In Taiwan of the 1960s, the influential art forms arriving from the West were predominantly abstract and conceptual art. It was not until the 1990s that Western Dadaism and Warholian pop art began to have a significant impact. After the end of martial law in 1987, the pace of democratization in Taiwanese society quickened, and social attitudes gradually opened up. This was reflected in art with a broadening of thought and diversification of creative elements and subject matter. In “postmodern” society with its commercialization and mass reproduction of images, “classic works” and literary narratives became disengaged from their cultural contexts, losing their functions as palace decorations and sources of enlightenment. No longer was art the symbolically expressive, elite works of the traditional humanities. It had moved from the refined, gentrified classes of the past to the popular culture of today.
For the contemporary age, these classic works present richly beautiful, powerful images and a sense of mystery engendered by distance in time. Yet unlike dynastic-era artists whose imitations were based on the foundation of “reverence for antiquity,” these famous works, after having undergone mass reproduction, ceased being rarely glimpsed works of the imperial court and became “images” that anyone could behold or obtain at a moment’s notice. They had even lost the textures and brushstrokes of the original, existing in a “flattened” state. Ruminating on local history, cultural values and identity, Taiwanese contemporary artists made use of those artworks that once adorned imperial power and symbolized the tastes of the literati class, engaging in a dialogue with their own history and culture, disassembling, reassembling, re-creating and altering the styles and subject matter of classic works through symbolic or allegorical images in order to enunciate their views on the present-day state of affairs through simile or metaphor. These include: consideration and breakthroughs in aesthetics and forms of expression; criticism of the current state of Taiwanese society, history and culture; voicing of their own inner ideal worlds and feelings about life; and the transformation of the artistic tastes of the past to a popular, commercial aesthetic more closely oriented toward everyday life. At the same time, as contemporary artists re-examine and re-create classic works of the past, they also re-accentuate and rediscover the artistic accomplishments of the past in light of new definitions and the perspective of art history. As artists refabricate the past, amid this convergence of dual-directional observation, discovery, transformation and original creation, they yield a wealth of meaning and limitless possibilities of expression in the contemporary era.
↑TIME GAMES: CONTEMPORARY APPROPRIATIONS OF THE PAST in Taipei Fine Arts Museum
March 4 2012 台湾当代．玩古喻今
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