Wed, Mar 18, 2009 - Page 15 News List

[ ART JOURNAL ] Shining waves, dancing shadows

Jang Tarng-kuh realist paintings show Taiwan’s natural beauty in all its bounteous diversity

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

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.


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


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

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