Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 19 News List

TaipeiMOMA opens

In its first show, TaipeiMOMA gives a good glimpse at what's going on in Taiwan's avant-garde art scene

By Susan Kendzulak  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

A colorful burlesque piece by Wu Tien-chang.

PHOTO: SUSAN KENDZULAK

Art lovers can be quite content in Taiwan and no longer have to fly to New York for their cultural fix as there's a MOCA, even plans to build a Guggenheim and now a newly opened space: TaipeiMOMA.

TaipeiMOMA's inaugural exhibition features the work of 16 Taiwanese artists. However, TaipeiMOMA is more like a small gallery space than a museum, as it has no permanent collection and is free, unlike New York's vast MOMA that charges outrageous admission fees. One reason for the name is that the stable of artists produce museum-quality work and their works are in museum collections around the world.

The space is tiny with two rooms separated by an office area, so most of the work is two-dimensional: works on paper, photos, paintings or digital printouts with the exception of one video work as it would be difficult to show large sculptures or installation here.

For Taiwan's art market, the artists who work with traditional means, such as ink painting on scrolls tend to sell more to local collectors rather than artists who use more experimental or conceptual means.

Several of the featured artists are well-known, highly respected masters of Chinese brush ink painting but done with a modern twist. The prices of their work also reflect their high status in the art market with one painted scroll costing NT$300,000.

Yuan Jai's (袁旃) landscape ink paintings are unique in that she uses acid greens and pinks to transform a traditional picture into something more contemporary. Her work was also featured in the Istanbul Biennial in 2001, showing that traditional means can be reconfigured to the avant-garde.

Huang Chih-yang's (黃致陽) ink scroll combines ancient Chinese metaphysical thought with abstract mark-making that creates a visual buzz as the empty spaces between the strokes seem to vibrate.

Lin Chuan-chu's (林銓居) poetic Grains under Moonlight shows the power of empty space as the scroll contains a small dot of yellow for the moon, a gray squiggle of cloud and a small mound of yellow kernels. Like a Haiku, the painting says a lot with very little.

The ink paintings are installed together while the newer media works such as digital photography and C Prints are on the other side of the space, setting up an interesting dialogue between the works -- as the artists are contemporaries of each other but their art concerns are radically opposed.

For these digital users, the touch of the artist's hand and actual mark-making is not a concern in their work. The idea or concept of what they are trying to convey is the first step, and how that idea should be expressed is secondary.

So, in showing a picture of Taipei's bustling Ximen District that is stripped of pedestrians and vehicles, an absence of life, becomes much more powerful a statement as a digitally altered photo rather than if it were painted in thick oils on canvas or watery ink brush strokes on paper. The medium is the message. So here Yuan Goang-ming (袁廣鳴) shows an eerie and disturbed city in his huge photo.

Wu Tien Chang's (吳天章) digital print is a detail of a larger work highlighting the burlesque and staged settings he's recently been working on. Unfortunately the close-up detail crops off most of the image and thus its accompanying narrative. Perhaps showing a smaller scale of the image rather than a cropped-out detail wouldn't have altered the work so drastically.

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