By Rosanne Lin
Published in The China Post print version
A place to inspire Van Gogh; a place of mystique and strange customs, of culinary delectables, a place that makes life both convenient and rich. This is the way Trista di Genova sees her favorite enclave in Taiwan – Banciao City. Don’t gasp; well not until you have viewed Trista’s painted works this coming Sunday at her solo art show, fittingly entitled: “In Remembrance of Virtue Street.”
Trista, who began painting in Paris in 1993 and has shown work in Berkeley, California, Washington, DC, Oxford, England and Taipei (“The Wild East,” “Contemplating Lilies”), chose this name to honor the street where she has spent “the last six years, blissfully exiled.” On display will be creations inspired by life in the heart of Banciao, this traditional “Xiangzi” (a winding lane and corresponding network of alleys). It is “more than just a street, it is a journey” that Trista describes as “The Real Taiwan” — “Taiwan profonde.”
Among over 25 works at Le Rouge Restaurant is Trista’s first painting here; “Banciao by Night.” This piece, one of a series depicting Huai De Street, delivers a vision of her surroundings in pastel pinks, Arizona-desert orange and deep blues which inject tranquil charm into what may be seen by day as a hot and noisy environment.
Acknowledging the Impressionists’ fascination with Asian art, Trista noted, “For this, my first painting in Taiwan, I saw my street through the eyes of Van Gogh.”
“Buddhafish,” a piece infused with symbols from the unique and vibrant nature of Taiwan’s religious life, is a work that quite literally embraces the theme of “East Meets West.” Trista worked on this piece in cooperation with two local artists, Joanne Chu and John Wu (“Wubai”). Discussing their collaboration, Trista explained, “We invented a new representation of the Buddha, in the form of a fish. Others have pointed out how this is a cross between Buddhist and Christian symbols.”
Trista has worked with her two “best Taiwanese mates” to make very iconoclastic and high-octane art, such as the “Buddhafish,” using a spontaneous creative process which Trista refers to as “Doing Lines.” The three work together freely to create an image through brushstrokes, united under a common, often cross-cultural theme that plays on the subconscious. In fact, guests at Sunday evening’s opening will be able to experience this process for themselves.
“Inside, everyone takes part in this Surrealist-type technique I use for doing a collective art project. Each person, with black ink and maobi (brush pen), creates one stroke on the theme of the Chinese Zodiac, in this case. Then, after you ‘do a line’ at the door, you get to sample some fine wine from the Italian trade office, munch on Francis Beauvais’ hors d’oeuvres, and enjoy live, world music by (Japanese sitar and tabla musicians) Yo and Waka, while perusing the artwork,” Trista described. Grafitti artist Jules Charpentier will be painting a mural in the courtyard, too, she added.
“People are starving for cultural action in Taiwan, and this is another major creative happening, another rare chance for the artistic community in Taiwan to get together for an exciting, art-filled evening.”
WHAT: “In Remembrance of Virtue Street” Art Show and Happening
WHERE: Le Rouge Restaurant, 1F, #419-6, Sec. 1, Wenhua Rd., Banciao. Directly outside Hsinpu MRT, Exit 1.
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 8, 8-10 p.m.
In Remembrance of Virtue Street: An (Extended) Interview with Trista di Genova
By DJ Marcus Aurelius
Published on plus886.com
People who are starving for cultural actions and major creative happenings will be heading out to Banchiao this Sunday night from 8-10 PM. It may seem like a peculiar place to have a cutting edge art show, but according to Trista di Genova, solo artist for In Remembrance of Virtue Street, Banciao is “Taiwan profonde,” as they would say in French; The Real Taiwan.”
Near exit one of Hsinpu MRT station, French-Italian restaurant LaRouge will be hosting the opening of Remembrance on, as well as serving hors d’oeuvres and fine Italian wine donated by the Italian trade office in Taipei. There will be live world music on the sitar and tabla by Japanese musicians Yo and Waka.
Since art is communal, di Genova says, “Everyone takes part in a Surrealist-type technique I use for doing a collective art project. Each person, with black ink and maobi (brushpen), creates one stroke on the theme of the Chinese Zodiac. Then, after you ‘do a line’ at the door, you get to sample some fine wine.” Also, live Art In Action features graffiti artist Jules Parmentier painting a mural in the courtyard on the theme of a Mediterranean port & Paris skyline.
Di Genova’s art is transformative and cross-cultural, usually incorporating her wicked sense of humor. “In Taiwan, I’ve been compelled to incorporate ghost money into my art, because to me it is truly a thing of beauty. Taiwanese people may be surprised to find their everyday symbols are seen quite differently through the eyes of a Westerner. Art captures le feeling like no other media can. And art is narrative, and we all know a well-told story is worth a million dollars.”
