Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 15 News List

A rolling stone gathers no moss

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wandering artists Wu Rong-bi shows off his wares in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTOS: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

He arrives on a bike, looks up at the sky and finds a place to lay down his mat. He then spreads out an assortment of colored stones and waits like a fisherman for a bite.

Locals and tourists wander past, glance at the collection, do a double take and often walk back to have a closer look, attracted by the lure of the brightly painted stones.

Wandering artist Wu Rong-bi (吳融賁) then reels them in by telling them about his art, informing them each stone is unique and every pattern is "copyrighted."

He tells them that he finds the stones in Keelung, where there is a plentiful source of the flattened circular pebbles (about 3cm to 5cm in diameter) he prefers.

He says that some of the stones' designs are inspired by dreams, or are the product of his calligraphy studies. He uses bright acrylic paints. Some of them have African or Asian geometric patterns, others are figurative, with simplified forms such as an elephant or a leaf.

"Most paintings only have one plane or face," he says, "But these stones are three-dimensional art and are therefore that much more special."

Wu has been a Taipei City Government approved artist since last year, when he was given a pass that he hangs around his neck. It allows him to sell his wares on the street, in the Shida area off Hoping East Road most afternoons, or outside the Eslite store on Dunhua South Road in the evenings.

He teaches social studies to kids part time but his main income is from selling the stones, which retail from NT$300 to NT$200. He gives bonafide students 50 percent discount.

Erica Chen, a student from Texas, thought the stones were "pretty interesting. ... They're good value and great souvenirs that I can give friends when I get back home."

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