Wu Chi-Tsung x Saverio Tonoli: We both found our inspirations from the other side of the world

Wu Chi-Tsung x Saverio Tonoli

We both found our inspirations from the other side of the world

Installation view of “Beyond the Now, Away from Here” in Wu Chi-Tsung Studio

T= Saverio Tonoli  W = Wu Chi-Tsung

How did you know each other?

T: We met in an opening studio event, 2017 in Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany. Walking through the studios, Chi-Tsung’s work caught my eye immediately as I was looking for someone who also uses Xuan paper like I do. Paper became our main topic for the rest of the night. The rest came spontaneously: we kept in touch, visited each other’s studio and did a project in Berlin together. We already had the idea of this residency program since 2018, and finally managed to execute it now. 

W: From the very beginning, we were talking about Xuan paper. Every time I visit Saverio, I always bring a different kind of Xuan paper for him to test the material, and eventually I came up with the idea to invite him to Taiwan so that he could have a period of time to research more about Xuan paper. 

I learned that the title of this exhibition ‘Beyond the Now, Away from Here’ comes up from your discussion. How would you two interpret it?

T:  Both of us revisit traditional techniques in our art practice. Other than works on paper, I developed a variation of the Fresco – mural painting, making it more simple to paint and install and at the same time to enhance its freedom of movement. This gave us the input to to transform the studio space through our artworks and question the “here and now”, working on time and space.

W: We hope to present a detached experience to the audiences that merge the culture of Europe and Asia, and art practices of classic and contemporary. Our idea is to combine all the things to have a new dialogue.

(To Chi-Tsung) Is this the first time you open your studio to the public for an exhibition?

W: We would like to take the opportunity of the Taipei Dangdai Art Fair that brings international audiences and professionals to Taiwan. This year, we want to do something new in our studio and host a party here in order to directly meet people. Moreover, I hope that we could show the possibilities of what artist studios could do and how exhibitions could be to the Taiwanese art world. At the moment, most artwork you see in Taiwan are completed and displayed in white cubes and visiting artist studios is always considered to be private. However, I think that art is about the whole thing and can’t be concluded by the final “art piece” only. We want to open our studio to let everyone see the art practice.  This time, we will divide the studio into different functions on different floors during the exhibition, and make this space like an alternative space with abundant content. It would give people a special experience of the art-making.

(To Chi-Tsung)  How do you consider the role and possibility of an artist studio in the art world?

W: To host an artist residency program as an artist studio ourselves this time, I am inspired by my residency experience in MoT+++, Vietnam, the director of which herself is also an artist. At that time, we turned the exhibition space into a studio-like environment, and the exhibition was more like an open studio. It was a very interesting concept and I received many positive feedbacks. 

The position of artist studios has changed a lot in a few decades. Nowadays you see more and more artist studios getting bigger with multi-functions. It is not only a space for simply producing art, but a center to form the networks in the art world. Compared with institutions, the artist studio could gain more independence and flexibility in communications and executions. Besides, we are proud that we are financially independent so as to make things happen. Hopefully our experience could inspire other people and contribute to the diversity of the Taiwanese art world.

 (To Saverio) We saw on your Instagram that you’re working on new works for this exhibition. Are they inspired by your experience during the residency in Taiwan? If so, what are they?

T: Normally I enjoy working alone and consider the status of isolation essential for me. Finding materials and new providers, joining a talkative unknown group of artists, having to limit your working space and adhere to inevitable social conventions makes it challenging to recreate the proper working conditions. But this one is more of a private collaboration residency: I get a lot of support from the studio and plenty of isolation! Besides, Taiwan is beautiful free country with amazing landscapes and fruits.

Parallel my ongoing development on abstraction in painting, my work brought me here to study ink tradition and research on paper. With the expertise of FENKO Catalysis Chamber (www.fenko.com.tw) – one of the most important material lab in Taiwan producing paper – I can push to extreme ways some treatments on paper, with gravity and folds. I am looking forward to the exhibition to share my journey with international audiences.

(To Saverio) How was your cooperation with FENKO?

T: FENKO expands the use of paper in many different fields, one of which is the open collaboration with artists, and they research endlessly new materials and possibilities. FENKO’s expertise has been very precious to me, from consulting wide range of paper materials, packaging to paper preservation. Together we’ve found a perfectly suitable paper for one of my main works in the show, Self-absorbed on the rocks, painted on the cliffs of the Yilan coast of Taiwan. In this work, the large roll of paper is made wet and folded into the structure of the cliff, then ink-washed to extract its structure, volume and essence. At the last stage in the studio the paper is washed and flatten again. It is not hard to imagine that this specific work needs a very strong and flexible paper, due to the extreme treatment it undergoes on sharp rocks and having to be folded, washed and dried several times. The absorbing qualities of the paper is also very important. The paper has been designed for this purpose. My collaboration with FENKO will continue for three other pieces of the series, one of which will be performed in the following weeks on the south Vietnamese coast.

