The odd elephant can still be spotted wandering about some Bangkok streets in the evenings which is both exotic and sad. I am certain it is not a fun location for such an animal. Bangkok is Thailand turned very modern. I always find it chaotically pleasant as I move about the city via the Skytrain or on the back of a motor-bike taxi through the thick layers of humid, smoggy air and the tantalising food fumes. I shared a room in an apartment with a small but elaborate kumarnthong shrine that housed a number of spirit children. The children live somewhere in an ethereal world but enjoy physical gifts of eggs, red cordial, snacks and small toys. After play and food they bring good luck to their hosts if they are looked after well.
My passion for tropical fruit was appeased with fresh jackfruit, guava, mango, paw paw, mangosteen and the totally delicious lumud (sapodilla) all available outside on the Bangkok streets. Large amounts of heart shaped kitch were also on sale one week which prompted a friend to propose to his girlfriend so I may return to Bangkok for a wedding later in the year.
My bed now lies north of Thailand in a studio at the Taipei Artists Village where I shall spend the next three months working on new Travailogue paintings and getting to know a little about Taiwan.
Taipei is the home of this week’s largest building on the planet. The 506 metre tall 101 building is the rather attractive square-ish bamboo design of architect C. Y. Lee. A likable skyscraper that cost 1.64 billion US$ to pierce the clouds. Within its flashy and massive mall area I observed two shoppers with blow up corgi dogs on leashes. Floating pets that are dragged about in public confuse me a little. I just hope it was some form of humour.
Another sad display here are the current elections, which involve the shooting of the president, massive rallies, flags, firecrackers, numerous scuffles, demands for a re-count and general organized chaos for some weeks. It seems Chen Shui-bian has won the role of president again.
Taipei with a population of 2.7 million has bits of Beijing, bits of Hong Kong and bits of Japan all glued together with something Formosan or Taiwanese or should I say something Republic of Chinese?
This is a fine part of the world with generally a very polite and friendly population sadly the land suffers from bad smaze. (A smog and haze blend) The beautiful mountain-scapes, bamboo forests, natural hot springs and pretty islands help to counter-act the population density and pollution but really a good spring cleaning is needed.
It is a worry when you see many people wearing cloth masks over their mouths and noses and hear radio announcers suggesting that you should not breath some days in some parts of Taiwan.
An Australia-China Council (www.dfat.gov.au/acc) residence award has situated me in studio 401 in the Taipei Artists Village (www.artistvillage.org) It is a large, neat and comfortable working space centrally located and nearby is the main train station. Not far away are numerous art and culture museums. In particular the National Palace Museum which houses the largest and finest collection of Chinese art on the planet. As a working space the T.A.V. is excellent with a most helpful staff and good facilities. I feel that my three months here will be highly productive.
Besides one very rare incident involving a rabid, betel nut chewing, stick wielding taxi driver Taipei has been receptive to me and I have responded by producing new work with a Antarctic Chinoiseries flavour. I have visited many galleries, meet artists and was part of a ‘Blood-blending’ art performance by Lu Shien Fu. Besides studio time I have made a long and interesting loop trip around Taiwan, which included visits to Taichung, Chiayi, Alee Mountain (a great journey from pineapple plantations to conifer forests via train.) Kuohsiung, Taidong, Natural hot springs and the relaxed Green Island. Best get back to the studio now to rearrange the experiences into paintings.