Sun, Mar 16, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Adolescent angst and desire play at being a soul in torment

David Ho's demons have high production values but don't carry much conviction

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chosen Few, a digital image created by David Ho.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TIVAC

The dark images of David Ho (羅維正), collected in an exhibition of high-quality digital prints at TIVAC that opened yesterday, looked half familiar, even if you don't go in for the fantasy illustrations. Images of hell have been so much in our faces for so many years, from the gradually degenerating Hellraiser series, to Ridley Scott's brilliant film Alien, and now the overwhelming hype of Lord of the Rings, that it is almost impossible to get away from such fantastic images.

Indeed, David Ho lists among his mentors the designer H.R. Giger, the award-winning creator of the Alien creatures and the otherworldly environment to which Sigourney Weaver just keeps on returning. And then again, a number of the excellent heads make one think of Clive Barker's Cenobites, even though closer inspection reveals that Ho is trying to express something rather different -- but also rather more mundane. In The Way, a head made up of cubes with Chinese characters for sorrow, fear, and Buddha engraved on them, it is hard to get away from the idea that this image of the human mind in danger of shattering through the force of emotions and beliefs that we cram into our heads could really be expressed with a little more subtlety.

The demonic images, which Ho says are inspired by Dante's Hell, have a somewhat adolescent feel, playing on horror, lust and somewhat spray-painted eroticism. Even some of his best images, such as Temptation, Something to Believe In and The Chosen Few, have a rather trite quality, and one quickly becomes more interested in the clever use of textures and painterly effects that Ho is clearly a master of, rather than the images themselves.

For all that Ho claims to be expressing his inner demons, there is a curiously detached feel about all the works, which while reaching out for some gut-wrenching images of human bodies seemingly hung by the skin like some exaggerated Taipusam display of body piercing, or the rather Yukio Mishima-St. Anthony-esque A Place to Die, it all seems just a little tired and shopworn.

Looked at in terms of fantasy illustration, it is when Ho is not trying so hard to shock that he is most effective. For the Glory of Something is a deeply evocative image that eschews cheap shock effects and can rank up there with the work of fantasy illustrator Michael Whelan. The darkness, beauty and sorrow of the two figures seemingly in prayer, or possibly standing watch, or preparing for war, or readying for death, allows the mind to linger where other images reveal their secrets far too quickly.

The Digital World of David Ho will be showing at through to April 3 at the Taiwan International Visual Arts Center (台灣國際視覺藝術中心) located at 29, Lane 45, Liaoning St., Taipei (台北市遼寧街45291) Open between 11am and 7pm Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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