Saverio with Paper & Conservation Consultancy Szuhan Wang and director Lino Lee from FENKO Catalysis Chamber

Clearly both of you are experts on media and materials, and you both have interests in natural phenomena and daily objects. However, you reach art through the opposite route: Chi-Tsung learned painting first and get in touch with photography later in college; whereas Saverio grew up with photography and later experiment with painting and other media. How do you think about each other’s art? What would you say about the similarities and differences between your art?

T: Our attitude towards art is similar, nothing strictly political, social or personal but “beyond” and “away”. Everything in our art is about matter and perception. As we work with similar materials, we often discuss certain techniques and difficulties we encounter. For example, we both mount Xuan paper on canvas which differs from the tradition, so we always discuss how to mount and coat.

W: I think that the most interesting and fundamental part of both of us is that we are both painters, that is to say, our mentalities are both based on paintings. And we are both interested in water-based things. I use western techniques to express eastern sceneries, and Saverio is into eastern materials.  We both found our inspiration from the other side of the world. I think this kind of connection is beautiful.

Nevertheless, the direction of how we approach art is different. I don’t do ‘painting painting’. My priority in art is media art, but I use painting as a mentality to meditate on everything while Saverio deals with painting itself.

T:  Yes. My starting point was to work with my dad in the darkroom in our garage, where he showed me how the image is revealed. From then I started to substitute light with ink, with Italian materials, eastern materials etc. I always see the possibilities of painting in photography. When I work digitally on images with photoshop, I regard it as an alternative way of painting. )

I suppose it’s going to be the first exhibition you attend in 2020. Do you have any new year resolution on art, or to say, what would you like to explore more in the following year?

T: In this year, Inspired by my experience here I’m would like to open a second studio in Taipei, I’m working on it. After joining another residency in Saigon by A.Farm I will come back to Berlin in June and begin to understand what I have experienced in Asia during this months. Exploration will go on as usual.

W: It has been 20 years since I entered university in 1999. I started the studio three years ago and we have made amazing achievements. I have been focused on my art outside Taiwan and would love to be considered as an international artist rather than a Taiwanese artist. I wish this experience of working internationally with my studio could be a model to share with the art world in Taiwan in the near future. Moreover, I look forward to launch more collaboration programs and to make use of the resources we have in Taipei, Berlin and Saigon. We have much to share about our network and experience in these three cities.

Interviewed and translated by Wang Tianyi
Planning and Proofread by Julian Chu




薩=薩維里奧・托諾利, 吳=吳季璁










吳:這次想到以藝術家工作室舉辦駐村項目是啟發於我在越南MoT +++的駐村經驗,MoT+++的總監本人也是一位藝術家,當時我們嘗試將展覽空間變成了類似工作室的環境,呈現出的展覽更像是一個開放工作室。我認為這是很有趣的概念,並且收到了很多積極的反饋。




也可以說是我的紙張作品將我帶來台灣。在這裡,我像海綿一樣學習和吸收關於傳統水墨的知識並潛心研究宣紙材料。在台灣最頂尖的紙張材質研究機構-FENKO鳳嬌催化室 (www.fenko.com.tw)(後文簡稱「鳳嬌」)的鼎力相助下,我找尋到了更有效的方法處理紙材,並且能夠更好地控制墨水在重力下的運動,我很期待在展覽中將我的探索分享給國際觀眾。


薩:鳳嬌在許多不同的領域開拓了紙張的用途,他們其中的一個嘗試便是與藝術家的合作,研究新的材料和可能性。本次,鳳嬌身為紙材顧問,為我在選紙、包裝和紙張保存方面提供了非常多寶貴的建議。我在鳳嬌的協助下,為這次展覽最主要的作品之一《Self-absorbed on the rocks》找到了理想的紙材,這幅作品是我將宣紙鋪佈在宜蘭海岸的峭壁上進行創作的。在岩壁上,我將大捲宣紙浸濕,將之按照岩壁的紋理折疊,再用墨水染色令岩壁的紋理、質感與量體在紙面顯現。最後,回到工作室後,宣紙被水洗並壓平。可想而知,這樣的處理工序對宣紙的強韌性與靈活性都有極高的要求,這樣才能受得了尖銳岩壁、多次折疊、浸濕與乾燥等極端技法。紙張的吸水性也非常重要,而這次使用的紙則完美滿足了上述要求。我還會在將來的三件作品中繼續與鳳嬌進行合作,其中一件我將在未來幾周內在越南南部海岸完成創作。

《Self-absorbed on the rocks》創作過程,使用鳳嬌的薄頁麻紙(ABA Lean Natural)







薩: 這次的駐村經歷讓我想在台灣成立我的第二個工作室,我現在已經開始在為之做準備了。我會去越南胡志明市參與由A Farm主持的另外一個駐村項目,此後我會在6月回到柏林,花一段時間來總結一下我在亞洲的收穫。我的探索也會如昔繼續下去。