Chinese art in the air

THERE is  something peculiarly Chinese in the air this season and indeed it is the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia – the Shaolin Warriors are returning to the Canberra Theatre on September 25 and the National Museum of Australia is preparing for a blockbuster exhibition of contemporary Chinese art opening on September 30

Meantime, the Republic of China (Taiwan)  is celebrating its  100th  Anniversary and  the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia has pulled out all the stops with an exhibition of more than 100 artworks from Taiwan  at the ANU School of Art Gallery.

Based on an art competition that has been running in Taichung City, middle Taiwan, since 1996, this is a selection of winners and highly commended artists from many years. The Da Dun Fine Arts Exhibition in  Canberra comprises watercolours, some calligraphy, photography,  ink wash, prints, oil paintings, sculptures and craft. An unusual addition is colour glue painting, a practice adopted from Japan.

This is a substantial exhibition that is not for  the fainthearted, but a quiet walk-through yields satisfaction in the end. I found much of the oil painting, dominated by abstracts, heavy and intimidating. By contrast the watercolours, many using compositional techniques from traditional painting, were more varied, ranging from naturalistic representations to dreamlike images such as Teng-Hsua Huang’s work “Dancing Flowers” 2004.

The small group of sculptures in metal, clay and stone were conventional, while the large  ceramic and lacquer works exhibited a formidable mastery of technique.

For me, however, the most impressive group of work were the contemporary ink-washed scrolls illustrating aspects of contemporary Taiwanese life.  Hun Chen’s  2000 work “Rebirth”, showing a mine rescue, is a case in point.

“Da Dun Fine Arts: The Sight of Formosa”  is at  ANU School of Art Gallery until September 24.

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