5 Taiwanese artists going global

Art Radar profiles the diverse practices of 5 Taiwanese artists making an impact on the international stage. 

We chart the multimedia practices of five Taiwanese artists: Kuo-chun Chiu, Ya-chu Kang, Kuei-chih (Chris) Lee, Liping Ting and Chin Chih Yang.

Kuo-chun Chiu, 'Land of Deities 04', 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Kuo-chun Chiu, ‘Land of Deities 04’, 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

A small island country with limited art markets, Taiwanese artists often need to go global with their art. This is aided by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture and Taiwanese foundations that support the global presence of Taiwan’s contemporary artists by offering venues in foreign countries and international artist-in-residency grants – such as those through the Taiwan National Culture and Arts Foundation, Taipei Artist Village and Fubon Foundation. Art Radar explores the works of five notable artists who are moving from strength-to-strength. Their unique brands of art transcend the geographic confines of their small island as well as the boundaries of any one specific media.

Kuo-chun Chiu, 'Untitled 2', 2015, digital photo with embroidery. Image courtesy the artist.

Kuo-chun Chiu, ‘Untitled 2’, 2015, digital photograph with embroidery. Image courtesy the artist.

Kuo-chun Chiu: Innovating photography 

Taiwan is known for its technological innovations and development of cutting edge technology in its industry as well as its art. Much of the most innovative contemporary art from Taiwan is in the field of digital photography, computer art and video. Photography is arguably the dominant media in contemporary Taiwanese art and the strongest department in most art universities in Taiwan.

Kuo-chun Chiu is an example of Taiwanese innovation in photography. An Associate Professor at the College of Creative Media, Kun Shan University in Tainan, Taiwan, he completed an MFA in Photography at SUNY New Paltz in the United States and then returned to Taiwan to pursue a career as an artist photographer.

Chiu’s multi-media work focuses on issues related to Taiwanese culture and society. In 2014 he won the Kaohsiung Award presented annually by the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts to outstanding up and coming Taiwanese artists. For this competition, he produced a new body of work that explored the traditional temple celebrations of south Taiwan combining his digital photography with embroidery, an unusual combination of media. Chiu collaborated with artisans who do embroidery work for temples in south Taiwan, giving them his printed photographs and allowing them creative freedom to interpret his ideas using the colorful embroidery. The artist also does outdoor sculpture installations and in August 2015 he participated in the Photography World Expo in China’s Yunnan Province.

Ya-chu Kang, 'The Loop', 2014, bamboo baskets, dirt, mixed media gallery installation, created during residency at Khon Kaen in Bangkok, Thailand. Image courtesy the artist.

Ya-chu Kang, ‘The Loop’, 2014, bamboo baskets, dirt, mixed media gallery installation, created during residency at Khon Kaen in Bangkok, Thailand. Image courtesy the artist.

Ya-chu Kang: Questioning the effects of globalism

Ya-chu Kang is a multi-media artist from Taiwan who has been to many residencies around the world including in the United States, Jordan, Canada and Thailand. Kang’s interdisciplinary practice includes a wide range of processes and media, among them photography, sculpture, video, sewing, felting, basketry and performance. She seeks to raise awareness about the economic, environmental and emotional effects of globalism through installation, collaboration and object-making.

After obtaining her MFA in 2005 in textile arts from Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan, Kang has made a mark in contemporary art with indoor and outdoor sculpture installations as well as global art projects in video, performance and photography. In 2014 she participated in a cultural exchange residency project in Thailand between Taipei Artist Village (Taiwan) and the Silpakorn University (Nakhon Pathom, Thailand) that resulted in a two-person exhibition in April 2015 at Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan. The exhibition featured video of her site installation in Thailand titled The Loop (2014) as well as sculpture and photography works from her Thailand residency.

Kang has received grants to do textile research trips in countries such as Peru and has produced a book in Chinese about her travels exploring the textile traditions of different countries. In February 2015, Garden City Publisher released Textile Map: An Artist’s Trips of Weaving and Dyeing. The book is illustrated with Kang’s sketches and photography depicting traditional textiles and contemporary practices in different countries where she traveled. She is already busy planning a second book documenting additional travels to explore the textiles of other countries.

In July 2015 Kang participated in a residency in Finland. In September 2015 she will be creating an environmentally focused multi-media work for the 2015 Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival at Guandu Nature Park in Taipei. Later in December 2015 she is headed to an artist-in-residency in India with the Global Nomadic Art Project India.

