Sun, Jan 16, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Art or craft, metal working works for new designers in Taipei

Four young designers are offering classes and exhibiting works in metal installations and decorative art

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dandy Chao, Yang Hsi-hsia, Nick Dong and Wang E-ting.

Photos Courtesy of Forging Red Studio

Hidden away in a basement studio are four artists who opened their silversmith workshop to the general public last weekend. The Forging Red Studio's Design and Production Exhibition was a two-day event showcasing metal installations, silver jewelry as well as tours of their workspace. The formal opening passed, but their door is now officially open to the public to peruse the workshop and study the craft.

The startup costs for graduates in metal work can be overbearing, considering a sizable amount of equipment and a sound-proof space are need to work. Two years ago, Dandy Chao (趙丹綺) discovered a suitable location and invited four likeminded silversmiths to pool their resources and join him in opening a studio.

Financially, the workshop survives on commercial ventures taken on by the artists and tuition from onsite classes offered to the public. Jewelry making has the highest demand, but classes in metal sculpture are also offered if enough interest is shown.

The four artists use the same medium, but each specializes in a different technique. Yang Hsi-hsia (楊夕霞) and Nick Dong (董承濂) are said to excel in raising and dropping (molding techniques) and prefer to make sculpture pieces. Most recently, the two were commissioned to design the trophy for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival. A hammering technique was used to create imprints on the shinny metal surface and the outcome was a cone-shaped object that resembles a rusty torch.

"The only thing the curator of the festival said was, `Don't make anything that looks like a trophy,'" Dong said. "We didn't want to make anything too shiny and clean. Documentaries are about real experiences that leave imprints on our lives, so we created something more grainy, with hammer imprints."

At the opening, both Dong and Yang exhibited installation pieces completed during their graduate studies or while on residency in the US. Most unusual, yet attention-grabbing were Dong's tongue-in-cheek "domestic products" that include silver breast and penis measuring instruments.

Yang's work was less comic and somewhat disturbing in its resemblance to human body parts. Her installation involved a bed draped in white sheets with a collection of flowers and sculptures shaped like internal organs. She combined metal with silicon and vinyl, both of which she began working with during her residency in San Francisco.

In comparison to Wang E-ting (王意婷) work is more commercial. Most of the pieces showcased were practical items like vases and silver accessories. The collection of pendants and brooches on display used a special etching and coloring technique that made them appear as if made from a more pliable material such as leather.

While all four artists said they do make commercial are, normally they work for commission, which allows them more freedom over the assignments. Like other silversmiths, their work falls into an art/design dichotomy. Dong, however, brushed off questions as to whether metal work is a craft or an art, perhaps because he has heard it a million times before.

"It's frustrating when people say it's not real art. In a way, it [metal art] is more advantageous. We can make art for money and art for the museum," he said.

Exhibition notes:

What: Forging Red Studio

Where: B1, 155 Heping Rd Sec. 2, Taipei (106台北市安和路2155B1)

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