This canvas ‘The Opium Parallax’ (2.24m x 4.0m) by Burmese artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe was shown at the 2019 Asia Art Biennial in Taichung. It charts, in a loose way, the opium trade’s connections between governments, diplomats, countries, gangs and other parties. I found it quite fascinating.
Especially as ‘Mr. Nice’ (Howard Marks), a notorious British drug smuggler (albeit with cannabis), began his career when he was handed a diplomatic bag containing drugs. I read somewhere that he was just helping out a student friend who was ill at the time and unable to collect the parcel. This led to a lifelong career and many years in prison.
Among interesting names mentioned on the canvas are: Mafia, French connection, Legs Diamond, European diplomats, banking sector, jade & gem dealers, Playboy, Golden Triangle, secret society, casino, human trafficking, to name just a few. Make of it what you will. It certainly had me absorbed for longer than almost any other works of art.
Where has all the craftsmanship and artistry gone?
Pictured, part of a temple roof in Taichung and beyond Hotel One, a modern day skyscraper. The turquoise-tinted all-glass Hotel One is certainly an impressive sight and easy on the eye, mainly due to its curved shape and breathtaking height. However the detailed coloured carvings of the low wooden temple could be viewed for hours whereas a brief glance at the skyscraper and you’ve seen it all, just about.
Just one of the many intricately carved sculptures found on temples.
Many skyscrapers are simple geometric forms clad in mirror glass, which if nothing else has one advantage of reflecting the sky, making them semi invisible and slightly less oppressive. However the majority of office and apartment blocks are just plain grey rectangular concrete boxes with uniform square windows placed at regular intervals with about as much aesthetic appeal as a brick. That’s it! I would hazard a guess that covers around 80% of high-rise buildings worldwide.
A tall tower block rises from the city almost obliterating the view.
Skyscraper mirror glass reflects concrete apartment blocks a common sight in every city.
I wonder how this affects our moods as we wander through sun-shaded cities of grey concrete and glass, looking for some greenery and a place to sit, rest and chat.
For those who may have missed the spectacular drone displays celebrating the New Year 2020 you can click on the image or here to see a YouTube video showing examples of what many cities displayed. Whether Shanghai’s display ever happened seems open to debate as the video above was created earlier in the year.
It is interesting to note that many Asian and Far Eastern countries had incredible drone and light displays and less fireworks. Their displays were fresh, original, spectacular and less polluting than most of those in the West. Meanwhile Boris’s ‘Brexit’ Britain used the event to pollute London even more with an endless stream of conventional fireworks, no doubt bought from China.
The Chinese must be quite amused. It sums up today’s Britain for me, a lack of sophistication, sensitivity and originality. A disappointing start to the New Year. You do have to wonder where all the British creativity has gone as the rest of the world seems to be way ahead of us. Below a still from the NYE drone show over Singapore.
Some nature photos from Taiwan to round off the end of my trip and year.
A dragonfly alights upon a pond flower.
A Chinese pond heron (maybe) contemplates life by the waters edge.
A squirrel nibbles on a nut beside a tree in a park.
Turtles, young and old gather together on a rock or possibly the mother of all turtles.
Today I watched one of the most fascinating art films I have ever seen. At the National Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung there is an exhibition ‘The strangers from beyond the mountain and the sea’ for the 2019 Asian Art Biennial. A 40 minute film by Liu Chuang was shown split on three wide screens in a small theatre with seating for about 10 people. The film explores China’s history, Bitcoin, iPhone technology, the environment and other interesting interconnected subjects. A review can be seen here:
Art review Asia.
Three girls and myself contemplate how to get past these scooters to cross the street on zebra crossings. This is quite common, scooters rule in Taiwan and if there is a gap in the traffic or space to park a scooter, you can be sure the space will be filled without delay. It is better than it used to be back in 2014, when I was here last, but still on a Saturday when everyone comes into the city, parking space becomes critical. As such pedestrians are forced to take long detours just to cross the street.
The girl on the left can be seen in the middle image squeezing through. The girl on the right climbed over and I think the other girl gave up like me. For the elderly or wheelchairs users and those who are disabled or not super slim the city becomes a no-go area at the weekend. There seems to be little control over this sort of thing. Surprisingly no one gets annoyed about it except me. Walking any street in Taiwan requires much zigzagging, detours and a certain amount of time walking in the road with the rest of the traffic. In fact walking in the road is the best option if you don’t want to get caught behind a barrier of scooters.
Thankfully the traffic is very forgiving and drivers will always give way to those with nerves strong enough to confront cars, scooters, buses and trucks head on. Despite all this potential for traffic chaos it moves smoothly and calmly with only the occasional brief toot of a horn. However if people could walk the streets more comfortably it would reduce pollution as they would be less inclined to use scooters.
This is the harbour at Shuishe pier on Sun Moon Lake, located in the heart of Taiwan. The lake is surrounded by mountainous terrain, 2000-3000 meters plus and lies at an elevation of almost 800 meters. The surface area covers almost eight square kilometres and Ci En, a twelve story pagoda sits atop one hillside opposite the harbour. From Shuishe pier there is a walkway along the edge of the lake northwards that takes you to Wenwu temple several kilometres away. Glorious weather makes this a perfect day out, particularly as last time I visited it was engulfed in mist so that all I could see was water lapping the edge of the pier.
Small Faces – Itchycoo park 1967 Just for fun
… and a Happy New Year! Not a great photo as it was taken at night with a smart phone. It shows ‘Tigger the tiger’ (I think) one of a host of Disney characters lit up along a canal in Taichung.
This pterodactyl is just one of many image tiles on the walkway strip leading up to the National museum of natural science. (see post: Taichung postcards). The creatures come in all sizes and this one is by no means the biggest. The larger ones are hard to view unless you have a drone or access to one of the tower blocks surrounding the walkway. Even then trees along the strip would probably hinder the view. So I created this image by stitching together 8 separate images so that it could be viewed in all its glory as I doubt few people have ever seen them properly. My feet at the bottom show just how big this one was.
A pedestrian walks along the strip, the normal ground level view.