A Walk of 100 Kilometers
151 pencils, wall canvas, ground canvas, shoes, pencils shavings glass jar, mileage log book, photographs, video, and document.
221 x 1010.5 cm;156 x 103 cm;32.5 x 10.5 x 12.5 cm x 2;11 x 11 x 32.2 cm;41.1 x 33.5 x 1.5 cm;47 x 66.5 cm x 24 pieces;4′30″;42 x 32.9.5 cm.
Author: Mind Set Art Center

As a type 1 diabetic, “measurement” and “walking” are not only essential for Shi’s survival, but also inspires his artistic practice along the way. He has been measuring his surroundings, may it be tangible subject such as the circumference of a building or intangible such as friendship, with personally meaningful and intimate parameters over the past decades.

Shi Jin-Hua first executed A 100 km Walk in 2012 during the artist’s residency in National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan in 2012, and resumed in 2016 at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. During the performance, Shi would walk back and forth on a ten-meter long canvas laid on the ground in front of a ten-meter wide canvas on the wall, which he would draw with a pencil. Whenever the pencil is worn out, the artist would stop walking to hand sharpen it with a retractable blade he carries and then continue walking and drawing. The process would last for hours, during which pencil drawing develops on the wall and the artist’s footprints and graphite powders following from the pencil accumulate on the ground. The project has been executed up to 10.54 km at National Changhua University of Education in 2012 and then up to 98 km at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in 2016, and will be completed when the artist walks up to 100 km, which is scheduled on the last day of preview of Art Basel in Hong Kong 2017. All pencil relics are going to a glass jar as part of the project.

What makes A 100 km Walk so unique and scarce is that Shi takes the artistic practice back to the purest state by employing the most basic skill of line-drawing and body movement of walking, and at the same time generates enormous power with these simple elements. It is very astonishing how the artist started with a single thread to develop such a vast and layered piece of work, even before it is completed. It is a long journey requires high concentration and strong willpower, during which the artist walks through time as well as his mind, and it is this intense communication with the self, the body, the aesthetic and the wisdom of the sages, that accumulates into such overwhelming and touching power within the scale of two canvases.

 What could be achieved after a hundred kilometers of walking? What inspiration could be generated from a hundred kilometers of walking? Shi Jin-Hua explores the might of both body and mind with his own practice.

The distance walked is turned into lines that accumulate on the wall canvas and footsteps on the ground one. Fifty round trips make a kilometer of walk and a photograph is taken as records. A hundred and one shots from the hundred kilometer walking will then composed into a time-lapse photography, accompanied with the sounds of pencil moving on the canvas recorded during the walk. The sounds were collected by a recorder fixed on the artist’s arm. Shi started off fast and lithely in front of the blank canvas and the record was sharp and intense. The sound eventually lowered and gentle when the artist slowed down. Shi has picked a piece of record from one of the slow walks while drawing on the canvas with great strength to go with the time-lapse photography, and it is like the sound of the wind blowing in a wild and vast desert.

During the execution of this performance spanning from 2012 to 2017, Shi had experienced various transitions and appreciations, as well as unexpected difficulties.

“I wasn’t really sure how this performance would turn out when I started,” Shi admitted. “I started it with horizontal lines with some small curves. It was basically steady and concentrated. Somehow I started to make big curves with sharp angles and strong momentum. When I stepped back to inspect the work from a distant, I found a beautiful abstract image on the wall.” The artist went on to explore the relationships between different lines and aesthetic composition. In order to create more radical waves on the canvas, the artist expanded his movements from wrist and elbow to the whole body for drawing the lines. The kinetic energy generated by the contraction and extension of his whole body was concentrated to the pencil point holding in the artist’s hand to produce lines with rhythm, speed, grace and powerful expression.

Aesthetic is emphasized alongside the conceptual aspect of performance in A 100 km Walk. With the passage of time, Shi builds up abstract beauty with the simple element of line. Lines drawn with various curving, speed and strength accumulate to form perspective and space, generating an imagery implying the vast sea or the unlimited universe. In order to create depth in the imagery, the artist attempted to add darkness horizontally around the middle of the canvas while trying to retain the permeability, and it was not easy. At one stage he drew with 7B and 8B pencils, but could not draw any darker as the pores of the canvas could not absorbed and graphite powders and the previous layers of graphite were pressed so densely and showed a metallic sheen. After many experiments, Shi finally achieved the ideal result by applying fixation and charcoal pencils.

As thousands of lines superimposing one on one on the wall canvas, space is formed, and as the lines are traces of movements crossing time, the project represents a space of time as well as a time with extensity. On the other hand, footprints from the artist’s walking accumulate on the floor canvas. Since graphite powders fallen from the wall canvas were stepped into the floor canvas during the process, the canvas turns from white to grey, and a inky river appears after hundreds and thousands of footsteps. Being tempered over the time, two stiff canvases are transformed to be soft and wrinkled. Within the limited scope of these two pieces of canvas, A 100 km Walk thus is not only an aesthetical expression of the artist, but also represents the accumulation of time and physical strength, the repeated laboring, the body movements, the training of the mind, as well as the quest for self-existence.