At first glance, it’s difficult to see how Kuo Jen-wei’s (郭人維) paintings fall within the Chinese landscape painting tradition. The works look more like an architects rendering of a futuristic building — not unlike the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, where Kuo’s exhibition, Yi Shan (移山), is currently on display. The title, which literally means “moving mountains,” is a metaphor for a free-style approach to painting, here framed within a dialogue between an Asian painting convention and Constructivism, an early 20th century avant-garde movement in Russia that exerted a wide-ranging influence on subsequent trends in art, architecture, theater, cinema and industrial design.
Three series make up the exhibition. The first, The Luxury Flats (豪宅系列), is a conversation between tradition and modernity. Architectural structures house natural scenes that produce a synthesis of painting and architecture — free-floating, textured surfaces with hard-edged and flat lines. The stacking and splitting of these architectural spaces is also a nod to geometrical abstraction, while hinting at the kind of interiors we may experience in the future as the earth warms.
Taking its cue from the Constructivist Exhibition of 1921, and the Chinese painting manual, Mustard Seed Garden (芥子園畫傳), 5x5=25 (5x5=25系列) groups together 25 paintings that study and interpret space in a manner that attempts to erase the boundary between painting and architecture. As the museum states in its exhibition essay, “the exploration and study of the abstraction in this series transcend the strict limits of architecture and introduces intersections of geometric planes of color to generate diagonal motion and translucency.”
To See Large within Small (小中現大系列), the third series, is a nod to theatrical scenery. For the Constructivists, the stage played a vital role in providing a forum for concrete experimentation, while acting as a bridge between a vision of a new reality and its materialization. The works on display in this section build landscapes within landscapes in the tradition of theatrical design. As a result, the composition has a sense of setting, a dramatization of the small space and the tonal paintings suggest the effect of stage lighting.
By combining disparate aesthetic ideas of painting and space, Kuo offers the viewer a different way of seeing both, while merging them in a dynamic dialogue that reverberates long after leaving the museum.
■ Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM, 台北市立美術館), 181, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市中山北路三段181號), tel: (02) 2595-7656. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30am to 5:30pm and until 8:30pm on Saturdays. Admission: NT$30
■ Until Sept. 29