“Form is simply a container for inner essence.”

b.1953, Taipei, Taiwan

A devout Buddhist, Jun T Lai (Lai Tsun-tsun) finds inspiration in faith and nature. Nonexistence (2009) refers to a verse of the Heart Sutra: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Swinging a hammer with all her might, the artist transformed a 150-kg sheet of steel into a pockmarked moonscape; a video of the process accompanies the work. Her battered “mirror” dissolves everything reflected in its surface into a shimmer of colour and light that shifts as the viewer moves. “I wanted to express the flow between real and unreal,” she says. The dents made by the hammer evoke the wounds life inflicts on our bodies and souls; the distorted reflections are a reminder of the unreliability of appearances. Reality vanishes as we pursue it; the only thing certain is change. In Ocean Garden (2009), she uses brightly coloured Plexiglas to make two “trees of life” whose translucent branches create subtle patterns of light and shadow. “It is like glimpsing happiness and truth in the crack between illusion and reality,” the artist says.

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