The Carton King

I am BACK!!! (Well, I have been back for a while now, however I was really caught up with my work.)

For my interlude, I want to introduce you to the Carton King of 清境(pronounced qing1 jing4). Located a one and a half hour journey from Taichung, 1700m above sea level, the district overlooks the Taiwanese “alps” and is also known to be the Switzerland of Taiwan. Some buildings in the area have stretched the idea of Switzerland to the extreme, with architecture similar to that of the Europeans’ – a black and white timber hotel as well as a few brightly coloured buildings that bring to mind Tudor architecture. One of those buildings is home to the “Carton King”.

IMG_3710

Now as some of you might have guessed, the Carton King is not really a person to see in action but the concept of taking cardboard and changing it into other forms. The shop is decorated with many cardboard based item. as you enter the shop, you will be greeted by a small cardboard house. Its roof and walls made withIMG_3708 a mix of corrugated cardboard panels that give the house both strength and texture. If you turn right, a short corridor will open out into a cozy little souvenir shop made up of two spaces, both of which house countless cardboard products for sale. These items range from phone cases to toys and even bags and tablet cases. I am not really sure if these creations are recycled from used cardboard (as there are too many products to be made of the same medium), but it really inspires viewers to attempt to do just that. With the cardboard packaging that we receive our televisions, phones, blenders, etc. we can in actual fact, with a little bit of effort and a great deal of imagination, manipulate them and transform them into items that we can use for our everyday life.

IMG_3705On the left, there are a few edible products for sale. Obviously they are not edible cardboard, however, the packaging is truly interesting. In line with the theme of the place, most of the box materials are in their raw state – corrugated or solid cardboard in that brown earthy colour.

IMG_3709

But the artistic, inspiring and innovative creations do not stop there. Outside, next to a 7-eleven stands two small shops selling all sorts of “indie” wears, cards, etc. Above the 7-eleven stands a restaurant serving fusion cuisine. However, the food is not what stands out, rather the furniture that you dine on will catch your eye – they are all made of cardboard. By manipulating the materials in such an innovative manner, the manufacturer truly stretches the material to its limits, making a seemingly “fragile” and everyday material into something functional.

Truly inspiring. Nuff said.

Await the final act….

 

Advertisements

The Potter’s Hands

For the second act, I bring to you the pottery of the Taiwan, coming from the small town of  鶯歌 (pronounced ying1 ge3). This town is roughly an hour from Taipei by local train and is home to Taiwan’s ceramic history and culture. It boasts numerous streets full of ceramics and pottery shops and various museums holding numerous ongoing exhibitions of the country’s ceramics history. Also, within 鶯歌 there is a large urban park, home to countless ceramic and mosaic works that town above the average human, truly a sight to behold.

20141119_161641

But what I want share with everyone is the pottery museum – Yingge Ceremics Museum. Located a short walk away from the train station,the museum is a three-storey building housing rich the history, countless works and knowledge of techniques of the local ceramics masters in Taiwan. Inclusive of the basement, three floors hold the wealth of knowledge  about pottery in the country ranging from the distant past during the dynasties, to even the prediction of the art’s use in the future. The topmost floor houses an art gallery currently showcasing many works from ceramicist around the country.

The first few pictures show parts of the permanent gallery, displaying the everyday uses of pottery and ceramics. These include conventional vases, pots and pans and statues of chinese deities, even the occasional toilet bowl. The last two exhibit the various techniques of glazing and textural play, explaining the different methods adopted by artists and craftsmen to create the objects we so often take for granted as nothing more than a container for flowers or food.

IMG_3801

Revolving around the theme of “the vessel”, countless works decorate the top floor in artists’ perception of a container. Titled “Great Talents, Great Scope: A Cross-field Exhibition of Vessel Art”, the works in the gallery manifest themselves in not only in the form of conventional plates, bowls, teapots and saucers, but aesthetically pleasing fountains, artistic interpretations of the conventional cutlery and utensils as well as abstract process based works. The works display the each artist’s excellent craftsmanship and sensitivity to the medium which probably has taken years to master. Each piece draws the audience in for closer inspection, infused with rich colour and texture. Conventional plates and bowls are seen to have been carefully glazed with the perfect about of oxide or glaze, adding vibrant icy tones as well as rich earthy ones to many piece, bringing the entire floor to life with ceramic installations, series works as well as numerous stand alone pieces. The slideshow below showcases a gallery of some of the works on display:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As can be seen, the masters of these piece have taken great time and effort to create what we now can appreciate in the gallery. Each piece is an attempt to make us rethink about the stereotypes that we have create about “the vessel”. The vessel is more than just a simple container to hold food, water, etc. but a manifestation of a container of something that goes beyond the tangible into the realm of the metaphysical. Personally, I feel that each piece is also a vessel for a part of the artist’s soul, for in art, if the heart and soul is not put into the art-making process, the final result would be meaningless and hollow. Audiences, trained in art or not, will be able to see that the work before them is an empty shell and will also be able to tell from how the artist carries himself if he truly believed his work to be a “success”.