Lee Kuei-Chih, 'Holy Stream', 2014, mixed media sculpture installation of natural materials, created for exhibition in Busan, Korea. Image courtesy the artist.

Lee Kuei-Chih, ‘Holy Stream’, 2014, mixed media sculpture installation of natural materials, created for exhibition in Busan, Korea. Image courtesy the artist.

Lee Kuei-chih (Chris): Land art 

In the field of land art, Taiwanese artist Lee Kuei-chih (Chris) is making a name for himself in the international arena. Lee’s art encompasses sculpture, photography, performance, video, painting, writing and collaborative work with artists in other disciplines. He has participated in several international environmental art projects in Taiwan, and recently has begun traveling outside Taiwan.

In 2014 he created a sculpture installation in Korea, participating in the International Open Air Arts Festival in Busan. In July-August 2015 he has been an artist-in residence in Japan at the Shinano Primitive Sense Art Festival creating a site-specific sculpture installation in the forests near Kizaki Lake. His outdoor sculpture installation is a three-part work titled Water Aura that draws attention to the importance of water and incorporates sound elements with the wind activating the hanging bamboo and wood elements.

After Japan, he travels to Korea for the “2015 Gang Won Environmental Installation Art Invitational Exhibition” from August 20-30, then in September he is back in Taiwan to participate in the 2015 Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival at Guandu Nature Park, Taipei.

Liping Ting, '7 x 7 Poetry-Action’, 2015, multi media gallery installation with performance at Taipei Artist Village, Taipei, Taiwan. Image courtesy the artist.

Liping Ting, ‘7 x 7 Poetry-Action’, 2015, multi media gallery installation with performance at Taipei Artist Village, Taipei, Taiwan. Image courtesy the artist.

Liping Ting: Poetry-Action

Liping Ting lived and worked in France for many years after completing her graduate studies in Paris, returning to Taiwan in 2012. Her artworks blend diverse cultural sources including art, literature, theatre, music and philosophy and are influenced by the work of John Cage and Samuel Beckett as well as the Chinese poet and philosopher Zhuang-Zi.

Ting was an artist-in-residence at Taipei Artist Village in 2013-14, producing new works in video and performance with installation art. Her recent performance artwork 7 x 7 Poetry-Action, reflects on Taoist priniciples of balance and flexibility and involves the artist walking very slowly with a stone on the head and a feather in the mouth.

Ting creates video art as well as doing live performances and sculpture installations at exhibitions and festivals around the world. In 2014 she traveled to China to participate in the Art of Performance Festival that toured to Xi’an, Ximen, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In the summer of 2015 she was in France participating in several performance art events. In 2016 Ting will head to New York for a music/art project involving contemporary composers.

Chin Chih Yang, 'Kill Me or Change', 2012, public performance at Queens Museum of Art. Image courtesy the artist.

Chin Chih Yang, ‘Kill Me or Change’, 2012, public performance at Queens Museum of Art. Image courtesy the artist.

Chin Chih Yang 

Chin Chih Yang is known for his guerrilla as well as institution-sponsored public performances with an environmental and social focus. Originally from Taipei, Yang studied at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design in New York and has lived in Queens for many years. Now he maintains a studio in New York as well as doing exhibitions, residencies and art projects in Taiwan for at least part of the year.

He has done several performances sponsored by the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing, New York, including his Kill Me or Change public performance at the official reopening of the newly-renovated museum in 2012 that involved releasing a mass of aluminum cans to fall on the head of the artist. Other public performances such as Carry Water were guerrilla performances on the streets of New York City. Here, the artist costumed in traditional Chinese dress, carried water in buckets – peasant-style – around the streets of New York City to bring attention to the importance of conserving water.

In 2015 he has presented several multi-media public art works in the United States including An Interactive Protest Against Corporate Waste in April 2015 that was staged independently in New York’s Times Square. For this one-night performance, the artist wore a costume woven of several thousand strips from aluminum cans collected in Times Square and erected a lighted tower of cans with public participation to raise awareness about individual responsibility and corporate waste.

He also created the multi-media sculpture installation Enduring Love for an exhibition running 8 August – 18 September 2015 at the New York Hall of Science to focus attention on what humans will become if modified by technological devices. For this sculpture, he uses a traditional Taiwanese paper-like material (pith paper) made from a native Taiwanese plant, and LED lights, branches, aluminum cans and more to create a spectral lighted humanoid figure transformed by technology. A solo exhibition of Yang’s multi-media installation, video and performance works will be on view at Taipei MOCA in Spring 2016.

Jane Ingram Allen

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