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Kai-Chuan Shih and Lefan Feng (Francesca): Collaboration. Visionary
Text: Jenya Stashkov, artist and art critic, Sheffield, UK
What do we know about space? In common perception, it's something very inspiring, full of adventures, and something that requires substantial state budgets. Also, space is seen as a chthonic place full of dangers where an asteroid might fall, aliens might attack, or some super-powerful surrealistic virus might arrive. A fairly unequivocal symbolic field has developed around space, having traditional and well-worn reflections in pop culture and the art industries. Nevertheless, the themes of space touch on almost all major artists. For many, it's a doodle in the absence of interesting ideas, but for a small circle, it's an opportunity to overturn this heap of clichés and stereotypes and enrich their own artistic vision and practice.
Cigarette smoke spreads heavily behind the glass of a tired astronaut's helmet, like oatmeal. Cups and thermoses float as if weightlessness suddenly kicked in. The astronaut's gaze is weary and apathetic; he seems to be simultaneously in an earthly office and in open space. His hand is not protected by a special suit. Kai-Chuan Shih and Lefan Feng have created a perfect art object for meditation on its unattainable meaning. "Astronaut Man" is a unique work by the duo of the aforementioned artists, which reconstructs the image of space and the image of how artists usually work with the cosmic theme. Kai-Chuan Shih and Lefan Feng boldly equated space with human everyday life, endowing it with qualities of endless boredom, routine, frozen life, and frozen emotions. This outstanding work impresses with its main pictorial technique: conscious duality. This painting praises and ridicules duality. Duality of styles, duality of the possible and the impossible in the physical world, duality of the human and the non-human. At first glance, it may seem kitschy and superficial, but like good wine, it has a perceptible aftertaste. The viewer seems to plunge into this paradoxical artistic world, which seems to be just a simple trinket at first glance. Kai-Chuan Shih and Lefan Feng skillfully manipulate viewer perception, turning the plane of the painting into a captivating attraction. "Astronaut Man" simultaneously strikes with integrity and anti-integrity and serves as an intriguing example of horizontal interaction. Collaboration in visual art is often a feat of building communication and some asceticism. The most challenging aspect of contemporary art is to collaborate in a way that doesn't overshadow the creative voice of the partner and doesn't trample on one's own piece. Kai-Chuan Shih and Lefan Feng seem to dissolve into each other yet remain stunning artists with their own unique and recognisable features.

Kai-Chuan Shih is the epitome of inventiveness and dark humour in digital graphics. His main characteristic is a very subtle accumulation of polar contexts in the visual field, which, combined with incredible technicality and professionalism, creates the impression of a great personality and a bright artistic temperament. On the contrary, Lefan Feng balances the impetuosity of his co-author with meticulousness in color-harmonic relationships, non-trivial details, and great foresight. It would be insanely interesting to observe their joint process of creating artworks; I think it should be a somewhat transgressive performance, expanding the space of the painting into the space of performative practice. Typically, horizontal art is not very interesting to watch; it's more interesting to hear about the process, to hear about how people negotiate and defend their own and others' boundaries. "Astronaut Man" is a completely different case, combining a finished object with an inspiring creation story.

What do we know about space? "Astronaut Man" asks, but what does space know about us?
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