This last Sunday I had a short but sweet run in with a delightful young vampire in an art gallery. It turns out, her fangs were actually carrot sticks, and they didn’t last for very long before she gobbled them up. As I laughed with her, the sound of a massive drum rumbled off the walls and over the soft background jazz and chattery din of all the other people present. They, like us, had come to support and admire local artists on a Sunday afternoon, and we found ourselves in good company. Fragments of English and Mandarin conversations fluttered throughout the gallery. Everybody seemed to think that a little extra drums action from the corner was a positive thing. Beside the two of us was a small trio of 50-somethings, laughing lightheartedly with a wise kindness in their eyes. In front of us more people, some food, more people, a beautiful hand-crafted bar with beer on tap, and finally, walls full of vibrant, living art.
The paintings were the main event and the space gave priority to their needs, to be sure. Nevertheless, as if to remind everyone that art happens in more ways than one, the bass and piano amp were pushed aside, not packed away. Microphones on stands stood at the ready, and I trust that if anybody had wanted to step up and slam some poetry or belt a solo, it would have been received warmly. The drums got louder and I made a face at Dracula’s daughter and we both giggled, the orange chunks in her mouth threatening to come launching out in full force.
Glancing around the room, I noticed it wasn’t just us; smiles, laughter, and a relaxed openness characterized the exchanges happening all over the gallery. It felt like you would always comfortable to do what you want to do in this space, be it dancing with carrot sticks poking out of your mouth, lounging on the ornate framed bed with your iPad, or simply discussing the particular use of colors on a canvas with a friend you haven’t met yet.
Dope paintings, positive vibes, smooth lighting, endearing people who want to hear your stories as much as they want to tell theirs. As I kicked back and paused to soak it all in, it was just so obvious, so clear to me: this is the kind of thing I want in my life. I want more of this.
And who wouldn’t, I mean really?
It was on the 4th of this month that the Red Room held its first of a series of monthly Visual Dialogues, wherein the work from two artists from different cultures is displayed in a shared space. Kicking off the series were the works of 房耀忠 and Charles Haines, the vast majority of which were paintings on flat canvas. The new space at TAF, which has been filling up with new amenities and practical touches almost daily over the last month since Red Room moved in, felt wonderfully warm with its walls covered in the glowing colors of 房 and Haines. If you’ve been coming to events here recently, you’ll know what I mean when I say the place is different every time you walk in. Today a new fridge, tomorrow a couple dozen new paintings.
The pieces themselves were an absolute delight; both of the artists coupled a brilliantly bold palette of color with dancing, jesting, scowling, and screeching figures, animal and human all at once. Bold lines and clearly-defined shapes.
Charles Haines’s pieces ran a gamut from crowlike harpies moaning against dark skies to skeletal tribal creatures caught mid-scream. All of them juxtaposed definite forms with ambiguous meanings and narratives. Within all his works there lurked a rich darkness that lent the Red Room an atmosphere of dense, bleeding life. Just the perfect scene for our little bouncing vampire.
房耀忠’s bright, popping works provided a perfect foil to the eerie mystery of Haines’s. No less bold with his colors and lines, 房 had all manner of wonky creatures twirling and twisting through his pieces. Cackling horses, guitar kitties, cubist owls, and toothy demons were everywhere you looked, each one a little goofy somehow but no less captivating for it. A penchant for a lighter palette with vivid rainbow colors describes 房’s general aesthetic. Almost cartoonish at times and always playful, his paintings made me fantasize about the bizarre misadventures his characters must have in their bizarre worlds. I felt refreshed.
But of course the best part wasn’t just seeing each artist’s work on a wall. The best part was that the pieces were all mixed together, complimenting each other, breathing life into the space, having, dare I say it, a dialogue. And when you go to the Red Room, you can rest assured that there’s room in that dialogue for you. Room for both music and paintings, for both laughter and blood, for old and new alike.
The Red Room is a space for art in Taipei, which is cool. Like, really cool. But what’s really cool is that it’s also the kind of place where a massive cake accompanied by joyous singing suddenly zooms out of the corner and everyone puts down their (delicious) sangrias to join in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. It’s the kind of place where you say to somebody, “Wow, that’s a gorgeous shelving unit,” and they respond with “Yeah, you wanna meet the guy who built it? He’s right over there.” Young and old, native and foreign alike all come together, building an intimate environment in which to share their art. People congregate at this kind of place to hear the voices of others, they come here for community.
Last Sunday I saw some beautiful paintings in a gallery. But what made it so special and so memorable was that I also got to meet a cool photographer, jump across cultural and language barriers with local Taiwanese, sip a cold beer, jam to some beats, and laugh with a vampire.
We love to pour over a detailed painting. We love to sit on the edge of our seats in a theater. We love to get shivers from listening to music. But what’s all that art for with no one to share it with? The Red Room is the kind of place where you’ll come for the art and stay for the people. It’s not about them and their art that you came to see. It’s about the us we can build if we take care to make thoughtful exchange happen.
Word on the street is that these paintings are going to be up for the next month-ish, so if you missed the formal showing, you still got time. The Red Room is nothing if not dynamic, and their new space at TAF is perfectly conducive to a whole host of different events and performances. So come on over! Be yourself, have a drink, participate in art, and meet some new friends. It’s always a chill time and their doors are always open. Huge props to all the labors of love that so many have put into it.
I’m not sure what they have coming up next, but I know that whatever it is, I want it in my life. See you there.
Addison Eng is new to Taipei but no stranger to having a great time with good people doing cool things. Drawn to Taiwan from the U.S. because of his passion for learning Mandarin, he’s currently teaching English and attending as much theater, art, and music stuff as he can. He loves cutting loose on stage and is just thrilled to have the chance to join the Red Room community.