9 of the Best Works at Art Taipei: A Sampling of the Most Powerful Contemporary Art Emerging From Asia

Sam Gaskin
Oct 28, 2014 6:18PM

Over 145 galleries will attend the 21st Art Taipei, which takes place at the Taipei World Trade Center from Friday, October 31st until Monday, November 3rd. While over half the galleries are attending from outside Taiwan, the vast majority are from East Asia, with many coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan. Here, Artsy’s Shanghai-based contributor Sam Gaskin identifies nine of the strongest works at the fair, brought by galleries from Beijing to Singapore, that offer a sampling of some of the most powerful contemporary art emerging from Asia.

1. Hu Xiaoyuan, Wood No. 10, 2014 at Beijing Commune (Beijing)

Beijing-based artist Hu Xiaoyuan creates labor-intensive trompe l’oeil meditations on materials. In her “Wood” series, she traces wood grain onto silk, then paints the underlying timber white, stretching the silk taught and nailing it to the wood to restore its original appearance. Hu has works from the same series in the excellent Taipei Biennial. Another work to see at Beijing Commune’s booth is Zhang Xiaogang’s copper-plate print Siblings (2014).

2. Fan Yang-Tsung, Swimming Pool Series — Floating,  2014 at Aki Gallery (Taipei)

The sun-blushed figures languishing in the turquoise waters of Fan Yang-Tsung’s “Swimming Pool Series” are reminiscent of paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, but Fah’s works are much less flat. They’re also dreamier, supplemented with abstract adornments—the clusters of pastel bubbles entering the top of the frame, and a red line dancing in the distance. Other works to see at Aki Gallery’s booth include misty dining scenes by Lo Chan-Peng and gouache landscapes by Hua Chien-Chiang. 

3. Lin Jingjing, My Promise for Your Happiness 2-18, 2014 at de Sarthe Gallery (Hong Kong/Beijing)

Lin Jingling uses found materials to embroider and otherwise “hurt” photographs, printed on canvas, that are of personal importance to her. Her emotions and insights literally “color” her experiences—and Lin has an especially wonderful sense of color. Among the other works de Sarthe Gallery is showing is Zhou Wendou’s Reverse, No. 2 (2014), an amorphous blob of coated stainless steel covered in car backlights.

4. Rina Banerjee, A Heart of Two Anchors, 2011 at Ota Fine Arts (Tokyo/Singapore)

Born in Kolkata, India, in 1963, Rina Banerjee grew up in the UK before moving to New York. With such a globe-spinning geographical backstory, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Banerjee works with found objects of disparate cultural provenance to create all new sculptures and installations. A Heart of Two Anchors is composed of a mosquito net and umbrellas from Japan, fish bones, artificial horns from an American Buffalo, and a pigeon.

5. Wang Youshen, Per Square Meter: Washing My Landscape 6-03, at ShanghART Gallery (Shanghai/Beijing/Singapore)

Born in 1964, Beijing artist Wang Youshen is concerned with mass media and history, and how both are often whitewashed by interested parties. In Per Square Meter Washing My Landscape, Wang literally washes photographs, whose colors run beautifully even as they obscure details of the original image. ShanghART is bringing works by many important Chinese artists, including Han Feng, Sun Xun, Zhang Enli and Wu Yiming.

6. Li Chen, Inextricable, 2012, at Asia Art Centre (Taipei/Beijing)

Born in 1963, Taiwanese artist Li Chen works in clay for his sculpture series “Ordinary People,” which he started in 2010. The work Inextricable is whimsical, recalling Peter Pan’s pursuit of his shadow, but also implies inescapable socio-cultural bonds. Other highlights of the Asia Art Centre’s booth are Xu Bing’s Background Story: Picture Roll of Seeing Rain in West Mountain, which is composed of plant material arranged to resemble a landscape, and Before the Mountain (2014), a powerful acrylic-on-canvas abstract painting by Yang Chihung.

7. Sea Hyun Lee, Between Red 198, 2014, at Hakgojae Gallery (Seoul/Shanghai)

Sea Hyun Lee’s “Between Red” series combines the exaggerated flatness of traditional East Asian landscape paintings with contemporary politics. The scenes in the works are taken from the DMZ, the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, while the work’s coloring comes from the night vision goggles Lee wore during his mandatory military service, which turned everything red. Red also, of course, connotes the political ‘red’ of communism, which, in North Korea at least, narrows the spectrum of acceptable thought and action.

8. Juan Ford, Tape Oddity, 2014, at Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong

Melbourne-born artist Juan Ford paints photorealist portraits of indigenous Australian plants wrapped in “fragile” packing tape. The immediate environmentalist message of the work is compromised by the beauty of the paintings, in which the trees are wonderfully bound, as in Japanese shibari. Ford’s paintings hint at the fact that for most of us, nature’s value remains entirely extrinsic. Galerie du Monde is also showing lyrical, realist paintings by Jiang Chuan and Zhu Yihong.

9. Shi Jin-Hua, Hugging Project, 2004, at Mind Set Art Center (Taipei)

Born in Penghu in 1964, Taiwanese artist Shi Jin-Hua earned an MFA at University of California, Irvine. His works often incorporate different kinds of measurements, a theme inspired by his diabetes and the need to monitor his insulin levels. In Hugging Project, Shi wrapped his arms around people and made marks to show where his arms crossed as he hugged them. Mind Set Art Center is also showing paintings by Jhong Jiang-Ze and charcoal drawings by Juin Shieh.

Sam Gaskin