Li Jiun-Yang

Born 1967 in Taichung City, Taiwan
Lives and works in Taichung City, Taiwan


Kau-pue Temple Fair: The Immortals, 2016–17
acrylic paint on canvas

Bamboo swordsman, 2018
carved bamboo, wire

Presentation at the 24th Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous support from the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and Cultural Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Sydney
Courtesy the artist

A self-taught artist, Li Jiun-Yang came of age at a time when American popular culture was starting to take hold in contemporary Taiwan. Interested in the vernacular aesthetics of folk traditions, Li found himself enthralled by puppet shows and old paintings that depicted the legends and stories of his homeland.

Hailing from Southern Taiwan, a region shaped by Hoklo people (descendants of the first Chinese migrants to the island, who speak the Minnan variety of Chinese languages), as well as by Indigenous Taiwanese people and support for an independent Taiwan, Li’s works present a Taiwanese identity distinct from that proposed by Chinese nationalism. Brimming with local folk heroes and legends, his detailed paintings retain the graphic quality of poster design, the richness of Hoklo temple paintings, and the narrative power of theatre.

Reminiscent of stage design, Kau-pue Temple Fair: The Immortals layers planes of traditional painting techniques and colourful patterns to evoke a grand parade of celestial soldiers, Taiwanese mythologies, and allusions to iconic dramas. Unfolding across ten highly detailed metres, the convoy marches out in joyous defiance of cultural homogenisation.

The son of a movie poster painter, Li Jiun-Yang is self-taught and is known for his paintings, sculptures and installations. The inspiration for his works, he says “come from heaven, earth and in-between as well as daily life, folk religion as well as pop culture”. Li Jiun-Yang has worked on temple paintings, movie posters, calligraphy, Taiwanese glove puppets, and multi-media installations that engage with traditional Taiwanese art forms, diverse religious representations, and vernacular culture on the island. From Southern Taiwan, Li Jiun-Yang’s distinctive cultural environment – influenced by Taiwanese Indigenous people and Hoklo (descendants of the first Chinese migrants on the island) – sees his works promote a Taiwanese identity distinct from the Chinese Nationalist idea that views Taiwan as part of a homogeneous Chinese cultural world.  

Read more about the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, by purchasing the catalogue here.