Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 12 News List

The art of war

An exhibition in Taipei reveals that there is more to Taiwan’s military cadets than bullets and brawn

By Enru Lin  /  Staff reporter

Pan Cheng-hong, At the Dining Table (2014).

Photo: Enru Lin, Taipei Times

It’s Friday and 10 cadets from the Fu Hsing Kang (復興崗) military academy are rushing from end to end of an art gallery in Taipei’s Ximending, preparing for their public debut.

“We really, really hope that people will come. That is why we do it out here and not only on campus,” Chang Hui-yi (張慧儀) says, as all around her the cadets — predominately young men — sweep debris and lovingly set articles of art on the wall.

Together, they have created a microfilm and clay stop-motion animation that depict the daily life of young officers.

Each cadet has also produced a large-scale oil painting and a large-scale ink painting, as the culmination of their four years in the fine arts division of the military academy.

Chang, a slim 23-year-old who comes from Greater Kaohsiung, is in charge of the Exhibition for Combat Art (硬漢).

Fu Hsing Kang’s Department of Applied Art holds an exhibition for seniors every year, but this one has taken on the distinct mission of peeling back the curtain between civilians and the armed forces.

“We are making a great effort to present ourselves to the public,” she says.

Compared to past work, this year’s paintings are less abstract, and more literal and realistic. They are also strikingly personal, featuring people as subjects — often themselves.

Gun ’n’ Rose, Chang’s oil painting, is a representation of herself with a rifle, surrounded by a wreath of roses.

Pan Cheng-hong (潘政宏), a tall dark-faced cadet, has also painted a self portrait. At the Dining Table (餐桌上) is an oil painting featuring four young men, all him, eating in the mess hall.

“They are me at a different ages,” Pan says.

Pan as a college junior is chewing his food distractedly, and Pan as a senior is gazing dreamily at younger versions of himself.

Exhibition notes

What: Exhibition for Combat Art (硬漢)

When: Today to May 23 from 9am to 5pm

Where: Armed Forces Cultural Center (國軍文藝中心), 69, Zhonghua Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市中華路一段69號)

Admission: Free

On the Net: Search for “硬漢” on Facebook


“As you see, I get more relaxed as I age. There I am in freshman year, sitting up straight. Here I am as a sophomore, glaring at myself as a freshman. I’m helping my old self improve on his bad habits and to become an officer,” he says.

In a neighboring painting by Huang Teng-yao (黃騰嶢), a fire blazes in the background as soldiers engage in military exercises “in the city,” which are more frenetic and dramatic than wilderness exercises, Huang says.

Yeh Chia-wen’s (葉佳汶) work is a diptych.

In one painting, a male officer in camouflage is surrounded by men in plainclothes. In the other, a young woman officer in Yeh’s likeness is surrounded by civilian women.

Both officers are alone, standing slightly apart from the others with strange and conflicted expressions.

“The image of army officers is quite bad. We live on campus, but we know what the public thinks about us, especially after the case of Corporal Hung,” Yeh says, referring to the death of 24-year-old conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) last July due to abuse, which spurred a mass demonstration.

“So we wanted to share with the public something about ourselves,” she says.

THE NEW FACES OF RECRUITMENT

The division of fine arts at Fu Hsing Kang is tiny: This year, it is graduating just 10 students.

Each is trained much like other cadets are trained, as a career officer first. After leaving Fu Hsing Kang, they will go on to posts across Taiwan, where they will take on routine command duties but also visual media projects — including ones in the defense ministry’s recruitment campaign.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defense set the voluntary military recruitment target at 10,557 by year’s end, as part of a goal to achieve an all-volunteer force by 2017.

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