This exhibition will be running till the 18th March 2015 and it is one I recommend for ceramics enthusiast as well as art students and artist alike. Regardless of your specialisation or experience, I am sure you will find something to inspire your next work, whether it is the medium of the different techniques adopted by the artists. In many ways, this exhibition has inspired me greatly to rethink my concepts, particularly the one that I have been sharing about – space. For like a vessel, space is greatly overlook and comes in many shapes and sizes. I hope to adopt the various techniques that ceramicist have use somehow in my journey and experimentation with space. But what has inspired me the most is the curator(s) use of lighting and the environment of the gallery to create an exhibition that manages to balance the quantity of works with the limited exhibition space. It gives each piece sufficient breathing room for audiences to experience them as individual pieces, but also allows the entire theme of “the vessel” to be appreciated as a whole, giving the viewers transitions between each artwork within the gallery. The lighting also illuminates each work to great effect, giving atmosphere and the already three-dimensional works greater depth and substance through its display. The shadows add another level to the

I hope that this exhibition gives you the same kind of inspiration that it has given me for my art making. After coming back from my overseas trip, I will try to create more works than I have done before in the hope that my creative juices will start flowing again and my imaginative spark will rekindle.

Beyond Olfactory and Oral

Hey guys, I’m back (and about to run off again, on a work related trip that is inescapable). But what I hope to share with you before I run off is the experiences that I have had in Taiwan.

Now, many people see Taiwan as nothing more than a place to shop and eat and shop and eat. But what most people probably miss is the rich culture and history that makes up the country’s “backdrop”. Way beyond the hustle and bustle of the city life, and countless night markets that make Taiwan, beyond the outskirts of Taipei, Taichung and numerous other large developed cities, lay many small towns that are saturated in artistic and historical culture that dates back at least for many decades, even centuries. These cultures and history include wood carving and pottery amongst many others, all of which have inspired me not just to share with you what I have seen, but also to urge you to go there yourself and look beyond the bright city lights.

The first experience I want to share with you is the small town of  三義 (pronounced san1 yin). About an hour away from Taichung and a three-kilometer walk form the train station, 三義 looks nothing more than a one main street town. However, this place earned the title of the “Woodcarving Kingdom of Taiwan”, with is long history of intricate wood carvings that vary in size from that of your thumb nail to as large as ornamental statues seen in any rich estate. Polished with such a high sheen till it looked like a semiprecious stone, one would hardly be able to tell that each masterpiece’s medium was wood.

20141113_150742

But that is not all. This small word carving town goes beyond the conventional chisel and hammer, to taking the raw form of the medium and letting the viewer’s imagination do the work. As can be seen from the pictureabove, two wooden elephants guard the entrance of their township’s museum. Upon closer inspection, what you would realised is that these “elephants” are in actual fact not carvings at all, but merely wood that has naturally grown and died in the shape of elephants. All that has been done to these pieces only amounts to a few knocks and scratches to truly ignite the imagination. Personally, it is such a great representation of the Chinese culture of simplicity and minimalism, how a few stokes of a brush in monochrome can capture the essence of something as vast as an entire landscape. As I did not go into the museum, I cannot say for sure how great the experience is, but walking along the street provided was more than sufficient to immerse myself in their woodcarving culture. For those who desire a more detailed and historical account of  their craft, the museum would give the information that you seek.

Here are some of the many photographs of the small township in Taiwan:

20141113_150522 20141113_150722(I know it isn’t much but I hope that you go there to visit it for yourself)

The first picture is that of one of the shops along the wood carving street, which also houses many other wood craft shops as well as the woodcarving museum at the very end. As I did not going during high season, there was a slight lack of atmosphere (this would be during fall to winter, November to December). For those that are considering visiting the area, the best time would probably be in the late spring or summer. As you walk from the train station, you would also see small shops selling their own personal woodworks.

Before I leave for my next trip, I will attempt to make some time to share with you a few more of my experiences in Taiwan pertaining to the arts and culture in the hope that I will be change some perspective about the milk tea and fried chicken cutlet nation.

References:

 三義 Wikipedia

Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum

Seeking Inspiration and Respite

I shall be flying of to Taiwan in a couple of minutes and will only be back later in the following week. For those that have been waiting for the next post in my body of works I must apologize as I have been swamped with deadlines and other work that required my attention.

Now sleep deprived and in great need of a retreat, I will be flying to Taiwan to pay a visit to the many desitnations around the country. Hopegully it will give me some inspiration in the ways that I can contribute in depth to this blog, but also give me the much needed inpiration for possible future works and endeavours.

Till next time…