China Still Lifes


Wandering the back alleys of Taiwanese cities, like Kaohsiung, Taipei, Ali Shan, Dan Shui, and many others, the feeling is quite different than wandering the alleys of an American City. In America, we expect our alleys to be dark, bare, dirty spaces, unkempt, occupied by trash bins, often foreboding and reeking of a foul smell. (The stuff that Film Noir is made of.) The alleys of Taiwan couldn’t be more different. They are typically a narrow walkways, bright and clean, between back-to-back buildings with apartments or small businesses.

It seems that what many Americans use their garages for, is how the Taiwanese use their alleys: an extra storage space. It is where the fans go in winter and the umbrellas in spring, where extra mops are propped to dry, where BBQ utensils are stored between uses, where a broken chair sits hoping to be some day fixed.

However, there is a further difference. In the ideal American garage, all is put on shelves, boxed, and/or neatly stacked. Order rules the day. The Taiwanese sensibility is different. It is not that their “stuff” is in dis-order, it is just a different order. There is an interplay of shapes, the dynamics of the “empty” spaces between objects, the specific angles at which objects rest, and the relationships of the colors of both the objects and the backgrounds that I find fascinating. I’m sure that none of these arrangements are done consciously, I can only attribute it to a general sensibility that I call (hopefully without demeaning it) Oriental.