A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth: Reflection, Connection, and Collection

Over the past few months I have been participating in a community arts cultural exchange project, A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth: Reflection, Connection and Collection facilitated by Ashley Yihsin Chang, International Projects Manager at Turner Galleries. This community art project brings together local Perth artists with Taiwanese women who have made Western Australia their home. A Portrait of Taiwan also runs alongside the Taipei + Perth Curators & Artists Residency Exchange Program between Turner Galleries and Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei.

The Taiwanese women who live in WA are asked to share their personal stories and cultural connections by focusing on an object they have brought from Taiwan. The local artists are asked to make a portrait of their Taiwanese partner and discuss between them the chosen object and what it means for them creating a text together which connects the two partners.

The aims of the A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth are:

  • Providing a platform for people to meet, share stories, break the culture or language barrier, encouraging conversation and understanding, and to have the opportunity to discuss culture, arts, education, and social issues.
  • Stimulating interest and discussion about cultural alignment and contrast and identifying common interests in Western Australian art to artists, curators, academics, and art collectors in Taipei, Taiwan and Perth, WA.
  • Providing opportunities for overseas Taiwanese communities and the broader Asian community here, (especially women) to engage with society and people through participation in arts and cultural projects.
  • Providing exciting opportunities through inclusiveness, with the potential to enhance and add value to the community and to personal and professional lives, ultimately making our world a safer and richer place.

– Ashley Yihsin Chang

My partner’s name is Ada Hsin-Ling Lee and Ada’s chosen object is her photography books from Taiwan. I visited Ada at her at her home in Northam and spent an afternoon getting to know her and her three children.

Ada is a self-taught photographer, using photography books bought from Taiwan, Ada has used photography and these books as the connector between her past and her present. Ada told a story of discovering her talent when photographing a friend of her husband’s, for a portrait series he commissioned. Having photographed her children growing up she had not previously considered photography as a profession; but this portrait commission gave her the confidence to pursue her interest more seriously.

From this first commission Ada earned enough money to buy herself a ukulele which she still has in her home today, I found this story of discovery especially touching and I was so inspired by Ada’s incredible drive to learn.

While we sat drinking coffee and eating Taiwanese biscuits over the afternoon Ada showed me through the books she has learned from and gave me a real time demonstration of some of her skills in photoshop.

The portrait I created of Ada uses a photograph taken of her by her friend, Sylvester Wong that I have stitched into with coloured cotton and metallic threads (the metallics unfortunately don’t show well in the reproduction below!).

Hand-stitch on a photograph of Ada Hsin-Ling Lee by Sylvester Wong.

I wanted to illustrate Ada in the process of thinking and using the skills she has learned from her photography books. I used the colours of the light spectrum and metallics to represent the combination of Ada’s concepts with the light refractions within the camera, creating a photograph.

While Ada and I talked around her computer and browsed through some of Ada’s past works on her website her daughter, Neytiri drew a portrait of us conversing around the computer. A lovely addition to the A Portrait of Taiwan discussion I think!

A portrait of Ada and I looking at Ada’s website by Neytiri.

See Ada’s photography work at: