Faith explored in controversial ‘BuddhaFish’ art show
By Alexander Page
Special to The China Post
In today’s world, ideas travel around the world; in this case, through the artists themselves. This Saturday, a two-person art show featuring the work of expats Trista di Genova and Jonny Green will be featured at Paulina’s Lounge in Taipei, “BuddhaFish: A Journey” questions faith and culture in a controversial and thought-provoking exhibition.
“This is foreigners contributing to the cosmopolitan pulse of Taipei,” says Ross Kenneger, the sponsor and CEO of Art on The Move, which has the mission of taking art on the road. “Hallelujah! Art is hip again!” he added for good measure.
Artist Jonny Green, 29, just returned from Las Vegas with his new Taiwanese wife — they wed at Graceland Wedding Chapel, where Elvis took his vows.
“I’ve always painted from as young as I can remember, and there’s definitely a sense of pride in that I went to the same art school as John Lennon,” he says of Liverpool Arts School.
He came to Taiwan five years ago, and “fell in love with the energy of the city, the vibrancy, the neon lights, firecrackers, street life — just a million miles away from a small northern city in England.”
“I paint what I paint because people are dying and suffering all over the world because of irrational beliefs in imaginary gods. The world would be better without religion,” he said to The China Post about his work in “his first interview” at Radio Banciao on Wednesday.
“People are being stoned to death, medical cures are being stifled, and there’s a fundamentalism in all religions, really. Religion is one of the greatest problems we face.
“The main theme in my painting is an idea called ‘The 24-hour party preachers,'” he continued, “who represent all the world’s religions, who’ve given up their faith and taken up partying together as brothers. One of the themes is they’re locked into a strip club in Tijuana and not
allowed out until they’ve worked out their problems and had a good time.”
“People are fighting and dying because of what they believe and also because of what they’re told to believe. I hope through my paintings that I can make people stop and think, and also create a dialogue, and through humor make people aware of how ridiculous religion really is, how
Di Genova, an “Around-the-world American” and a Berkeley and Oxford-educated writer who has spent time living almost everywhere, has been working and painting in Banciao for over five years.
“With this event we hope to turn on the art scene of Taipei,” says di Genova. “In the democracy that is Taiwan, we can feel free and unafraid to question and confront faith in its any-splendored forms of deceit, hypocrisy, treachery and bizarre belief systems. It may be considered
unacceptable some places in the world to poke fun at religion, so that is why we must do it.”
It comes as no surprise that her pieces contain both Asian and Western aspects, bridging the two worlds in vibrant, colorful style that is a melange of Picasso, Dada and Van Gogh-like impressionism.
The inspiration and centerpiece of the event, “Buddha Fish,” invents a new cross-cultural icon: a Buddha head on a fish body swims, mermaid-like, in a calm and light blue sea. Around the “BuddhaFish” are various token symbols of Taiwan-style, Taoist-influenced Buddhism. On the left, incense burns, with a lotus and pearl on a pillow; baubuai, a Taiwan divination device used in temples is seen below. A bottle of liquor and chicken leg are placed before him as offerings, a la Taiwan. At the top right is a Buddhist “wan” symbol — not to be confused with a Nazi
“BuddhaFish” takes a comprehensive, fresh look at both Asian and Western religious symbolism: the fish of Christianity in symbiosis with elements of Buddhism. While religion has often divided people from different cultures, in “BuddhaFish,” all these conflicts seem forgotten.
To create the “BuddhaFish” motif, di Genova painted with local artists Wubai and Joanne Chu, and using surrealist “cadavre exquis”-esque techniques, each took turns painting lines.
“With my Taiwanese friends, a narrative took on a life of its own, something that has never been seen before. It’s a Taiwanese-inspired image of the Buddha, interpreted in a completely new fashion,” explains di Genova.
Sadly, this event also functions as a temporary farewell party for di Genova as well, who will be heading off to New York for four months to learn TV and radio production with Democracy Now.
“But I’ll definitely be back,” she says, “I miss my street already, and want to be mayor of Banciao someday!”
What: “BuddhaFish: A Journey — And major creative happening”
Where: Paulina’s Lounge, No. 167, Sec. 2 An-ho Rd. Taipei
When: Saturday, Jan. 19
8-10 p.m.: VIP art viewing of featured artists Trista di Genova and
Gallery talk at 9 p.m
Wine & cheese (No cover)
10-5 a.m.: Dance party featuring DJs Sona, Heavy Systems
Photos courtesy of Trista di Genova