Sun, Mar 17, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Art houses on common ground

For the first time, four non-mainstream galleries from four different cities in Taiwan take their artists on an outing to Whashang Arts District that shows what viewers miss in public museums and galleries


Hu Tsai-min's Heads.


Currently at Whashang Arts District, a new generation of alternative art houses have teamed up to show the vigorous art scene outside of public museums and commercial galleries.

The line-up includes Taipei's Shin Leh Yuan Art Space (新樂園藝術空間), Taichung's Want Space (得旺公所), Tainan's Wen Hsian Paint Shop (文賢油漆行) and Kaohsiung's Dog Pig Art Cafe (豆皮文藝咖啡館). The four places discovered their common interest at a seminar on alternative art spaces at National Tainan College of the Arts titled "Outside the establishment, anything goes," where they found that exchanges between artists from different parts of Taiwan was necessary for their growth.

Although scattered throughout Taiwan, all of them "are made up of groups of people sharing a dedication to art. Also, the four have managed to do without government subsidies," said Chen Wen-hsiang (陳文祥), curator for the Shin Leh Yuan part of the exhibition and himself an artist.

It's tempting to compare these quieter places with the older and more prominent IT Park, which is going to the Kwangju Biennial in South Korea, representing Taiwan's alternative art spaces. For the four places, the similarities are limited. "IT Park is actually quite different from other alternative spaces in that it has a fixed group of artists and this group can sometimes seem quite exclusive," said Chen. Another difference is that the four chose not to be licensed as fine arts groups, thus forgoing potential financial support from the government.

Luckily, Wen Hsian Paint Shop is rent-free, Dog Pig Art Cafe makes ends meet by selling coffee and Want Space has recently moved into Taichung's Stock 20 as a residential art group after losing its own space to the landlord. Shin Leh Yuan members pay their own way.

Art Notes:

What: String: Nomads -- Rally Group Exhibition (串:遊牧 -- 集結聯展)

Where: Whashang Arts District, 1, Pate Rd. sec. 1, Taipei (華山藝文特區,台北市八德路1號)

When" Until March 24

According to Chen, their total absence of authoritative figures is also a difference. "Except for Want Space, we often recruit new and young artists, or have invited `outside' artists to exhibit their works at our space. So that there's no regulars and no patriarchs either. We are always on the lookout for something new," Chen said.

Set up after the mid-1990s, works from these spaces are mostly lighthearted and often self-reverent, characteristic of art in post-martial law Taiwan. The greater freedom of artistic expression and a well-developed art industry have left artists with little to complain about society. They "turn to their personal life for inspiration. Even when they deal with social topics, they are more poetic and obscure in their expression, while trying to conceal their sense of isolation," said You Wei (游崴), curator for the Wen Hsian Paint Shop section of the exhibition.

The 35 exhibits from as many artists range from oil paintings, photography and videos to mixed-media installations. At the same time, each of the four spaces show its own character in very subtle ways.

"Naturally, our artists express things in ways different from Taipei artists," said Lai Hsing-lung (賴新龍), curator for the Dog Pig Art Cafe part of the exhibition and organizer of the group exhibition. "You can say that they have a more grass-roots approach to art, and as most of them majored in art, they show more of the academic aspect of Taiwanese art," he said.

Works by Dog Pig artists are also some of the most introspective works of the exhibition.

Tsai Jie-ni's (蔡潔妮) installation Family Precepts -- "Growing Up" series (家訓 -- 成長系列) reflects the various disciplines a family instills in a girl at every stage of her life to make her a "good" girl. Naively unsuspecting, the girl simply lets these rules, all of which start with "I can't ...," corner her life.

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