“A drop of Water”

2 April - 28 April, 2021

Tamsui Historical Museum, Taipei

by Mary B. Williams

 

Lush depictions of flowers, intense use of texture, deliberate inattention to scale and perspective. Marina Burana’s paintings give us the feeling of things multiplying, evolving, mapping out a full drama of shades and forms that talk about the ever-changing richness of life.

 

A glass vase is rapidly outlined with dashes of color to suggest water and stillness. But after a moment, we are left wondering whether those energetic splashes of paint represent a glass vase at all. Red colors vibrate in what seems to be a bunch of waratahs dancing over a green background that engulfs them but yet brings them forward. While Hydrangeas (her favorite flowers) try to fight back an overwhelming dripping of paint, Roses join forces to practice sophistry and seem to climb out of the canvas.

 

There is always a struggle in Burana's work. A convoluted sequence of enunciation and silence. Nature is presented in its rawness and, although there, signs of human intervention are slowly abraded and, in many cases, questioned. Marina often says that the process is everything. She is a doer of the impossible: she paints the transient, that which escapes us constantly.

 

And when it comes to process, Burana goes even further. Together with her canvas paintings, she presents us with the making of Tapa; barkcloth made from the Paper Mulberry tree. An indigenous practice of South East Asia and nations of the Pacific. She first encountered this practice in 2015 through her indigenous friends of Taiwan who make barkcloth for different purposes. But many years went by before she decided to start making it herself. 

 

To talk about the making of Tapa ("shu pi bu" in Chinese), Burana quotes Roger Neich and Mick Pendergrast in "Pacific Tapa" (University of Hawai'i Press, 1997): "This method commences by stripping the bark from the tree, separating the inner from the outer bark, which is discarded, and then beating the inner bark on an anvil, usually with wooden beaters, to spread the fibres." The process of beating takes months, she says, and it is overall a very labor-intensive, profound activity that speaks to the collective. Burana grows the trees herself, made her own tools and spent time with knowledge holders who showed her the nuances and secrets of this practice. Then she started painting on the barkcloth with Chinese ink and earth pigments.

 

"In a way, this exhibition", Marina confides to me, "is a contradiction, a reflection of my own inconsistency as part of these terrible, all-consuming systems that we live in and that we can't escape from". She makes reference to the fact that, on the one hand, she deals with sustainable materials (when making Tapa) and, on the other, mass-produced objects such as canvases, oils, brushes, acrylics, etc. She is now developing her own oils, "but the road to sustainability is long and arduous for me", she adds demurely.

 

"A drop of Water" is a body of work that was selected by the renowned Tamsui Historical Museum in New Taipei city to be part of their annual exhibition program. A difficult and surprising accomplishment for an immigrant in Taiwan (and even for locals). But Marina shrugs, smiles and looks away with tenderness, almost like a little child. You can tell the concept of change is a big thing for her and it doesn't really let her savor the arbitrariness of labels and permanent structures. Just like her flowers, which in their dynamic of transformation defy limits and go beyond any constraint.  

*****

"Rhapsody on a Windy Night"

3 November - 25 November, 2018 

SLY art space, Taipei

by Tim Wang

Marina Burana frequents the entanglements of the abstract. "I would say this exhibition is a celebration of the personal wanderings of the mind", she explains in her artist statement.

 

Inspired by T. S. Eliot's poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and her personal relationship with the sea and plants, Marina paints the delusions of memory with the elements of the natural world. The puzzling reality born out of the incongruity of what we think we know sprouts up before us in the diversity of colour and the intermingling of textures that are usually found in nature.

 

"When we swim, once we are underwater, it's as if we were no longer connected to the outside world, with what happens on the surface", she explains. "Suddenly, the sounds are muffled, distorted. What we see is not as clear as what we see on land. Our bodies feel lighter and everything somehow seems like a dream. Reality takes on new dimensions and then there's the looming need to go back to the surface to breath. Kind of like memory. Once we are underwater (“wanderers in our personal memories”) the surface (“the material world”) seems something that's in another plane of existence. Something to what we will go back sometime soon, but that can actually wait a little longer as we explore the vastness of the unknown, of that enigmatic cosmos that has the potential of killing us and also of giving us joy".

