Sun, 07 Sep 2003

D'On Fan-I's explores the body's inner landscapes

In the world of art, the female body is nothing new. Throughout the ages it has been among the most dearly loved objects of study, be it in painting or sculpture. Most images dealt with the outward appearance, captured by the male gaze.

For Taiwan-born Paris resident Jessica D'On Fan-I, however, the outer layer of the human figure matters less. The artist describes what happens inside the body -- the female body that is.

For her, art exists in a natural manner inside our bodies. Her canvases explore the process of the beginning of life within the female body, examining female nature through organic fluxes as they emerge in the inner landscapes.

Her paintings denote the embryonic steps toward human existence -- their inner imprints -- and the mechanics of its development. While they are based on scientific knowledge, the paintings' own dimension is colored by strong emotional tensions, with premonitory dreams affecting her extraordinary imagery.

Floating lines and circles against brick red, yellow green with dotted black or white: fetuses in process, but also clones -- the latest "finding" of science -- they all fill her canvases at the CP Biennale 2003 with her delicate, compassionate and poetic touch.

They evoke a sense of science fiction, a world of outer space, which is in fact the inner space privileged to no other than the female body.

In the many mixed medias she applies, D'On Fan-I includes transparent veils and aluminum to emphasize the contemporary nature of the age-old process.

"Transparency and the silvery color are the features of today," she explained. Yet her Eastern heritage is not forgotten; it shines through in her choice of colors and one is struck through that touch of the famed mystique.

Born in Taiwan, she became familiar with art when her mother taught her the art of Chinese calligraphy when she was barely eight years old. After completing her secondary education in Taipei, she moved with her parents to Singapore where she studied drawing in a private studio and subsequently entered Malaysia's Institute of Art.

Although she had established her own studio in Singapore after her graduation, the urge to pursue more knowledge sent her on her way to the museums of Europe.

She also followed courses in the Fine Arts section of the National University in Taiwan, studying art history, philosophy and theater, while also immersing herself in the techniques for working with glass, sculpture and ceramics.

She settled in Montreal in 1989, then moved to Toronto and took courses at the Ontario School of Art.

While she absorbed everything she studied and was impressed by several masters, she practiced abstraction and landscape painting for some time. But it is the iconography of the body that ultimately fascinated her more than anything else. She had found her calling: Transcending realities of cold science into fascinating vistas of a fetus' journey toward birth.

CP Biennale 2003; Sept. 4 - Oct. 3, 2003; Galeri Nasional, Jl. Merdeka Timur, Jakarta; Open daily except Mondays;

-- Carla Bianpoen