One of the most prestigious events in the world of print art and drawing, the Taipei International Print and Drawing Biennial this year used the Internet and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum Web site, as well as letters to institutions, to receive enthusiastic responses from 82 countries.
Over 1,300 artists, including Valda Batraka from Latvia, participated in the print category. Batraka sent a single lithograph, "The Tower." After nine rounds of professional discussion and voting in a densely competitive arena, five artists received highest honors: Jian-hui Zhu of China, Yu ming Liu ofTaiwan, Yuji Hiratsuka of Japan, John Whittaker of Great Britain and Batraka of Latvia.
Batraka, a mild – mannered, soft-spoken, dedicated artist whose knowledge of English is limited had to wait for her Latvian Canadian husband to come home to grasp the meaning of the letter of congratulations from the Biennial.
"It was quite unbelievable to me, that I was selected," she said. "And it means being on the Internet, which is a new concept, but it is also the only way nowadays."
As an artist one never knows what will happen next, but "the prestige and publicity through the Internet will help, of course. I will not have to talk about who I am, the work and recognition can speak for me," said Bartaka.
Internet is but one aspect. The Biennial, first introduced in 1983 and exhibited at the Taipei Fine Art Museum till March 26, includes two drawings additionally requested of Bartaka, as well as a special Awardees Theme Booth at the Taipei Art Fair.
With 5 million inhabitants in Taipei, there is also plenty of scope to exhibit graphics in many other galleries, foundations and artists' studios in the Greater Taipei area to transcend standard marketing methods, and welcome international cultural exchange. This is one of the aims of the organizers.
For Batraka, back home in Riga, the experience of Taipei lingers most fondly.
"Such respect, openness and a truly democratic approach to art – it surprised me," she said.
New experiences bring new impressions which an artist never ceases to explore. International offers are beckoning, but Batraka has an exhibition in mind for Riga in April, and when she says, "Come and see my etchings," it's more than flirtation, it's unique.
To view the International Print Biennial award recipients, see http://www.gallery.com.tw/