“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.