Artists ‘Beat the Flood’, Raising Half A Million

by Trista di Genova
The Wild East

A charity art auction held at the Lili Gallery in Tienmu on Sept. 5, raising a remarkable half million NT dollars (about US$16,000) for victims of Typhoon Morakot.

Roma Mehta's lily
Roma Mehta's lily

Nineteen artists, both expatriate and Taiwanese, participated in the event, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Painters brought their own supplies and were given a large (100 x 150cm) canvas to work with when they arrived, filling up two floors of the uptown bar/restaurant with the pleasant spectacle of artists hard at work, side by side for a good cause. It was creativity in action, a wonderful sight to behold for visitors who flowed through the living museum throughout the day, at times with children in tow. Silent and online auctions were also held.

After disaster struck Southern Taiwan in August, killing hundreds of mountain villagers in disastrous mudslides and displacing countless others, British poet and painter Timothy-Nathan Joel made an alliance with the other two major sponsors of the show, the Community Services Center and CCIFT, the French chamber of commerce in Taipei.

Tim with his art “We decided let’s get together and do this; and Saturday was the result,” Tim said. Through his Beat Studio connections, he worked with the other organizers, Roma Mehta who drew upon her band of artists, The Art Connection; Steve Parker, director of the Community Services Center in Tienmu; and Prashanta “Prish” Lachanna who helped facilitate the artists’ online presence.

It was held at Patrick Lee’s Lili Gallery in Tienmu, where there’s a studio base on third floor, second floor gallery space, and restaurant café and bar on the first floor. Lee, quite established in his own right as an artist in Taiwan’s art world, used to run Club 75 in Tienmu, a famous nightspot that drew stars and intellectuals of the day.

“We’ve all had shows there in the past, and we approached him about it. He kindly let us have this charity show there,” said Tim.

Roma Mehta’s phenomenal oil painting raised the most money for charity, clocking in at a solid NT$65,000, what must be a steal for any discerning art collector. She says she came to Taiwan 21 years ago with her husband who works for a trading company, and “we just stayed,” she says. She is also editor of the Center’s magazine, Centered on Taipei.

“I was just thrilled with the energy that was prevalent that day,” Roma said. “I think it was incredible that 19 of us artists and all those musicians got together, everybody was in the right spirit and there for the same cause.”

“It was incredible, the power of that day. We all loved what we were doing, helping other people. So magical, isn’t it? We’re completely overwhelmed by the success,” said Roma in an interview.

As for her oil painting of a lotus, she says it “signifies a higher consciousness, because even in Buddhism or other philosophies the lotus means even in murkiest, darkest times hope can spring forth, and that’s what it meant for me. The blue stands for water of course, and the pattern I created in red and grey tone — those are connnections that we are making at different levels, reaching out to those in need. The lotus in all of its glory comes forth as a symbol of hope because it comes through a higher consciousness; which describes the spirit of the day. We all jumped in and carried the day through with amazing energy. We’re all troubled by people suffering so much. We love Taiwan, call it our home, and are excited something good could come out of it all despite the destruction.”

All the artworks raised at least NT$10,000 each, averaging about NT$25,000 apiece.

Taiwanese artist at work
Taiwanese artist at work

Richard Smith, a Briton, said “I bid NT$10,000 on several” of the pieces, and plans to decorate his office at UKEAS with the three stunning pieces he purchased.

A young Croatian artist, Aleksandra Tolnauer, whose striking abstract raised NT$22,000 at auction, started painting recently, only after being “inspired by Taiwan.” What she initially had in mind was a far darker image, but found herself layering bright, intriguing color blocks, in hopes of “brightening the picture up.”

Indeed, the artists’ contribution toward flood victims, topping NT$510,000, will brighten the lives of many schoolkids in southern Taiwan.

“Some friends went down there to assess how we can help. Rather than just handing it out to one place, we are sending the help to pinpointed areas, three different places, all related to children,” said Tim.

One is the Taiwu elementary school’s center for traditional arts in Pingtung. Thirty children are going to Ilan to raise funds, and will be provided with “transportation and whatever they need to get there.” Another school was destroyed in Dulan, Taitung County, and will get “whatever they need to reconstruct it.”

“This is something we’d like to do again and again, event and auctions perhaps one a year. And as a collective of artists we’ll be doing a lot more things, not twiddling our thumbs waiting for the next typhoon, and getting out together more often, like Huashan. And it’s for a good cause — that’s great,” said Tim.

Artist Daniel Desjardins working on final touches
Artist Daniel Desjardins working on final touches

“It was such a wonderful day and a great success. People who went there would like to see that kind of thing happening again; we all said the same thing. But we’re looking for better venues,” he added.

For photos of the paintings and more information about “ARTISTS BEAT THE FLOOD,” find them on Facebook or see Roma Mehta’s shots of the event.

Trista di Genova is a Banciao-based travel and features writer, and editor of the award-winning online magazine “The Wild East.”

My contribution, "Contemplative-lily"

My experience as a participating artist: “I am proud to be part of helping raise a substantial chunk of cash to help typhoon victims in Taiwan. My lily painting raised 15,000NT alone (US$500), that was very fulfilling. As an artist, it was wonderful to work, meet and talk with other artists in Taiwan, and with the visitors, too, who were also thrilled to be there.”

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