Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Echoes of Shakespeare and Magritte

Wang Wan-chun's collection of oil paintings at Taipei MOMA Gallery owes a debt to the famous surrealist

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Frozen Time and Space by Wang Wan-chun.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAIPEI MOMA GALLERY N

In William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Jacques says, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." For the philosopher, life is an extended play and everyone is just playing a part.

It is a view shared by Taiwanese artist Wang Wan-chun (王萬春) and illustrated in his collection of oil paintings currently on exhibit at Taipei MOMA Gallery. While the Shakespearean character communicates his worldview in an oration, Wang uses his canvas as a stage from which he asks viewers to question the world around them.

"Theater gives us a different perspective on reality. When you identify with a character, in a way you apply that story to your own life," Wang said. "When people look at my paintings, I hope it will start them to think about their own lives.

Born in 1956 in Ilan county, Wang moved to Taipei to study sculpture at the Taiwan Arts School. After graduating he realized his real passion was for oil painting and since then he has produced a large collection of surrealist canvasses.

His style is similar to that of other surrealist artists from the early to mid 1900s with the work of his favorite painter, Rene Magritte (1898 to 1967) having the most obvious influence. Like Magritte, Wang uses a uniform background of one solid color on which he paints objects and people. Both artists utilize recurring symbols in their work -- for Wang these are birds, chairs and beds, at least one of which appears in every painting.

Wang's work is not merely painted in the image of Magritte's. He has defined his own style, unique from the Belgian painter's. In his paintings, Wang often plays with depth to produce multi-dimensional objects, in contrast to Magritte, who painted mostly one-dimensional and larger objects.

Wang said his works are often criticized for being "empty," in the sense of having no meaning. After previewing the exhibition, however, it feels as though that criticism is more abstract than the art. And, like the work of Magritte, the abstract surrealist images won't appeal to everyone.

In Chess with the God, for example, half of the canvas is blank except for two small men, one focused on a small white square and the other, resembling a Jesuit monk, concentrating on a book. A chair, bed and physically deformed man fill the left half of the painting.

One interpretation is to see the rooms as different states of being. The right is how we perceive our everyday lives, work, play, and ideologies. The left creates more of a dreamlike state, which distorts our sense of reality (the deformed man). The bed and chair are repeated motifs in Wang's work. The former symbolizes death, and the latter signifies the positions people hold in life, he said.

Applying the analogy of a stage, it is as though Wang creates different scenes in each corner of his 21 paintings. As a viewer, you can spend a considerable amount of time staring at just one, taking in all the characters and props.

Shakespeare's Jaques said life is a play with roles already determined by a divine being. For Wang, his paintings are more of an open script, which, depending on the viewer, will have different connotations.

Exhibition notes:

What: Wang Wan-chun's solo Exhibition

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