Photography’s enhanced profile in Taiwan’s art circles over the past year is finally paying dividends.
Three superb exhibits currently on view at galleries in Taipei offer something for anyone interested in photography — whether photojournalism, staged photography or more traditional black-and-white images — and explore concepts that are both timeless and contemporary.
Aki Gallery, a five-minute walk from Yuanshan MRT Station (圓山捷運站), leads the way with Elsewhere — Atmosphere (異境‧意境), a group show that presents the work of six contemporary Chinese photographers “born between 1960 and 1980 [who] bring different aspects of China’s modern and contemporary experience to life,” according to the press release.
Two of the photographers stand out for their use of meticulously staged images, and a third for her provocative humor.
Yellow River (黃河), Chen Nong’s (陳農) eight-panel montage, is an historical epic depicting violent peasant rebellions in China dating from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. Like most of Chen’s recent staged photography, for which he employs a working method similar to filmmaking and begins with a storyboard, Yellow River required months of preparation.
When the concept has crystallized on the page, Chen finds props and creates costumes suited to the scene and then travels to the location — here the picturesque Hukou Waterfall (壺口瀑布) — to stage the scenes he wants to capture. After spending considerable time positioning dozens of models, Chen takes only a few shots. From there, he develops the film into medium-sized photos that he touches up with paint, lending them a visual language reminiscent of early glass-plate photography.
What: Elsewhere — Atmosphere (異境‧意境)
When: Until Jan. 2. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from noon to 6:30pm. Tel: (02) 2599-1171
Where: Aki Gallery (也趣), 141 Minzu W Rd, Taipei City (台北市民族西路141號)
On the Net: www.akigallery.com.tw
What: On the Road (迢迢路)
When: Until Jan. 1. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 1pm to 10pm. Tel: (02) 2507-7243
Where: IT Park Gallery (伊通公園), 41 Yitong St, Taipei City (台北市伊通街41號)
On the Net: www.itpark.com.tw
What: Wounded Angels (受傷天使) and Religious Space (信仰空間)
When: Until Jan. 2. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from noon to 6pm. Tel: (02) 2773-3347
Where: Taiwan International Visual Arts Center (台灣國際視覺藝術中心), 29, Ln 45, Liaoning St, Taipei City (台北市遼寧街45巷29號)
Each of the eight panels evokes in phenomenal detail the violent class struggles that have echoed throughout Chinese history and hint at what could lie in store for the country.
Maleonn’s (馬良, aka Ma Liang) series of photographs titled What Love Is (愛是什麼) is a surreal meditation on love in the form of a miniature, though sumptuously decorated, stage. Emblems of romance — fire, butterflies, magpies, flowers and decorative lights — are skillfully arranged as dreamlike tableaux that suggest love is a fiction of our own making.
Some may recoil from Zhou Hongbin’s (周宏斌) series called Aquarium because they appear to depict cruelty to animals — but that’s the point. The incendiary images show rabbits struggling to the surface of aquariums. Some appear serene while others are panicking, a tension that both provokes and entices the viewer: Are they swimming or drowning?
Over at IT Park, Taiwanese photographer Chen Shun-chu (陳順築) returns to basics with On the Road (迢迢路). The 57 photos on display were shot with a 35mm lens using black-and-white 400-speed film, and developed without post-processing. Chen’s visual language harks back to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment,” or the “simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression,” as the Frenchman wrote.
But whereas Cartier-Bresson applied this philosophy to capturing people, Chen’s decisive moments are found in the natural and artificial textures of Penghu (澎湖), with light and shadow serving as fleeting events.
Meanwhile, Taiwan International Visual Art Center (TIVAC) presents two Chinese artists in a show that examines religion and spirituality.