Thu, Sep 14, 2006 - Page 13 News List

An artist who holds Taiwan close to his heart

Apex Pang-Soong Lin gained worldwide recognition with a poster series called ‘Taiwan is Drifting.’His work is on sale at Eslite Bookstore until Sunday

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

 The work of a successful artist often has a unique signature or quality that is instantly recognizable, whether it's the pointillism of Georges Pierre Seurat or the screwy surreal landscapes of Salvador Dali.

 You see the painting and know the artist because of this trademark "look."

 Designer Apex Pang-Soong Lin (林磐聳) made his mark in 1993 with a poster series called Taiwan is Drifting, that has black and white, Taiwan-shaped clouds floating above a royal blue ocean and an ancient map of the country in palimpsest.

 It's a pretty picture that encapsulates the state of the nation, floating like a nameless cloud, blown by the winds of politics and fate, destination unknown.

 "How do you catch an image that is drifting? For instance, Canada's image is of a maple leaf, the US has its iconic flag, Italy is recognized by its boot shape. I thought, like Italy, Taiwan was best identified by its shape," Lin said.

 It brought Lin recognition and he has since become one of the foremost designers in the world. Phaidon Press, a leading publisher of books on visual arts, rated him as one of the top 100 graphic designers in 2003.

 His works hang in the National Museum of History, Germany's Cottbus Museum and other international galleries. His commercial offerings include the iconic logo for China Telecom (中華電信) and he has been behind various government-sponsored image-building projects. He is also a consultant designer for the Beijing Olympics.

 As a graduate and currently dean and professor of National Taiwan Normal University's fine arts department he has arguably been the country's most influential visual image maker and teacher.

 "I think I am lucky to have been regarded so highly. ... I have been in the right place at the right time with the right idea. This is how I came up with Taiwan is Drifting," Lin said at our interview last week held in the Eslite book store, where his latest solo exhibition, My Homeland is being held.

 Once again, Lin has returned to the theme of a new Taiwanese identity, this time by producing 21cm by 27cm ink drawings of plants, mountains or abstract forms, all in the shape of Taiwan.

 These 40-odd prints are supplemented by another, more recent series, of 10.5cm by 15cm works, that are arranged together in a series of 20. As befits a commercial artist the larger prints are for sale at around NT$6,600 and you can also buy mugs, hats and tea sets.

 The drawings feature not only Taiwan's flora, fauna (such as the endangered land-locked salmon) and geography, but also express a range of styles.

 William Morris and his decorative arts and crafts approach is an obvious influence and there are also nods to Albrecht Durer, Chinese and Japanese folk art, pointillism, even pop art and abstract works.

 The point, it seems, is that Taiwan is a mix of influences, but always retains its identity.

 "The identity of a country is important to me. Actually you must define yourself, and this is always done in opposition to everyone else. My work says Lin from Taiwan."

 "In the 17th century Westerners came here and drew maps of the country and these were the world's image of Taiwan. Now we have two identities because there are two flags [Republic of China and Chinese Taipei] and this is what the world sees now."

 When it was suggested to Lin the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] had like him co-opted the map of Taiwan, in its logo and flag, Lin replied this was political and was not the intent of his work.

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