Looking at Chang Jui-pin’s (張瑞頻) new series of gouache on polyethylene “bucket men” paintings, I was reminded of Oscar Wilde’s dictum: When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.
New Taiwan dollars, Japanese yen, Chinese renminbi, Korean won and Hong Kong dollars are among the currencies the artist reproduces in her solo exhibition Cash Bucket < Ever Increasing (錢桶 < 越來越大), currently on view at ArtDoor Gallery. To lend the paintings a larger-than-life, almost archetypal, aspect, Chang enlarges the original banknotes, slightly alters their design, and replaces the original personages with her bucket men, plump figures dressed in green and blue with a black bucket on their head, which are meant to hide the frightening contingencies of history.
Diverging thematically from other money art, which generally disparages rampant materialism or social inequality, Chang’s paintings symbolize the “mental and physical baptism” or estrangement one undergoes after arriving in a new country.
But the works also suggest that a country should be seen as more than the sum total of its currency, perhaps rare in our money-obsessed times. With Korea’s 50,000 KRW, 2009 Edition (2013), this takes a humorous turn as the bucket men dance gangnam style within the frame of a smartphone. In others, the bucket men become the heroic figures in epochal events depicted in the scenes that a particular country deems worthy of putting on its legal tender. Rather than subverting the symbolism of money, Chang employs it — perhaps a little too superficially — to celebrate difference.
■ ArtDoor Gallery (藝境畫廊), 5F, 36, Ln 164, Hulin St, Taipei City (台北市虎林街164巷36號5樓), tel: (02) 2345-6773. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 2pm to 7pm
■ Until June 2