asia?

Patrick: We are not excluding any possibilities, but at this moment our focus is to make the very first one a memorable one. 

ELEMENT: Where will you be showcasing this exhibition after Taipei? Is there any particular place/country that you would like to showcase one day?

Patrick: We hope to bring this show to other cities in Asia where LGBTQ rights are not as progressive as Taiwan, and I do hope to bring it to my hometown of Hong Kong soon.

Man Hole by Hou Chun Ming

To parallel Pride events such as London’s “Queer British Art” by Tate Britain, “The Other’s Gaze”, an exhibition to celebrate same-sex marriage in Madrid, and for the timely arrival of Taiwan’s legalization, Sun felt that “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” should be materialised this year to give Taiwanese the opportunity to ponder upon LGBTQ issues alongside the communities in other parts of the world. Thanks to MOCA’s support and the graciousness to host this historical event, it allows Taiwan LGBTQ individual to celebrate this global synergy. Experience the art now!

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei

When: 9th September 2017 – 5th November 2017

Website : SUNPRIDE OR MOCATaipei