Wan-Lee Chen, Wen-Chun Tang
Medium of Work:
Acclaimed Taiwanese textile artists Wen-Chun Tang and Wan-Lee Chen began working together in 2016. Tang, the resident indigo master dyer and teacher at the National Taiwan Craft Research Institution, operates her own indigo farm and indigo dyeing workshop, where she is known for producing traditional patterns of plants, flowers, mystical beasts and religious architecture. Wan-Lee Chen, professor and designer of costumes, has engaged in mediating traditional crafts and artistic innovation through performing arts, exhibition, teaching and commercialization. Together, the duo explores new creative horizons of indigo dyeing materials, designs and techniques.
Chen and Tang make works which showcase ‘True Blue,’—one of the most sought-after indigo dyes in the world since the 19th century—using traditional craftsmanship and contemporary flair. Items include meticulously designed robes and scarves featuring highly sophisticated, traditional imagery. Taiwanese indigo dyeing can be traced back to the 18th century and was ranked the third most important of exported goods, after rice and sugar. The development of cheap chemical dyes over a century ago, however, almost wiped out the traditional indigo industry with its high land and labor costs.
Being an indigenously tropical natural dye, indigo dying is usually applied on materials common to the tropical zone, such as cotton, linen, silk and other natural fibers, by soaking the full-length fabric into the dyeing tank. Drawing from experiences in misty Scotland, Ms. Chen works around warm, foldable felt with bright Taiwanese indigo to construct an intriguing contrast of arrangement and color. The self-owned farm also ensures high quality and flexibility of cultivating varieties of indigo from the world. It is truly a luxury: the former allows for indigo painting, a more sophisticated artistic form requiring excellent indigo dye, and the later provides opportunities of demonstrating various textures and colors from different variety.