Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Inspired by scotch

A residency at Glenfiddich Distillery's international artist program gave Yao Jui-chung the time he needed to recharge his creative energies. The results are now on display at Taipei's IT Park

By Susan Kendzulak  /  Contributing Reporter

These works by Yao Jui-chung, created during his stay in Dufftown, Scotland, reflect his hobbies: mountain climbing, relaxing in hot springs and playing chess.


The Glenfiddich Distillery, famed for its single malt scotch, is also home to one of the more innovative international artist residency programs, which began in 2002. It all started when the company wanted to establish a corporate art collection at the distillery.

The artist residency, which is located in the several empty houses on the distillery premises, provides funding, accommodation and studio space for eight artists every summer and stipulates that residents have to create an artwork for the collection. Artists are asked to draw inspiration from Glenfiddich's brew and the local environment.

Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-chung (姚瑞中) spent his three-month residency creating mainly ink drawings combined with gold leaf on handmade paper. The framed results are on display at the IT Park until Dec. 8

The exhibition opening last week at the IT Park was attended by the residency's director, clad in a kilt and sporting dreadlocks.

The residency - located in Dufftown, Scotland, with a population of 2,000 - was a contrast to the hectic pace of Taipei life, which Yao is used to. The artist, who is well-known in the capital's art circle, helps run the nearby VT Art Salon, has published several books, makes videos, photos and drawings and teaches at a university. The Scottish town's slow pace and the country's pre-Christian roots sparked Yao's frenetic burst of creativity.

The drawings include depictions of Yao's hobbies - bathing in hot springs, mountain climbing, appreciating nature, playing chess - while referring to classical Chinese painting from the late Ming Dynasty.

Yao's previous work took a critical view of Taiwan's turbulent political and social situation. In his new works, he has continued painting his dog-faced characters, which represent cynics and devils. Yet, these drawings seem to be the weakest of the series, perhaps because they illustrate the contentious dichotomy of local politics and lose any poetic feeling.

Yao's strongest drawings are those that reference Scottish mythology, ancient Pictish stone circles, the dramatic Scottish highlands and Chinese landscape painting.

Wonderful: The Holy Ridge under the Milk-way, a figuratively-shaped mountain that is formed by intensely worked black ink scribbles, shows the artist's erratic, quick-handed movements. Gold leaf rivulets stream forth from mysterious inner mountain sources. This huge mountain range dwarfs a red-cloaked figure who appears to be at one with nature, enjoying the heavenliness of the scene.

Graphically, Wonderful: Crossing the Taiwan Strait by a Leaf is a perfect work of art. White crested waves grasping the air like greedy hands are finely delineated in black lines and carry a delicate Buddha-like figure on a small gold leaf.

The mystical Wonderful: Looking the Waterfall in Tain-Da-Na is a good example of Yao's merging of Scottish and Chinese landscapes. It feels like a real place, but also a dreamlike, imaginary landscape.

Yao, who abandoned the classical for the avant-garde, was pleasantly surprised to rediscover the richness of traditional art. It was his studied knowledge of the past that helped him create something new. And that is probably one of the best reasons to have an artist residency program. I'll drink to that.

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