Ink and Projections– Modern Art in Taipei

We planned to go to the National Palace Museum yesterday, but then ended up not going. So, last night, Midori and I agreed for certain to go to the NPM today. However, after some surfing, she changed her mind. So we went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and we caught the last day of this: http://www.tfam.gov.tw/english/exhibit/exh_01.asp?exhibit_no=228&Item=now.

The picture that they use in the webpage is a good one, but not one of the many that really wowed me. Modern ink painting in Taiwan was the exhibit, which showed painters who often used traditional brush painting techniques to achieve some incredible pieces that could sometimes reach some stunning abstraction. I think if I were to ever truly go into contemporary painting properly, that would be the sort I ought to do– it fuses all of my loves– gesture, powerful color, and a certain control gone wild. There were textured landscapes of desire, an ethereal blue storm, suffused landscapes, bold suns suspended over chaos, and a huge variety of touches. Chinese brushwork can go from a delicate dance to powerful sweeping movements, and this exhibition showed its huge potential.

I was extremely disappointed that it was the last day of the exhibition, so my Bwe-e (the painter-flower-arranger-photographer artist extraordinaire) can’t come up to see it (I found a good chunk of the Chinese painting books she gave me in the basement bookstore). I have to wait for a few months before the catalogue of the exhibition becomes available, too.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum (some of the footprints on the side were beginning to flap their toes).


The Dirty Yoga Taipei Biennale was interesting. There was a yarn-filled installation involving crocheted flowers, knit cacti, knitted blue US Mailbox, and fountains of green yarn. There were also some b&w photographs of scooter drivers at stoplights. One interesting series of photographs which involved some beautiful random scenes, like a woman with a hugely long purple scarf flowing in the wind from her neck in a field of flowers, and another one with a disco-ball moon over a dark beach. A couple of video installations– one which involved some cheap quintessential Taiwanese plastic bouncing, hitting each other, and rolling around– like the colorful green and red plastic brooms we have, or yellow hardhats, or the blue handled water ladles for bathing– all shown on television screens on the floor amidst all of the things featured in the videos. Another installation involved skateboarders zipping through an abandoned building. One had two park benches juxtaposed with scenes that seemed to almost interact with each other. Another installation was of the Israel Day Parade in New York City– people marching and dancing and holding up signs. One installation included sculpture and video about Sun Yat Sen– the founder of China. The coolest installation involved projectors that had a purple sea sloshing on the walls, which seemed to interact with passersby– staying still as we stood, or sloshing as people walked through– their shadows slipping from one projection to another.

The art books in the basement were quite tempting, but I restrained myself.

There is also the Taipei Contemporary Art Museum, which I visited before– one cold overcast day. It was mostly video installations that were intriguingly political in nature– one was a promotional tourist commercial for Baghdad– complete with tanks and wailing. Another installation was an exploration of identity in a small town in a country that used to be part of the USSR. There was a filmed rally in Turkey that was happening in a stadium, children shouting poetry and speeches to their beloved motherland. It was all thought-provoking stuff, especially considering Taiwan’s own identity issues.

There were installations to play with there too– one which used the electricity from your body and taped wires on the walls and floor to make screechy noises, and one which involved huge air-filled sculptures of people which moved every hour from fans regulating the air inside them. There was a photography exhibit of Vietnamese women going through the process of marrying Taiwanese men who are importing wives from Vietnam and other South Asian countries. From what I’ve heard, the women move to Taiwan for a better life, and the men seek them since so many Taiwanese women have become more independent, and less-inclined to marry the sort of man that wants a wife to stay home and clean for him. There was also an interesting installation of newspaper photographs and articles of pilots who defected from China and Taiwan, respectively. Those defecting from China to Taiwan were heroes in the news, and vice-versa.

Between the two museums, the Taipei Contemporary Art Museum seems to be more about a dialogue with contemporary issues, while the Taipei Fine Arts Museum’s mission leans more towards the idea of art to make something intriguing and even beautiful. Both museums are much more overtly political than any I’ve seen. I think it’s a given preoccupation though– the idea of nationhood and identity in Taiwan is so often debated and so sensitive. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve seen it in Cloud Gate’s contemporary dance “Wind Shadow” too– the unstated question that wonders what’s going to become of this island. The visual art gathered and curated from artists all over the world seems to reflect different narratives of what happens elsewhere and here. Not exactly answers, and not exactly comforting, but definitely thought-provoking.


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Free Rice

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