Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jimmy Liao’s “Starry, Starry Night” fanning flight of fancy with tinge of melancholy

By Nancy T. Lu

Taiwan’s best-known author-illustrator Jimmy Liao is not only sharing art glimpses from his new picture book, “The Starry, Starry Night,” but also finding himself in creative company at an ongoing exhibition at the Huashan Culture Park on the corner of Zhongsiao East Road and .Badeh Road in Taipei.

Liao continues to charm and touch his readers through his witty and philosophical approach in drawing his dream world in his latest book, which was written particularly for the adolescents. His drawings in “The Starry, Starry Night” have inspired 14 artists to spin off ideas from the book or to simply interpret story highlights in ways giving away their sensitive perceptions of life.

Like the twinkling lights in the night, the artists shine in different individual ways at the exhibition to run until September 27. Everyone has a story to tell. Each tale warms the heart. But it is often tinged with melancholy.

Astrophysicist Sun Wei-hsin is behind “Stars of Four Seasons,” an installation, which mirrors the heavenly bodies in formations, ever fascinating to star-gazing astrologers for hundreds of years. LED-illuminated zodiac sign displays give an exciting glow to a space with walls decorated with Jimmy Liao’s artworks.

Wax figure expert Lin Chien-cheng recreates the last page in “The Starry, Starry Night.” The installation titled “Later, the Woman” shows a not-so-young female admiring a Van Gogh painting. Lin puts a special emphasis on creating an incredibly life-like gaze. But in this depiction of a nostalgic character, those glistening eyes see not the famous painting but the aging person herself. Gone is her youth but memories of her past linger.

Wang Tien-hung and Yeh Man-ling draw visitors up close to have a good look at the items placed in “A Cabinet of Memories.” A miniature toy train makes its way around, creating moving shadows and bringing back childhood memories.

Miniaturist Takuji Yamada for his part picks on “A Forgettable Afternoon” for his theme contribution to the show. Four bullies pick on a loner boy character in “The Starry, Starry Night.” This episode inspires Yamada, who pays special attention to the details of the faces and bodies of the four aggressive boys and then of the look and stance of the victim. Suddenly the fighting children on a printed page acquire three dimensions in a classroom setting.

Jimmy Liao’s fondness for the ocean creatures gets passed on to Wang Tien-hung as seen in “The Whale.” The lighted sea-animal on view appears to be swimming in an ocean of the imagination.

Huang I-ju’s “A Labyrinth Blocked From Home” shows a discouraged lad and a disappointed lass weighed down by keys. They seem lost in a space cluttered with keys. The dominant gray color used here has a blurring effect. Young people who have gone astray must face confusion and confront the difficulty in finding the key that opens the door to answers.

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