What does In Remembrance of Virtue mean to di Genova? ” My first painting in Taiwan (2003) was of my street, Huai De Street, which translates to “In Remembrance of Virtue” Street. I’ve always thought how Proustian this sounds, and wanted to write a book or short story with this title. Then, when I decided to have another show, since I’ve got at least 6 works inspired by my street, and it was the first subject I painted when I arrived, it seemed appropriate to name my first solo art show after it. You can see how it changes over time; the Happy House breakfast shop moved to the first floor of my building, but I was so fond of that sign. And the Smiley Mart convenience store is now an OK Mart. The Impressionists, particularly Van Gogh, were fascinated with Asian art, although they didn’t make it here. But if they HAD, they would find this place incredibly inspiring, every artist’s wet dream, for material, mystique, strange customs, colorful signs and lanterns lining the streets. For In Remembrance of Virtue, my first painting in Taiwan, I saw my street through the eyes of Van Gogh.”
Extended interview with DJ Marcus Aurelius
1. What is it about art that you love?
I love art because it’s transformative. In my case, that means cross-cultural (eg “East Meets Mae West”) and it usually incorporates humor. I’m also fond of art that pushes the envelope (“Woodpecker” was banned at my college art show at Oxford University, to me, a badge of honor).
In Taiwan, I’ve been compelled to incorporate ghost money into my art, because to me it is truly a thing of beauty; it, and other charming manifestation of religious life in Taiwan (Cf. Symbols of Taoist/Buddhist worship in “Buddhafish,” such as the devining baubwei and chicken leg offering). Taiwanese people may be surprised to find their everyday symbols are seen quite differently through the eyes of a Westerner. For “East Meets Mae West,” I saw and bought from an incense shop what turned out to be a paper lotus that someone painstakingly folds together pieces of yellow paper, and then burns when someone dies. I unfolded the papers and used them as background; they have a “wan,” or reversed Swastika, used for thousands of years in Buddhist symbology. For Westerners, we see this somewhat common sign and are quite shocked, and think it has something to do with the Nazis. So in this way, both Taiwanese and Westerners see this painting, and it changes something in their perception.
Being that art is transformative, it can change your life by appealing to deep archetypes. Take for example a painting I much admire by Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss;” you see a lovers’ haven of calm, and then — bam!! — your world is bathed, baptized, immortalized in a pool of gold.
Art captures feeling like no other media can. And art is narrative, and we all know a well-told story is worth a million dollars.
2. What made you decide to do this art show?
Francis has some great, inviting wallspace at his Italian-French restaurant in my hometown of Banciao USA, and I have a retrospective’s worth of framed paintings in my flat, and wished to start afresh, clearing house, by sharing them with my friends and fellow artists, and hopefully raising money to pay off my battels at Oxford! So, ultimately, it’s for charity — me! And so people can buy affordable masterpieces for their walls.
3. Tell me about this one. Sell me this art show. Why should I go?
People are starving for cultural action in Taiwan. And this is ANOTHER Major Creative Happening, another rare chance for the artistic community in Taiwan to get together for an exciting art-filled evening.
Besides my cutting-edge artworks decking out the entire place, we’ll have live World Music (sitar and tabla by Japanese musicians Yo and Waka http://tablawakasitaryo.blogspot.com/), hors d’oeuvres catered by Le Rouge Restaurant (people come all the way from Tamshui for Francis Beauvais’ calzone), and wine sponsored by the Italian Trade Office in Taipei. Then we’ll have live Art In Action, with grafitti artist Jules Charpentier painting a mural on the theme of a Mediterranean port & Paris skyline. My Aussie mate Phillip Charlier is bringing the spirit of Bob Dylan to Taiwan by performing some of Bob’s works. I say proudly that Pastor Phil is probably the best guitarist on the island.
Inside, everyone takes part in a Surrealist-type technique I use for doing a collective art project — each person, with black ink and maobi (brushpen) creates one stroke on the theme of… The Chinese Zodiac, in this case. Then, after you “do a line” at the door, you get to sample some fine wine from Italia, che bella paese.
4. What does the name, “In Remembrance of Virtue” mean to you? Why did you decide to name the show this?
My first painting in Taiwan (2003) was of my street, Huai De Street, which translates to “In Remembrance of Virtue” Street. I’ve always thought how Proustian this sounds, and wanted to write a book or short story with this title. Then, when I decided to have another show, since I’ve got at least 6 works inspired by my street, and it was the first subject I painted when I arrived, it seemed appropriate to name my first solo art show after it. You can see how it changes over time; the Happy House breakfast shop moved to the first floor of my building, but I was so fond of that sign. And the Smiley Mart convenience store is now an OK Mart. Do you see the goddess/femme fatale in the image?
