VIEW THIS PAGE Wandering out of the Metaphysical Gallery last weekend, I was trying to think of a Taiwanese artist who, over the past few decades, has depicted Taiwan’s natural landscape in a realistic style. Aside from a few sculptors, I couldn’t come up with a single one. This because, perhaps, of recent trends in contemporary art, with its craze for digital media. Or perhaps local artists prefer to represent humans or cityscapes. Regardless, it seems strange that, few, if any, of Taiwan’s artists of late have represented the country’s natural beauty on canvas.
The work of Jang Tarng-kuh (張堂庫) prompted these musings because his 22 pieces currently on display at the gallery do just that. The oil-on-canvas landscape paintings — flowing rivers, verdant foliage and mountain scenes — and still-life paintings of flowers and fruit depict the diversity of lush plants and wide-open perspectives found around Yangmingshan (陽明山), where the 41-year-old artist lives and works.
Jang’s process of creation is similar to that of one of the early impressionists. Prior to applying paint to canvas, he sketches outdoors, scrupulously rendering the movement of a body of water, for example, or the dew on a cabbage leaf. He then returns to his cottage studio and, using the drawings and his memory, proceeds to create his works. He often returns to the forest or field to gain a deeper sense of a branch’s texture or a flower’s color. What results are realistic paintings of exceptional detail that often take two or three years to complete.
Pop of Plantain Trees (芭蕉樹的普普風) is fairly representative of Jang’s mountain landscapes. A cluster of plantains, its vibrant leaves rendered in emerald and malachite take up most of the canvas. A field of yellowish-green grass in the mid-ground stretches into a background of misted mountains — a kind of Garden of Eden idyll of bountiful greenery.
A branch emerging from the top left-hand side of the canvas and leaves shooting up from a riverbank at the lower right are the only hints of perspective in Shining Wave Dancing Shadow (波光舞影). The river reflects opaline shimmers of light from the sky, while a single leaf creates a ripple in the water’s surface, making the branches appear as though dancing. Drizzle at the Pond (湖畔細雨) captures the circling undulations made by gently falling rain on a luminous azure surface tinged with purple and green.
The still-life paintings, though done with domesticated objects such as plates and tablecloths, retain the emblem of plentitude. The five luminous persimmons of Golden Year (鎏金歲月) are placed inside a bowl sitting on a crimson tablecloth with flower patterns.
Less impressive for this reviewer were Jang’s series of domesticated cats frolicking in nature. A feline plays in the luminous undergrowth in Hide and Seek (捉迷藏), while Afternoon Talk (午后) features a cat lounging in a tree as another looks on. Although these canvases retain his impressive palette and attention to detail, they come off more as greeting card images than fine art.
It is frustrating and disappointing that the English-language version of the artist’s introduction — as well as the Chinese-language version on which it was based — offers practically no insight into Jang’s thinking as an artist. Instead it relies on statements such as, “Every present stands on its past track to expect the next splendid instant,” or, “Every today is the tomorrow of yesterday,” as a means of explicating on the artist’s work. How these words are meant to convey to visitors a deeper understanding of an artist who deserves recognition is totally beyond me. VIEW THIS PAGE
WHAT: The Day I Saw Past and Future Sceneries Playing (那天我看見昨天和明天風景在遊戲)
WHERE: Metaphysical Art Gallery (形而上畫廊), 7F, 219, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段219號7樓)
WHEN: Until April 8. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 6:30pm
ON THE NET: www.artmap.com.tw
Tobie Openshaw is confident that Taiwan’s government has good reasons for not including him in the Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, which launched at the beginning of this month. That’s just as well, because it seems unlikely he’ll ever discover the logic by which it was decided that he, along with other foreign residents not currently married to Taiwan citizens, shouldn’t receive the vouchers. “We’ve stood side-by-side with our Taiwanese friends through the COVID-19 crisis, complying with government measures, cheering its success and sharing that news with the world at large. If the stimulus coupons are meant to be spent to keep
When the BBC approached Caroline Chia (查慧中) in July 2018, and asked her to make arrangements so a documentary-making team could gather footage showing how global warming may be increasing typhoon intensity, she delivered everything that was in her power to provide. Chia got permission for the BBC crew to shoot inside the Central Emergency Operation Center, film the army’s disaster-relief efforts and follow mayors around as they supervised the cleaning up. “In total, it was about one week of work for my cousin — who’s my business partner — and I,” recalls Chia, who was born in Taipei but
John Thomson was a pioneering photographer in the 19th century and one of the first to journey to East Asia. In 1871, while in China he met Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, a fellow Scotsman who was returning to Taiwan, where he served as a Presbyterian missionary. Maxwell’s description of Taiwan intrigued Thomson, and the photographer decided to accompany Maxwell to the island then known to Westerners as Formosa. Disembarking at Takow (today’s Kaohsiung) on April 2, 1871, Thomson brought with him the best photography equipment of his time, along with thousands of glass plates — an estimated 200kg of equipment. The
Every time Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信) saw a liver cancer patient in his ward, it reminded him of his father, who died from the disease at the age of 49. Historically, Taiwanese suffered from an unusually high prevalence of liver ailments as well as cancer, and Chen was troubled by the number of terminal patients. After decades of research, Chen and other experts found that Taiwan had the highest percentage of hepatitis B carriers in the world, which often developed into cirrhosis and cancer. In the early 1980s, he served as a key member of the Hepatitis Prevention Council (肝炎防治委員會), which