This exhibition provides an opportunity to introduce artists from Taiwan to the South Florida community for the first time, and to recognize their contribution to the new global reality of the international art world. Seven artists have been invited to exhibit. They range in age from elder masters to young and innovative. Most live in Taiwan, but a number of the artists have travelled widely, exhibited internationally, and participated in biennials and art fairs throughout the world. The Westernization of Taiwan that resulted in strident dichotomies between the traditional and protected and the openness of free thinking impacts their careers and their subject matter.
Their works include traditional calligraphy, landscapes, and the extraordinary craftsmanship of paintings actually made from slices of rock. Photography helps to put all of the works in the context of the unique geological environment of the island, and large-scale installations of paintings, beadwork and sculptural constructions lead the artists into the twenty-first century, with the highly acclaimed video and multi-media technology of the artists on the forefront.
Now working within a worldwide dialogue that brings together the socio-political, historical and environmental concerns affecting people everywhere, the artists from Taiwan bring the perspective of the past and the present together. Taiwan’s background is as unique as its complex cultural history, with thousands of years of Chinese heritage, Japanese, European and American influences affecting artists old and young. A struggle for identity and independence, culturally and historically, is evident in much of the work, whether obvious or subtle in its references.
The environmental beauty of the island of Taiwan, once the reason for its original name, Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island), inspires the photographer Chao-pang Hsu to capture the range of geological formations – sea and shore, mountain and gorge, ancient rock formations and placid lakes. Landscape painting is of long duration in Taiwan, and the photographer’s skill brings another dimension to its appreciation.
Tsung-chen Chang works in one of the most difficult and revered artistic techniques in the world. He slices rocks, chosen for their unique geological composition and beauty, and with each cut reveals an image that is as alive and organic as the rocks are inert. Striking vistas of mountains and valleys, impressionistic landscapes, and abstract interpretations of a river gorge or ancient cave emerge as a result of his innate aesthetic sense and extraordinary craftsmanship.
Yao Jui-chung, in his work Heaven, depicts the surreality of the environment of his country where the traditional cohabitates amicably with the international. The common thread, the gold foil, represents both himself and the “born in Taiwan” element that all the images share. It is also a reference to the covering of statues and deities considered sacred, as well as a symbolizing consumerism and the contemporary power of acquisition. At the same time, there is a calm reverence for history and a sense of loss for the Taiwan of the past.
Tseng Yu-chin, shares Yao’s deep and subtle sense of history and concern for the changing Taiwan, as he questions the seemingly weakening power of tradition, especially within the family and community, through the new media of video. His toddlers, and their incredible willingness to participate in a world they may not yet understand, represent that which the artist thought lost.
Huang Pei-ying depicts elements of the landscape that speak to the viewer not only from a physical standpoint as one appears to get lost in a cave, but also through the metaphorical properties of cardboard and the associations that come with this ubiquitous industrial material. Spreading is not only a reference to environmental awareness, it also reminds the viewer that the landscape has always been there. In this shifting world, there are still many things that we share – especially nature - which is and has always been there. Just as her installation seems to have grown within the gallery, the artist announces that we frequently overlook the natural environment, and her delicate craft made out of ordinary materials transports us into a beautiful new place.
Kay H. Lin’s paintings are created in a strikingly beautiful way. Her subject, the landscape, is still considered the highest form of painting in Taiwan and she uses it to explore the relationship between man and nature, the turn of the seasons and the underlying rhythm that exists, even in today’s modern world. Her technique is inspired by traditional painting on scrolls, which she now covers in ink to transform them into thick and colorful contemporary combinations of abstraction and the purest poetic forms; a constant reminder that life without respect for nature is not worth living.
Long-Bin Chen is known for using phonebooks and other materials that are wasted and discarded as the medium for his sculpture. The figures he creates out of this recycled cultural debris are strange and provocative. Buddha faces and Chinese warriors emerge from within the piles of books, even their bindings become a part of the art; perhaps as much a commentary on censorship as on our wasteful society.
Creating the first Taiwanese contemporary art exhibition in Southeast Florida at first presented a challenge, but the experience of working with this group of Taiwan-born artists has been extremely gratifying. Throughout the studio visits and long periods of communication, the artists were always very personable and dedicated, with an obvious passion for their work. They also eradicated any possible communication barriers, as their willingness to help and display their work became their lingua franca. As we became more familiar with their work, we realize that all of them share a sense of time and place that impressed us tremendously and that we are proud to exhibit.
Carol Damian and Catalina Jaramillo