The Islands and Other Places – The Geographical Structure of Ink Art from Taiwan and Hong Kong
Taiwan and Hong Kong are both situated off the coast of south east China where the lands and the seas encounter. Before the modern age, the residents had very little contacts, or even not aware of each other’s existence. Despite both being “islands”, they see each other as “the other place”. Just like islands spread around the globe, Taiwan and Hong Kong both experienced long-term foreign occupation on one or more occasions, yet the results are very different mainly due to the dissimilar forces from the inner social structures and outer restraining powers, hence each developed its own distinctive customs.
Despite the differences in the political climates, “ink art” has been the mutual cultural genie Taiwan and Hong Kong share since the post-war years. The intimate relationship between the two regions can be seen in the mutual interests in the exploration of the modernisation of Chinese ink art. Daguan Gallery has established a close working relationship with art events, artists and works from Hong Kong, and we have also learnt the strong influences the islands have on each other and the similarities they share.
We are honoured to have invited Professor Pai Shih-Ming from the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University to curate this group exhibition “The Islands and Other Places – The geographical structure of ink art from Taiwan and Hong Kong”. Participating artists include Hsia Yifu, Choi Hoi Ying, Yuan Hui-Li, Ng Kwun Lun, Wu Chi-Tao, Koon Wai Bong, Ke Wei-Kuo, Chan Keng Tin. These artists from different generations with varied experiences work with various media and techniques, and their works not only reflect the cultural and geological differences in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but also record the mutual history of these two islands as “the other place” to mainland China.
The Islands and Other Places – The Geographical Structures of Ink Paintings in Taiwan and Hong Kong
by Curator Professor Pai Shih-Ming Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Normal University
The definition of “island” generally means a piece of land surrounded by the ocean; however, different names are given to lands that fall into this definition for its variation in measurements, volume and terms commonly applied, hence we have geological words such as island, isle, continent, reef and rock. However, from the perspective of anthroponymy of the land, the islands themselves carry a potential ambiguity, or multiple identities. On the other hand, the fact that an island is set between land and ocean, providing it with unique connections and separations from the mainland, which allows it to be defined and seen from an independent angle. Despite the differences in its appearance or name, the naming of islands shares similar principles with the naming of lands and waters, from the centre as well as outside of the centre with a relative position between the two, forming a structured geological awareness which is reflective of the complex relationship between different groups of men, the society and the local regions.
American anthropologist and geologist David W. Harvey pointed out in his critically acclaimed book Justice, Nature and Geography of Difference that “The place in whatever guise, is like space and time, a social construct. The only interesting question that can be asked is, by what social process(es) is place constructed?” In other words, there may be differences in its appearances, but the structures of local concept or geological significance cannot simply rely on the primitive natural characteristics. The questions raised during the socialisation process underline the multiple causes for the local structures and the naming of geographical locations, because the history of immigrants and the aboriginals on any land or waters are complex and cosmopolitan.
Hence, the naming of geological sites is not entirely driven by nature, it is mostly formed and shaped by the power of the society; it is also reflective of a certain portion of reginal orders, or “The idea of place encompasses both the idea of the social activities and institutions that are expressed in and through the structure of a particular place” (Jeff Malpas, Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography, 1999). Apart from that, the congregation of local awareness often reflect on the origin of reginal objectivities, the bound between material structures and local meanings is close and reflective of each other. Finding oneself in a certain situation, it is to build up the awareness of the regionalisation of oneself and the community, hence encouraging and forming awareness towards the main body. We could also put it in other words, with the reginal characteristics of the islands, it is reflective of the unique provincial environment, structure and geological quality, and such understanding can be treated as the foundation to define the objectives of the land and the seas.
Taiwan and Hong Kong are both situated off the coast of south east China where the lands and the seas encounter. Before the modern age, the residents had very little contacts, or even not aware of each other’s existence. Despite both being “islands”, they see each other as “the other place”. Just like islands spread around the globe, Taiwan and Hong Kong both experienced long-term foreign occupation on one or more occasions, yet the results are very different mainly due to the dissimilar forces from the inner social structures and outer restraining powers, hence each developed its own distinctive customs. China experienced the fiercest survival challenges in its history from the seventh-century to the end of World War II, and the countless lost battles led to a time of multiple foreign occupations as well as the overseas immigration rush and the overflowing domestic refugees. The powerful country built on thousands of years’ foundation was forced to divide into “regionalisation” and “the overseas” with the idea of mainland culture collapsing.
A legitimate division indicates a specific culture’s diversion towards known regions or overseas, yet the transplant isn’t a direct or parallel one. It has to face an even more complex and multi-cultural society or group. Taiwan is seen as the hob for authentic Chinese civilisation when the Chinese government regained power over the island and re-established Chinese culture at the end of the Japanese occupation after World War II; whilst Hong Kong still remained a British colony, with its connections with China dangling on the Han blood and culture. Despite the differences in political situations on the islands, the interests for “ink art” is a shared culture and the gene between Hong Kong and Taiwan, acts as a mutual media shared by the two isles to explore the modernisation of Chinese painting and increases an unimaginable strong bounding.
The post-war years saw the lack of mainland China’s connection and fail to keep up with the modernisation in the West, however, despite the political differences, modern and contemporary ink art in Taiwan and Hong Kong have built a model which is free from territorialism and ethnocentrism, shaping a brand new cultural landscape ahead of its time via the process and experiences in “regionalization” and “the overseas”. From such an angle, the landscape paintings in Taiwan and Hong Kong have broken free from the single concept of traditional “mountain and water” and western “landscape” boundaries with a broad knowledge in the local community and the understanding in the multicultural history of immigrants and aboriginals, creating a more open and integrated “new culture”. In other words, island culture could promote mainland culture to a more proactive status which covers multiple continents and regions; whilst the social actives and systems shown through certain local structures have become the main source of such cosmopolitan cultures, materials and meanings.
This exhibition aims to inspect the distant yet close connection between ink paintings in Taiwan and Hong Kong from different perspectives such as geological locations and cultures through two main concepts – “the islands” and “other places”. The following issues will be discussed in depth: 1. Through what kind visual language and media features does one examine the geological and cultural identity through “landscapes”? 2. How to shape a contemporary “new culture” yet preserving the local subjectivities in terms of modern landscapes in ink? 3. What kind of meanings and connotations within the social structures are to be emphasised? 4. What kind of possible negotiations are to be carried out with personalised experiences among individuals, groups, those at the edge and those in the centre? 5. What kind of influences would the experiences in “regionalisation” and “the overseas” might have over internationalisation and globalisation in culture? 6. How do landscapes in ink surpass nationalism and imperialism, and move on to the modernisation of post-colonial process?
Exhibition Duration | 18 May – 16 June 2019
VIP Preview | Fri 17 May 2019
Curator | Professor Pai Shih-Ming, Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Normal University
Artists | Hsia Yifu, Choi Hoi Ying, Yuan Hui-Li, Ng Kwun Lun, Wu Chi-Tao, Koon Wai Bong, Ke Wei-Kuo, Chan Keng Tin
Art Talk | Sat 18 May 2019, 15.00-16.00
Curator | Professor Pai Shih-Ming
Artists | Yuna Hui-Li, Ng Kwun Lun, Wu Chi-Tao, Ke Wei-Kuo
Opening Hours | Tue-Sun (closed on Mon) 10.30 – 18.30
Address | 16, Lane 69, Jingyeh 2nd Road, Taipei
MRT | Jiannan Road Station Exit 2 (Mingshui Road), go straight on to Jingyeh 2nd Road then turn right on Lane 69