This exhibition was curated by Pi-Shan WU, the assistant professor of Tainan National University of the Arts, Graduate Institute of Applied Arts. In Colour Theatre, the concept of“colour”originates from rich natural plants in the environment of Taiwan. Each of various native plants has its own inherent personality and distinctive colour that tells its expression. Thanks to Taiwan’s unique environment and climate, natural resource abundance provides opportunities for people to take on experiments boldly and freely in the natural dyeing process. Meanwhile, natural dyeing reflects Taiwanese people’s respect for nature, sustainability, balance, diversity, circulation, tolerance, and vitality.
Having more than 30 years of history, the development of natural dyeing in Taiwan initially followed a tradition of fiber crafts, that is, to use natural materials such as true indigo, turmeric, and subrostrate crape myrtle; dyes were extracted from roots, stems, fruits, peels, flowers or leaves of these local plants to produce vegetable colours that reflected their native environments. Organic substances were also extracted from animal bodies that coloured fibers and other materials. For example, the red dye extracted from cochineals produced a vibrant animal colour. In addition, particles such as mud, loess, ink, and carbon were used to make pigments, creating mineral colours that bound the features of mountains and rivers. In the process of development, people gradually had more discussions on the contemporary trends in environmental friendliness and protection, expanding influence of natural dye techniques on society. A diversity of local colours, coupled with the concept of ecological sustainability, has become important nutrients for young craftsmen in the creation and exploration of contemporary fiber art.
Borrowing the imagery of theatre, Colour Theatre uses the three elements of theatre (i.e., actors, space, and audience) to interpret the overall atmosphere of the exhibition. Taking the role of actors, works shape the inner expression of natural colours; space is created with Taiwan’s landform that features a diversity of natural colours, and with the active participation of the audience in the exhibition, a perfect colour performance is achieved. The exhibition unites the interpretation of Colour Theatre with the physical routes of the theatre and the concept of space transformation. The space is designed using the three representatives of Taiwanese culture, namely, Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy and Drawing Room, and Open-air Stage, allowing the audience to follow the colours and move about in this unique U-shaped exhibition. Like roaming around frontstage and backstage in the theatre, the audience can interact with the colours of diverse species extracted from the environment of Taiwan and feel their personalities and characteristics of Taiwan they convey, enjoying the uniqueness of Taiwanese culture nourished by the natural environment.
Closely linked to the display of works, the formation of Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy and Drawing Room, and Open-air Stage conveys the cultural significance of fiber crafts in Taiwan. Tea Ceremony discusses the tea-drinking culture in Taiwan. It uses aesthetic accessories such as table runners, tea mats, and tea towels to show the beauty and delicacy of natural dyeing. Calligraphy and Drawing Room visualizes the artistic conception of writing and painting with dyed paper, dyes, and pigments to show how people can live an aesthetic life with natural dye works. Open-air Stage, by playing different fiber dyeing documentaries, introduces the local strengths of natural fibers and dyes in Taiwan and how craftsmen take advantage of natural resource abundance to explore and create natural dye works.
The works on display present the ample capacity for Taiwan’s natural dyeing development and its infinite possibilities from three perspectives. First, a group of Taiwanese scholars who specialize in dyeing techniques have long conducted research on the colours and dyeing of local plants and soil in Taiwan, contributing greatly to the development of natural dyeing. The second dimension of the source of works comes from brands or industries that start from the traditional craft industry by promoting natural and organic innovative concepts to pursue further breakthroughs in aesthetics or an attempt to enhance the mass production of naturally dyed products. The third dimension of the work presents a new generation of young artisan, using different media to challenge the creation of installations, sculptures, and other diverse method, showing the unique artistic practice of natural dyeing technology.
Taiwan’s unique environment has nurtured a wealth of natural resources from mountains and rivers and oceans to land and vegetation. Locally sourced materials can be extracted to make vegetable colours, mineral colours, or animal colours, creating a wide spectrum of colours in natural dyeing. This gives designers, craftsmen, and scholars opportunities to create natural dye works and research freely and boldly with their creativity. In the process of passing down Taiwan fiber crafts, they incorporate contemporary issues (e.g., environmental friendliness, natural or organic lifestyle, diversity, and tolerance) and imagination of sustainable futures into the works, allowing natural dyeing to be used in people’s everyday life in various forms and with infinite possibilities.
“Welcome to Colour Theatre to explore the beauty of natural dyeing performed by a group of enthusiastic designers, craftsmen, and scholars using the abundant natural resources in Taiwan.”
Exhibition Dates: 7-15 May
Opening Hours: 11am-6pm
Exhibition and Workshop Venue: OXO Gallery (Oxo Tower Wharf Barge House Street SE1 9PH)
2022 London Craft Week Website: https://www.londoncraftweek.com/events/colour-theatre-taiwanese-fibre-crafts/