Piao Piao Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

2010 Harmony Mask. Sigitas Staniunas exhibition in Piao Pia0 Gallery, Taipei.
Piao Piao Gallery is one of those places in the Yong Kang Street which attracts numbers of artists, art lovers and collectors.  It was established in 2004. The owner Peng Kanglong said, “The motivation to open the gallery was based neither on material incentives nor on the notion of ‘art for art’s sake’. Actually, this is just a way of lifestyle. The way of lifestyle I like.” The tiny but cozy gallery functions not only as an exhibition hall but also invites passersby for a cup of tea and leisurely chats. It offers an open but at the same time very intimate space for art exchange.

Yong Kang Street is included in all travel guides as one of the top destinations for those who want to experience the lively urban spirit of the city. At first look, in Yong Kang Street, one can find all the typical attributes of Taipei’s nightlife culture, such as traditional ice-cream shops, Hong Kong-style dim sum restaurants, exotic cuisines or small boutique stores. However, more sensitive visitor would feel that the atmosphere in this street is somewhat different.

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Apart from all kinds of stores and restaurants, there are quite a few art galleries and antique shops situated in this area. Unlike other similar places in the city, Yong Kang Street attracts not only people who aim to fill their bellies and to satisfy their consumerist impulses but also those who feel a hunger for intellectual and spiritual pabulum.

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During the five year’s period, Piao Piao has earned its reputation as a commercially successful and experienced gallery. In 2009, the second exhibition hall, the Paint Cool Gallery, was opened just in front of the first one.

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Art Collaboration - Paradise Garden

Performer - Fang Yung

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Art works of Lithuania’s national-caliber artist Sigitas Staniunas range from paintings to installations to performance projects. Staniunas’s career has been marked by the great interest in the cultural exchange, including social and historical aspects, as well as the themes of cultural inheritance, development and progress. The influence of post-modern philosophy determined his interest in European and Asian cultures and their utilization in contemporary art. The distinguishing feature of Staniunas’s works is the interpretation of philosophical topics. Spiritual dimension and elements of idealism along with historical and psychological connotations merge in his works.

Painting is very important for Staniunas. It is the artist’s main medium of expressing ideas. He chose painting as a tool of expression because that is historically the oldest and the most profound artistic tradition. Staniunas employs modern and traditional painting techniques for the unbridled exploration of the nature of painting. The artist also integrates elements of graphics and sculpture into painting. In many exhibitions, the display of Staniunas’s works is combined with sound and installation art in order to accentuate the spirit of paintings. Asian architecture and culture has also influenced Staniunas’s painting style. One of the most important roles in his paintings is played by colors which carry specific meanings.

Staniunas often takes into account the characteristics of particular exhibition space because he aims to create an environment, an atmosphere. The viewer usually perceives many different images.  Sometimes, different cultural influences are reflected in the particular modification of traditional images. However, the uniting feature of all paintings lays in symbolism. In the creation process, images may emerge unconsciously but they are also often inspired by the environment and particular experiences.  Most of Staniunas’s works embrace Romantic nostalgia and a thread of sarcasm towards mysticism.

In the search for metaphorical expressions, Sigitas Staniunas became interested into installation art. He often chooses culturally, historically or socially meaningful places for his installations, such as a monastery, a military bunker or a fort. Since 1991, the artist has created a large number installation series in different countries, such as Observatory (Vilnius, Lithuania), Stone Powder-Fort York (Toronto, Canada), Bath House (Chicago, USA), to name just a few.

Staniunas exhibitions and installations are often accompanied by performances in order to highlight concepts that underlie paintings. His performances create the effect of pantomime. Performing for Staniunas is a mean to express his perception of the relationship between existence and creation. By exposing influences of the extremes of daily life, Staniunas tends to expound the parallels and poetics of existentialism and pragmatism. Usually, the arrangement of performances aims to express and emphasize the concepts of paintings.

While creating paintings, installations and performance projects, Staniunas also developed an interest in stage design. From 1994 to 1998, he designed sceneries for five plays of the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre.

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Art is always able to overcome artificial and geographic barriers, transmitting the deepest vibrations of human nature, even if it comes from a completely unfamiliar and mysterious country.

Since 1998, Lithuanian contemporary artist Sigitas Staniunas has collaborated with Paulius Kilbauskas. They have created unique works and performances by integrating music and painting. Sigitas’s works were exhibited in more than 10 countries. In addition, he has been knighted by the Royal Family of the Netherlands for his contribution to culture.

Most people imagine figurative painters with a brush in one hand, a palette in the other one, and following conventional techniques of color proofing. However, Sigitas’s way of painting breaks conventional rules. He starts staining his both hands with paint, and then, following the music, intuitively smears the paint on the canvas. His movements, sometimes wild, sometimes distorted, create an impression of the ritual dance full of flavor and vitality. At this point, the image still appears half-abstract, half-figurative. When the inspiration emerges, the subject gradually crystallizes, and finally the image is polished with a brush.

The process of striving to grasp new directions and positions out of chaos (just like for Lithuania separated from Soviet Union) leads to the formation of unique style.  Sigitas’s choice to use tradition as a cornerstone with adding some modifications on it resulted in his own painting style.  In addition, the regime change and facing of cultural disputes may have also marked Sigitas’s paintings with greater complexity and density of emotions.

Butterfly of Love is Sigitas’s new work. On the both sides of the painting one can see clearly layered colors and extremely delicately depicted dense bushes in rotund shapes which look like hand-trimmed garden plants. In the center of the painting, there is a woman in long cherry-red silk dress embroidered with golden patterns; patterns are additionally decorated with drop-shape blue gems.

It is interesting that Sigitas did not paint the face and arms for this graceful woman. He replaced them by a blue butterfly-shaped detail covering half of the woman’s body. There is no pattern on it. Instead, one can see the fur-like texture. In the middle part of the wings, in the place where the head should be, the color gradually turns into black. Looking from a distance, the image looks like a huge flower from a fairy tale gently bowing to greet you. When approaching closer, an aristocratic lady from a Rococo garden emerges in the painting. The whole painting possesses brilliance and radiance, expresses gorgeous and peaceful atmosphere, and is full of restrained luxury. From a distance you see the flower, when looking closer – the person. That gives the viewer two different perceptions and at the same time constitutes the artistic ingeniousness.

In German language, there is a metaphor "butterflies in the stomach" which is used to describe the feeling similar to the nervousness felt by someone in love. It reminds Taiwan’s early black and white salon photography. When people were standing in front of a camera in a photography studio, their postures and expressions would always reveal sentimental shyness and expectations, no matter how hard they would try to mask these emotions. Although you cannot see the face and the limbs of the figure in Sigitas’s painting, those huge blue wings express the unconcealed excitement of a young women longing for love. Just like in photography, this image tells, “Don’t forget the subject.”


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