Sun, Aug 08, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Sculptors in Sanyi knock on wood

The center of Taiwan's wood-carving industry is hosting a festival to celebrate works made by the town's artists

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sanyi is famouse for its wood carving. Above is Chiu Hua-hai's work on display at the International Sanyi Wood Sculpture Festival, which runs until April 29.

PHOTO: DEREK LEE, TAIPEI TIMES

Sanyi, a small town in Miaoli County, is renowned for wood carvings in Taiwan and has held its own annual wood-sculpture festival for years. What makes the festival different this year, however, is that it features a collection of wooden musical instruments from all over the world and tries to incorporate 16 international and local music groups into this fun activity. The festival formally began yesterday and will run until Aug. 29.

The festival's major venue is located at the West Lake Resortopia (西湖渡假村), one of the favorite vacationing spots in Taiwan, which has lots of shade under trees and, perhaps, hillside breezes during this sweltering summer season. Meanwhile, the international performance groups will include Percussion Group Balkwan from Korea, Viva Super Jazz Music, Banjo's and Star Kids from Australia, La Paz's Inca Music from Bolivia, a folk dancing group from Sri Lanka and the drumming group Namahage Taiko Denshokaai from Japan. The only catch is that an entrance fee of NT$350 is required for each visiting adult.

Art curator Casper Tsai (蔡興國), an internationally known oboe player, put through his idea to expand the scope of the wood sculpture exhibit to include woodwind instrument collections, such as saxophone, oboe, recorder, bassoon, clarinet, flute, piccolo, etc. He indicates: "In addition to commercial purposes, the importance of woodcarvings can best be illustrated in the field of music by each one of these woodwind instruments."

One thing that deserves mentioning is that 56 of the musical instruments in this exhibit come from 39 countries and belong to a part of the private collections of one person. Sui Hao-ping (眭澔平), a travel writer, has spent 19 years collecting various kinds of wooden instruments from 158 countries and brought them back to Taiwan.

Among all of the participating artists in the exhibit, the wood artworks by the late Chiu Hua-hai (邱華海) stand out as vastly different works. Both Chiu and Ju Ming (朱銘), the internationally renown sculpture, took lessons from Yuyu Yang (楊英風). Chiu died young at the age of 50. However, his artwork remains very inspiring to local young artists working today.

For one thing, Chiu's creations sprang from his own close observation of each object in the countryside. Chiu would spend days conducting surveillance on his target object and refused to do carvings in any hasty way. As Wang Chi-yuan (王志遠), another art curator, pointed out: "Chiu has even slept in a stable for almost an entire week in order to do a life-size horse carving. Almost out of routine, Chiu always gave his wholehearted attention to his artwork. The only reprimands we heard were from his wife."

The artwork was purchased right away by a Japanese private collector as soon as it was completed. Nevertheless, the blood and sweat that Chiu contributed to every piece have become legend in Sanyi, which has kept reminding local young artists to always prepare themselves well before applying their carving knives.

The scope of Chiu's creations was very broad. He dealt with woodcarving as well as bronze sculpture, just like his much more well-known classmate, Ju Ming. Some of his marvelous bronze creations in the shapes of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are now displayed along a tree-canopied trail on one of the hills of the West Lake Resortopia. All these bronze cartoon-like figures are a bit short of human size, but the facial expression of each animal gives the viewers a very clever and pleasant feeling.

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