Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - Page 15 News List

The gloss of the new

Curator Suan Hooi-wah has put together a fine exhibit of young Taiwanese photographers. So why is it hidden away in MOCA’s Studio gallery?

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff Reporter

Sim Chang, Pink! — Pink Winka (2009).

Photo courtesy of MOCA, Taipei

After largely ignoring photography over the past decades, Taiwan’s galleries, museums and art fairs are duly making up for lost time.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA, Taipei) steps into the picture with New Generation Photographers of Taiwan (台灣新世代攝影), a group show that presents the work of 13 “up-and-coming talents.” According to the exhibition introduction, the show attempts to reveal the “perspective of the new era, which goes beyond the traditional and conservative notion of photography held by past generations.”

Who are the old fuddy-duddy photographers that the museum’s blurb refers to? Perhaps Chang Tsai (張才), honored with a retrospective at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum last year? Or, closer to our “era,” Magnum photographer Chang Chien-chi (張乾琦)? It doesn’t say. In any event, this is MOCA’s first group show devoted purely to Taiwanese photographers (last year’s four-person exhibit at the Zhongshan MRT excluded), and it’s perhaps telling that it is shown in its Studio gallery rather than in the museum’s main exhibit space.

Still, curator Suan Hooi-wah (全會華), who runs the Taiwan International Visual Art Center, a gallery devoted to photography, has put together a fine exhibit — though the variety of work on display makes a coherent theme practically impossible. The show does, however, offer a panoramic perspective of what preoccupies this “new generation” of photographers: landscapes, people and art. Sound familiar? It should. And many of the photographers give explicit reference to what has come before.

Every section comes with an artist statement, succinct in style, as a guide for the viewer. Take Sim Chang (張哲榕): He uses “the power of pink to turn this world into an amusement park full of happiness and joy.” He’s not kidding. These cutesy photographs, many shot at theme parks, depict a doll-like woman dressed in a garish pink skirt and yellow rubber boots. Think waipai (outside photography, 外拍), popularized during the Japanese colonial era and revised over the past five years as amateur photographers and would-be models hit Taiwan’s most scenic locations.

Exhibition notes

What: New Generation Photographers of Taiwan (台灣新世代攝影)

When: Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Until March 20

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA, Taipei), 39 Changan W Rd, Taipei City (台北市長安西路39號). Tel: (02) 2552-3720

On the Net:

Admission: NT$50

Though Feng Chun-lan (馮君藍) whimsically dubs himself a “foolish sinner,” his monochrome portraits — a man holding an oil lamp or a pouting boy staring melancholically at the viewer — are anything but whimsical. Feng, a pastor at the Taiwan Chinese Rhenish Church (台灣中華基督教禮賢會), employs the precepts of Christian anthropology to create “spiritual portraits” that are, in this reviewer’s opinion, the show’s best because of their haunting psychological depictions of their subjects.

There are also some works evoking particular art styles, such as Deng Bo-ren’s (鄧博仁) delightfully amateurish collage works that comment on fashion and consumerism, and Chou Chih-lung’s (周志龍) surreal bedroom scenes. Elaine Lee’s (李宣儀) multiple-exposure color photographs, without digital manipulation, were inspired by the “atmospheric impressions” of 19th century paintings. For this reviewer, however, they are expressionist renderings at best, reminiscent of Zao Wou-ki’s (趙無極) late-1960s autumnal paintings.

But for the most part, Taiwan’s changing landscapes and cityscapes serve as the exhibit’s focal point. At first glance, Chung Shun-lung’s (鍾順龍) pictures of concrete columns (the kind used to construct freeways) look like drab photos taken by an engineer. Twenty minutes later, however, our party of three was still discussing the images’ techniques and topography.

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