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Compass Magazine, March 2002

Uwe Mertsch:
A well-traveled, multi-talented artist

Translated by Rachel Chiou

Uwe Mertsch is one of Taichung's few professional foreign artists. He specializes in abstract painting, but is also an accomplished woodworker. Since 1995, he and his wife have traveled to and lived in many countries around the world, lending real meaning to the term freelance artist. Recently, Compass Managing Editor Cheryl Robbins met with Uwe in his Taichung home. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

C: Can you tell me about your background? Where are you from? And, how did you start your career as a freelance artist?
U: I am originally from Muenster, Germany, a small city of about 200,000 people. From the time I was a child, I liked to draw and paint. I completed my higher education at the University of Art in Germany/Dusseldorf, where I specialized in painting, architecture and design. When you study art, you need to learn the techniques first, then decide what you will specialize in. Finally, I found that I liked abstract painting the best.
C: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
U: Sometimes it comes from my emotions, my heart and sometimes from my soul.
C: What brought you to Taiwan? How long have you been here and how do you like it?

U: I came here with my wife. She was offered a teaching job in Taichung's German school. We have been here about one year. I like it very much. I have lived in many countries, but it feels good here.
C: Do you feel that your art has been well received in Taiwan?
U: Yes, the people here are very open. My last exhibition in October of last year was very successful. I was very surprised that the local people liked it so much.
C: Has your time in Taiwan, influenced your art?
U:From an artistic point of view, I like the Chinese characters and ink. In Taiwan, I have seen many Chinese ink exhibitions, such as those at the cultural center. Then I thought that I would like to try it. It is inexpensive and easy to work with. So, it is only in Taiwan that I started doing ink and water paintings. I hope this year to organize a large Chinese ink and water exhibition, but I need to find the support and a suitable place to be able to do this.

C: What about your interest in woodworking? How did that come about?
U: Furniture is something that is necessary for daily life. Since 1995, my wife and I have lived in a number of different countries like Peru, Ecuador, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan, and the US. In each of these countries, I made and sold furniture. From the scrap pieces of wood, I make wood carvings. When I see a leftover piece of wood, I pick it up and start whittling. Then, a shape or a figure comes out as I continue to refine my carving. I would like to make art from wood, but it is too heavy to be practical, so I just make small carvings, like statues.

C: How is it that you have lived in so many places?
U: This started when my wife and I were younger. We wanted to experience the world, to learn about other countries. Traveling on a holiday and living in a foreign country are two different things. It is easy to travel. Just eat and drink and sightsee. Adjusting to everyday life in a foreign country is not as easy, but it is the only way to really experience a place.

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