Inside ‘Taiwan Eco-Island’. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
Several months ago, I took up an abandoned hobby. I drew and painted an adaptation of my childhood cartoon. A rough watercolor sketch is a reward in itself, but it opens up new possibilities. I just discovered an inspiring creative activity. Paper art can provide a much-needed refuge from distraction.
It was the most thoughtful activity. It was just me, two curators and paper craftsmen.
Held under the theme “Taiwan Eco-Island,” an exhibition features more than 70 artworks by two Taiwanese artists — Hsin-Fu Hung and Ching-Yao Liang — this month at Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University. This is a collaboration with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand (TECO).
“Paper is an important material of human civilization and is indispensable in our daily life, but not everyone can have the chance to enjoy the fun part of paper. Folding it into a plane, a frog or even a crane is an interesting memory of almost every child in Taiwan. Schools and parents believe that folding paper as a game is good for children’s hand-brain coordination and imagination,” said TECO.
The Alishan Forest Train. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
The two artists joined the event’s opening ceremony earlier this month. Their works reflect Taiwan’s natural and cultural resources. It is an eco-island with biodiversity because although it covers an area of 36,000 km², its geographical features include 268 mountains over 3,000 m in height. Along the same lines, his paper art is steeped in history and uniqueness. It’s different from traditional origami and paper cut.
Hsin-Fu Hung is an award-winning paper artist renowned for depicting the island’s biodiversity. His interest in paper art began in his childhood, but it wasn’t until he was 14 that he started taking classes. He has been pursuing an artistic career for almost four decades. In 2013, he led students to create the world’s longest 3D book for Guinness World Records. In 2016, he became the first Taiwanese paper artist to be invited to organize an exhibition at the Louvre Museum.
“Imagination and craftsmanship can bring paper to life. I never apply glue to any piece. In this exhibit, I created a rabbit lamp and other local paper creatures like birds, fish , bears and butterflies. I am interested and inspired by the environment,” he told local media.
Above, Rawiroach Singhalumpong, a public relations officer, shows a paper boat. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
Visitors can cut and fold souvenir cards into animals. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
His menageries are the salient feature of the exhibition. A replica of a native swallowtail butterfly, an endangered species, retains original features including crescent-shaped hindwings and mottling. Nearby, an exceptional native blue magpie perches on a branch. Its black head contrasts with a red, orange and yellow beak. It feeds on everything from insects to fruit.
In the back corner of the room stands a row of wild animals, including a tiger, yellow cattle, and a black bear. On the opposite side is a platform where the signs of the zodiac are arranged in a semicircle. There are small creatures like tree frogs, crabs, clownfish and even tadpoles that can move around using marbles.
Following in the footsteps of his teacher, Ching-Yao Liang is an award-winning next-generation paper artist. He developed an interest in brain toys at a young age because his family sold them to children, adults and the elderly with dementia. Inspired by a book by Hsin-Fu Hung, he takes lessons with him. All influenced his interactive works, especially the pop-ups. His works focus on art, culture and architecture.
Swallowtail butterfly. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
Below This game consists of untying the red cords of two handcuffed characters. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
“In this exhibition, I presented many brain toys. Viewers can scan QR codes to learn how to play with them. I also created souvenir cards with culturally distinct designs,” he said.
Some of his works are modeled on historical sites. A pop-up miniature of a Buddhist pagoda is surrounded by deities. Inside are very small figures of two monks and pink lotuses. There are also two replicas of famous train services. Located in the central mountain range, the Alishan forest train forms a vertical belt that crosses many types of forests. Next to it is a steam train that once carried sugar cane and other raw materials.
Others are paper games for cognitive development. It requires concentration and patience to solve its puzzles. I had trouble removing the rings from an axle and untying the red strings from two handcuffed figures. It was pure mental work. But in the last game, I was able to easily fit the little pieces together to put together an original shape.
Demos, however, should be more user-friendly. It is difficult to switch between a mobile screen and a real game. Small tablets must be installed in front of each to guide visitors step by step. Additionally, posters should be put up to provide context for each work and ease the burden on curators. As far as viewers go, take the time to explore each room. Paper art is a form of meditation.
Wanidchaya Budsabong, a curator, plays with a pinwheel. (Photo: Thana Boonlert)
“Taiwan Eco-Island” can be seen at the Chudharatanabhorn Building of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University until the end of this month. For more information, contact the university’s office of art and culture at 02-160-1216 or email [email protected]
TECO is working on the fifth Taiwan Film Festival, which will run from October to November. It will screen 10 feature films and documentaries in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand.