Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Japan's footprints tracked in local art

The Japanese colonial era left its mark on Taiwanese society, especially in the field of art

By Susan Kendzulak  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Li Mei-shu (1902 to 1983) and Red Shirt.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF TFAM

Bamboo in the Stormy Night: A Reflection on Taiwanese Art During the New Culture Movement in the Japanese Era is a thematic exhibition of paintings and sculptures from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum on view until March 26. The collected works, including ink paintings, calligraphic works, landscape paintings and bronzes explore the strong and profound Japanese cultural influence on Taiwan's art scene in the early 20th century.

The exhibition is separated into six themes allowing for easier audience accessibility. Calligraphic scrolls are exhibited under the theme of "The Land of Milk and Honey": a reference to the island's plentiful resources and potential for economic development that attracted artists from Japan and China.

In 1899, Japanese calligrapher Houjou Suga founded the Taiwan Visual Arts Society. Also during that fertile time the Japanese colonial government commissioned artist Bunkyo Nomura to paint local vistas for a series of postcards which set the stage for many Japanese artists to paint and exhibit in Taiwan.

On view is one such work: Kota Gobara's folding screen titled Taiwanese Landscape has an overall patterning of small dots and strokes and is vibrantly painted.

The Torch Is Passed is a group of traditional ink scroll paintings by artists who arrived from China during the early years of the Showa period (1926 to 1988). The mainland artists' works were rooted in traditional painting techniques and gestures, but to local artists the experience was a refreshing eye opener as the works provided a new take on landscapes, flora and fauna. Lee Hsia (李霞) shows off his cartoon-like technique in Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity.

The theme "Cultural Assault" explores the rapid and progressive changes that occurred in the local art scene. In 1921, the Taiwan Culture Association and the Hsin Min Bao newspaper were established and a cultural renaissance was born in Taiwan. Gouache and Impressionist painting techniques from Europe were introduced to the island and became the hottest trend. However this outside influence merged with the native culture resulting in the New Tradition.

Seigai Kinosita's painting of Danshui is sublime. He persuaded local officials to provide a forum for artists to show their work and in 1927 the Taiwan Exhibition was founded. During this period of strong Japanese influence, works were predominantly made using water-based materials and the imagery was of everyday life, which led to a movement of local awareness.

However, one work stands out under this theme as its subject matter and it is not the typical imagery of egrets and pastoral landscapes. Shisen Ishihara's Refugees in Tarla depicts a desolate family stranded in front of a church.

"A New Artistic Dawn" puts together lyrical works of the period when cultural exchanges really flourished.

The Meiji Restoration and wes-ternization transformed Japan's cultural scene and affected the local art scene as more Taiwanese artists studied painting in Japan.

Not only did these artists lead active art lives in Taiwan, but they also exhibited at shows in Japan such as the Tokyo Imperial Painting Association in 1918 and in 1933.

The theme "Celebrating the Beauty of Taiwanese Life" shows the work of several prominent Japanese painters who were born in Taiwan and drew on their love of Taiwan folk art.

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