 

From her deep love of poetry, and literature in general, she showcases pieces that touch on what we experience in our everyday lives but can't put into words. With an array of beautiful imagery, Marina Burana explores memory and life. She summons in her paintings the impermanent by way of lively hues and thick brushstrokes. She has an innocent smile when she talks about memory and nature. She doesn't seem to believe her own words. Her paintings talk for her, though. What she can't mention, her brush accomplishes in oodles of emotion and authenticity.   

風夜狂想曲-介紹

明蓮花

「風夜狂想曲」是T.S. Eliot的詩。這首詩是本系列畫作背後的靈感來源,所以我選它作為這次展覽的名稱。這首詩講述某人夜裡在街上徘徊、迷失在自己的思緒,他看著自己周遭的世界,而他也是這個世界的一部份。詩中描述了記憶等短暫的東西、存在的肉體性(也就是物質世界)之間的拉扯。這首詩感覺像是擺盪在記憶之流和家庭生活之間的一支舞(或是如我剛才所說的,是一種拉扯),它時不時會打斷陳述者的遊蕩,因而創造出一些揮之不去的物質與非物質意象。

 

十二點鐘。

沿著掌握在月光合成中的

街道的各處地方

在悄悄施展著月亮的魔術

消融著的回憶的立足點

以及所有它的清楚關係

它的各種分歧與準確性,

我經過的每盞街燈

像一面決定命運的鼓在敲響,

而通過那些黑洞洞的空間

午夜在搖撼記憶中過去的一切

像一個瘋子搖撼一株死了的天竺葵。

 

我徘徊在這首詩裡時,感受到一股衝動;我想重新定義某些意象,把它轉化成我自己的回憶和事實。我私密的存在論。

 

記憶無情地拋出的

是一堆扭曲了的東西;

海灘上一根扭曲的樹枝

已沖得光而且滑

好像世界暴露了

它骷髏的秘密

僵直而白。

 

我在讀這首詩的時候,腦中馬上浮現了海的意象。我和海洋一直有很深的緣份。我人生大部份的時間都在凝望廣大的海洋或悠游其中。我們游泳時一進到水裡,彷若就和外界、和水面上的一切隔絕開來了。忽然間,各種聲響都變得模糊、扭曲,我們的視線也不若在陸地上時那麼清楚。身體感覺變輕了,一切感覺都像在夢境裡。現實以新的樣貌呈現,我們隱約感到回到水面呼吸的需求;這些都和回憶相似。當我們進到裡(遊走在我們自己的回憶裡),水面(物質世界)看起來就像存在於另一個平面,那是我們很快就會回去的地方,但我們其實可以在水下再待久一點,探索無邊的未知,還有那可能會讓我們窒息或帶給我們喜悅的神秘宇宙。 

我發現了回憶和水下世界之間的關聯,並起把它們轉化成我的畫作,它們的共通點就是流動變化的色彩和各種交錯的形狀,就像無情地拋出一堆扭曲東西的記憶。

我很早就決定不要把重點放在詩中呈現的回憶和物質世界之間的拉扯,還有兩者的似非而是的並存關係。我想探索回憶所帶來的複雜意象,還有它們的流動和軔性。

上述兩個主題(回憶和物質世界)間的拉扯在詩的結尾找到答案。詩中的主角感到沮喪挫敗,他的存在是無可避免的現實,他只存在於無限循環的過往畫面和快速萎縮的肉體之中。

 

燈說,

“四點鐘,

這裡是門上的門牌。

回憶!

你掌握鑰匙,

那盞小小的燈在樓梯上留下一個環形。

登樓。

 

床是鋪好的;牙刷掛在牆上,

把鞋脫在門口,睡吧,做好一輩子的準備。 ”

利刃的最後轉動。 

 

但這首詩同時也展現了物質世界和精神世界有多麼交錯不清。一方面有牙刷、鞋子,「為生活準備」等屬於有限世界的東西,但另一方面又有睡眠、黑暗、無意識等閉上眼睛進入最高深莫測的心靈狀態這樣的東西。在在都留給讀者一股無力感,讓他們看到到頭來物質世界還是戰勝了心識偶爾會踏上的道路;一條不切實際、沒有結果的路。

這種複雜的關係成為我畫作中拉扯/舞蹈的根基。但當我投入創作過程時,這股拉扯變得不再那麼重要,我轉而探索另一層拉扯關係:用顏色親密的舞動代表回憶。

我認為這次的展覽是在歌頌個人心靈的神遊。