Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Ink painting searches for a place in the modern

Many traditional art froms have sought to make themselves relevant to a new century with varying degrees of success

By Susan Kendzulak  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Chen Chien-fa's Fleeting Time

PHOTO COURTESY OF TFAM

As we are all excitedly awaiting the grand-opening next month of the newly refurbished National Palace Museum, which promises to be well worth the wait, there is another exhibition currently on view to satisfy our fix for Chinese-style art. Ink Transformation: Modern Ink Painting in Taiwan at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum provides a short history lesson for Chinese ink painting created in Taiwan from the mid-20th century to the present.

The Museum wants to show that the genre of Chinese ink painting is not staid, nor conventional, but can encompass today's world concerns. The works are installed on neutral gray walls which allow for the brilliance of the colored inks to shine forth.

The first work in the show is Yu Cheng-yao's (余承堯) Yangtze River, a large screen rolled out on a table that shows a multi-perspective god-like panoramic view of the great river. Nature dominates, and even though this was painted in 1973, it does not depict any environmental destruction or pollution, but presents an overwhelming pastoral scene that seems to belong to another era.

More experimental landscapes can be seen such as Chen Chi-kuan's (陳其寬) 2002 Xanadu with its overall patterning of black and gray blobs that "read" as mountains.

Some ink painting done in the 1990s looks like it could have been done by the New York Abstract Expressionist painters of the mid-20th century, making the viewer think about the continuity of art history and concepts of originality. Chu Ko's (楚戈) Mountains and Ravines painted with its 20cm-wide brush gives the sense of urgency with its quick-painted movements.

More conceptual paintings are on view. Li Yuan-chia (李元佳) Work III on rice paper, a series of small finely rendered ink circles that appear as a sort of a Morse code, but the care with which it was painted seems to symbolize that each drawn circle is not a mere dot, but epitomizes the whole of existence.

Exhibition Notes

What: Ink Transformation: Modern Ink Painting in Taiwan

Where: Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Telephone: (02) 2595-7656

When: To Feb.4

On the net: http://www.tfam.gov.tw


Some works go flying off the scroll. Chen Mei-chen's (陳玫蓁) Floating By 2003 ink-painted cut-out fragments in the shapes of clouds are installed behind 3D lattice-strip frames. Wu Chi-tao's (吳繼濤) Romantic-style painting Restlessness gives the sense of the infinite as the tree tops swirl and birds fly up to the sun; it is as if you could hear the mad flutter of wings, while being dazzled by the streaming rays of sunlight.

Pan Hsin-hua's (潘信華) One Day at first glance seems to be a traditional-style scroll painting until the signs from the modern world encroach, such as corporate logos and brand names. Lien Jui-fen (連瑞芬) exhibits a grid of 20 small framed paintings of landscapes that play with scale so that the ambiguous imagery could be a microscopic scene or a vast landscape.

Lin Ju (林鉅), who is known for his macabre paintings, exhibits an ink painting done in 1999 that shows his mastery of drawing. The piece causes some conflict in the viewer, as the quality of drawing is to be gently savored, but the garishness of the headless torsos and lashing tongues out of a body's orifices can be repulsive to some.

To show that ink painting is not confined to its ivory tower, there is Yuan Chin-ta's (袁金塔) installation of a squat toilet bowl with rolls of toilet paper containing calligraphic texts. This may seem to debase the genre, but is more likely an indictment of the cultural institution.

Yuan Zhan (袁旃), who gained international recognition for her participation in the Istanbul Biennial 2001, is represented by her multicolored landscapes that simultaneously look traditional and futuristic. Overall, the exhibition shows the strides made in ink painting over the past 50 years, but also inadvertently asks whether this is a medium that can continue into the 21st century.

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