What is the relationship between our physical bodies and our experience with the external, cultural world? One artist conceptualizes that connection in a series of digital art pieces that exposes her insides to the outside.
Taiping-based graphic artist Dorairolg is of Hakka heritage, a subgroup of the Han Chinese people without a geographic ancestral home. In the past several centuries the Hakka have fanned out to south China and southeast Asia but have largely maintained a distinct language and cultural identity. Born under the name Hoi Ian Wong in Macao, the artist moved to Taiwan in 2015 to find a place where she felt less like an outlier.
Her latest work “Ngai” means “I” or “storyteller” in Hakka, and although she grew up immersed in that culture, her family never spoke the language and she never learned it. “Ngai” explores that feeling of limbo between traditions. “I want to use my identity as a Hakka to start this story,” she said of the piece, which takes a cross-section of her own profile to reveal several layers of flesh and muscles. A cavity in the center of the brain contains wispy willow trees framing a white bridge, with tiny human forms climbing on and around the synapses. The effect is at once surprising and captivating.
Naming the serene alabaster edifice the “Lai Yin Bridge,” Dorairolg uses it to illustrate the traditional Chinese philosophy of complementary opposites. “Yin lurks at the south of waters whereas yang shines at the north of mountains. Where there is no sunshine, there is deep darkness.”
Yin and yang are just one layer of meaning in “Ngai.” The cutaway face has seven total strata leading to the peaceful inner vista. Dorairolg says they represent the seven human emotions: happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, disgust, and lust, as well as the seven duhka of Buddhism: birth, aging, sickness, death, association with the unbeloved, separation from the loved, and not gaining what is wanted.
Dorairolg studied Communications Design at Shih Chien University but found a passion for 3D digital art after graduation. Experiments with realistic texture and pigmentation of human skin led her to develop character faces that are so lifelike it’s hard to tell them apart from photographs.
In another piece called “Moaning Illness,” the artist bisects her own face again, juxtaposing the oddity of bare muscles, tissues, and eyeball on one side against the normalcy and softness of her facial skin and hair on the other.
An additional digital rendering called “Climbing Shoe” is made up of an unidentified mass of tissue in the vague shape of a shoe. Miniscule trees and a house cling to the ridges and peaks of the mountainous material. The sole of the shoe incorporates the yin yang philosophy again with a dark, ambiguous hue at the front and a light, bright scene of houses and pink trees at the heel.
Another piece still features a replication of Dorairolg in an oversized white robe, carrying an amorphous backpack with a texture somewhere between rock and human organ.