5. Have you ever done an art show before?
Yes, several, usually group art shows. This is my first real solo art show (“The Wild East” show began when Tim Nathan Joel & Daniel Desjardins invited me to do a solo show, but I opened it up so that we wound up with 27 artists! Man, people still talk about that one…)
I began painting in earnest in Paris, France in 1993; have shown in local shows in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC; Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley, CA; University of Oxford, England. In Taipei, I’ve shown my work at Citizen Cain (“Contemplating Lilies”, some of which you can see at this show); a lily was shown at The Watershed Lounge. For my last two shows, I’ve teamed up with Ross Kenneger as a partner for Art On The Move Productions (AOM) to have art shows on the road.
6. Tell me about doing the painting together. What does this mean?
See above explanation in #4 of “Doing Lines,” a Surrealist-inspired technique I use when painting with others. At first, people paint lines that may seem arbitrary; but as you continue to play, a narrative begins to reveal itself. I find it an exciting way to invent iconic images, especially cross-cultural with my friends, Joanne Chu and Wubai.
7. How has living in Banchiao influenced your life and your art?
I made my first friend here, when Mr. Hsu offered me an umbrella. The betelnut family across the street invited me and Pastor Phil to a barbecue right there on the street, literally. Within a few blocks we have everything: a Taoist temple, a traditional morning market, all the ordinary Taiwanese culinary treats via “Food Street” vendors, betelnut stands, beer, liquor 24-7. Banchiao makes life so convenient and rich, you never have to leave. Banciao is “Taiwan profonde,” as they would say in French; The Real Taiwan.
Another exclusive interview of Trista di Genova, with The China Post
1. What is the significance of the name “Buddha Fish”?
Through a spontaneous creative process I call “Doing Lines,” we invented a new representation of the Buddha, in the form of a fish. Others have pointed out how this is a cross between Buddhist and Christian symbols.
2. Who are Wubai and Joanne Chu?
My best Taiwanese mates. Joanne has studied painting for many years. Together we make very iconoclastic, high-octane art.
3. The face of this Buddha image with the gentle eyelids and ruby red lips is very feminine. What’s the significance?
I’d been studying a book of photos with statues, sculptures of the Buddha around the world. I believe that is your interpretation…
4. The lotus — representing enlightenment and the purity of the mind — is one of Buddhism’s most important symbols. What is the importance of this image here? What about other offerings depicted in this painting?
The painting is a collection of Taoist/Buddhist symbols associated with the Buddha (pearl on a lotus, savastika, incense, large earlobes, hairstyle Thai-like). However, some, such as the chicken leg offering or the red divining baubwei, are mostly specific to Taiwan.
5. Is the title of this work playing with words? For example is this woman; behaving well, behaving poorly, or simply behaving as she feels?
It’s a woman at a bar; she’s being given money by a bartender; a sailor elephant is sniffing at her ‘cigarette’ (she has a bag of weed, too, although maybe keep this detail out); she’s ‘missbehaving’ in the sense that she is doing all these things that “ladies” are not supposed to do; however, she is also the focus of great attention, in high demand; and self-sufficient (key locks her heart below her seat). She has “Hong Kong feet.”
6. Do the elephant’s trunk and the imp have any sexual symbolism?
Probably. The ‘imp’ is a drunkard at her feet.
7. A heart with a key in it seems to imply a need to have one’s feelings or love released. Why is it under her foot?
She keeps it to herself; it’s heavily guarded.
8. Are there any thematic relationships between this work and the above one?
Not really. They were both done using the Surrealist-inspired “Doing Lines” game.
Banciao by Night
9. Can you discuss what you mean by “magical quality of daily life”?
I’ve never stayed in one place more than a year, let alone 6 years of blissful living in Banciao. Banciao has all the charms of Taiwan in one concentrated area: sweet and friendly people who speak no English, packs of dogs roaming the streets, betelnut beauties, gods marching in raucous processions, fireworks day and night… People tell me it’s like Taiwan used to be, 20 years ago.
10. You refer to Vincent Van Gogh here. What do you mean when you say that he might have seen Taiwan like this? Are you speaking in terms of colors? If so, how would these colors related to emotional qualities?
The Impressionists, particularly Van Gogh, were fascinated with Asian art, although they didn’t make it here. But if they HAD, they would find this place incredibly inspiring, every artist’s wet dream, for material, mystique, strange customs, colorful signs and lanterns lining the streets. For this, my first painting in Taiwan, I saw my street through the eyes of Van Gogh.