Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 19 News List

The bearable weight of academia on art

Sometimes it's not worthlooking too far into images

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

This room photographed by Yachi Huang is intended to spark memories of your own. Does it?

PHOTO COURTESY OF TIVAC

Artists today invariably study the history of art and cannot paint a picture or take a photograph without the weight of theory or academic practice intruding. It's as though the work is legitimized by explaining and justifying it. It cannot stand on its own, it has to represent something else.

So it was, as I took shelter in the TIVAC art gallery, the rain creating a tympani effect on the roof of the building, that I imagined I completely understood the artist Hung Shih-tsung (洪世聰) when he wrote he could feel the power of words before becoming a photographer. "If I could talk without any restraint, I wouldn't have to carry a camera on my back."

In the basement was another exhibition, by the 28-year-old photographer Yachi Huang (黃亞紀), who is a graduate of art schools in Japan and New York.

But first to Hung, who is a member of the China Photography and Culture Institute and presumably represents the mainstream of photographic art in this country. After Owning Solitude, the current Silence is his second major exhibition.

The black-and-white pictures mainly have nature as their subject. Sometimes they are close-ups with a tiny focus point -- a seed perhaps -- and the rest of the plant is an abstract haze of lines and tones. Other photos, in a series called Right Speech, look at the reflections of reeds in a pool of water.

"Do I frame the image, or does the image frame my eyes and mind?" is Hung's question. It's the old phenomenological debate, but it's just a beautiful image of a plant limned by dappled sunlight. No more light is shed on the plant by theorizing over the role of the observer.

Downstairs, Huang's photos are, at first glance, unremarkable. The first picture is the back of a woman's head, whose hair appears golden in the filtered light through the windows that reflects off the tubular steel headrest.

Exhibition note:

Exhibition note:

What: A Profound Silence Prevailed Overall by Hung Shih-tsung, and Comprehension of Half Sentence by Yachi Huang

When: until Saturday

Where: 29 Liaoning Street, Taipei (台北市遼寧街45291)


The next untitled picture is of a house behind a mass of cables and telegraph wires. Then some flower pots, a school and a garage, all in the same neighborhood, it seems. One of the 12x8 pictures is, presumably, the artist's apartment, a typical Taipei room, a large picture, sofas, a balcony and a big, red helium balloon hugging the ceiling.

The only large-scale work is of a "secret garden," which is a jungle of deep greens, strong contrast and detail. It's a great shot. But it was the overall impression that grated. According to the interpreters (curators) of Huang's work, the pictures are not mundane, they have a "dreamlike quality." The works have been set out to induce a trance-like state. The familiar objects are intended to spark memory traces of my own.

Outside of the gallery the clouds were turning white and disappearing, the rain had stopped and a saying by Gertrude Stein came to mind: "A rose is a rose is a rose."

The two exhibitions at TIVAC, which run until Saturday, intend to signify more than they in fact do.

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