Page Tsou: Hometown Taiwan

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday April 22, 2021

What is home? Is it a place? An Idea? A state of mind? If you ask around, you will probably have the most interesting conversations of your week. Page Tsou, the renowned children’s book artist who also heads a design agency in Taipei, had the rare opportunity to explore this complex subject through the online exhibition he curated, “Home Town Taiwan”. Above: Messages by Sunny Face 

Originally slated to open in person at the Taiwan Academy in Houston, the bilingual exhibition was restructured to go virtual due to the pandemic. I recently interviewed Page Tsou by email to find out more about the exhibition and the Taiwan design scene in general. To view the exhibition, go here

Peggy Roalf: Taipei cultural life has changed dramatically since you began your professional studies. When did you realize that you were meant to be an artist and what influenced you in your travels to other places in pursuit of your education? Above: The Window Project - Milu's Apartment, by Ballboss

Page Tsou: In fact I have never really determined the direction I should go. Becoming an artist is indeed a choice, but I continue to try out different fields that interest me. When I was studying in the UK, the school encouraged everyone to leave their comfort zone and try something new. This makes me not only work on graphic art, but also interior design. In addition to improving my aesthetic standards, studying abroad also made me realize that before creating, I should pay more attention to the visual communication and intention behind each work. 

PR: Taipei also seems to be a place where design—from architecture and landscape design to interface design and sign boards for street food stalls—is highly evident. Can you tell the readers how this might have come about, over time?

PT: Compared to those first-tier cities in the world, Taiwan’s economic development is relatively late. For example, cheap and fast-service street food stalls are popular all over the island. Even though the economy is growing, many of these stalls not only meet physical needs, but also meet psychological needs. As time goes by, they are naturally integrated into modern buildings—and owners have reached out to designers to help them blend these operations into the new environments while maintaining a connection with their heritage. This is already part of the streetscape of Taiwan, and increasingly what foreign visitors might view as a local characteristic. 

Left: We'll all be together again by Chia-Chi Wu 

PR: Do you feel that the events of 2016, when Taipei was selected as a World Design Capital, have made a significant change in the way that designers and artists interact with their clients? 

PT: The 2016 World Design Capital [WDC] designation was an important opportunity for us because while Taiwan has long been something of an isolated island, we strongly look forward to being recognized as a global presence. At the same time, we recognize that by bringing in excellent design, these works will stimulate local artists and designers to help build a stronger economic, cultural and social environment. Many artists were inspired by our exhibition “Visual Taipei” and look forward to seeing more international illustration exhibitions in Taiwan in the future. All together, WDC was a great experience




PR: The title of your online exhibition, “Home Town Taiwan” seems very personal. How did your choice of this title come about—and how did your concept for the online exhibition play out in the selections you made as curator? Above: Stay Home #6 by Croter

PT: The “Home Town Taiwan” online exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture (Taiwan) and Taiwan Academy in Houston, Texas. Whether on a physical or psychological level, home has many different meanings. Home is a docked shore that promotes an innate sense of belonging. Especially considering the global spread of COVID-19, home has become the most important shelter, one that soothes the soul. Those who live abroad try their best to “go home.” It is just like clicking “Home” and returning to the home page on the Internet; both acts can be interpreted as a return to the starting point. With the global pandemic, everyone has started to reexamine the environment we live in; with millions of people no longer traveling, the earth has had a chance to take a good rest.  

Although Taiwan does not have the romance of Paris or the soaring cityscape of New York, this is the place where we live; it is our sweet home. The appearance of the houses varies with different nationalities that dwell here, but the feeling of warmth at home is a common theme. The content of this exhibition presents the appearance of everyday Taiwan life style through the viewpoint of 33 artists in more than 80 illustrations. We hope this exhibition will inspire viewers to cherish everything they have now.



PR: So many artists working and studying in the US are from Taiwan. Have you noticed that many who study here have returned to their homeland to work? What are some of the conditions that have made Taipei so attractive to young designers? Above: Shrimp Fishing by Jia Dong Lin

TP: In recent years, many people, across all disciplines, have returned to Taiwan after studying abroad. In fact, it is usually a sense of belonging that drives everyone back to his or her homeland. Those foreign experiences are unforgettable, and some people want to bring changes that make their hometown a better place. The Internet has shortened the distance between people around  the world, which allows designers living in Taipei to do international projects. Taipei has the amenities of a global city, but the rent and living expenses are much cheaper than in New York or London. In addition, a variety of cuisines, as well as its historic appeal to foreigners, have kept Taipei a charming international city.

PR: A recent article in the New York Times covered the remarkable success with which Taiwan has handled the Covid 19 pandemic. Has this situation had any noticeable effect on designers, illustrators [and their clients] that you can see?


PT: In this extraordinary period, the Taiwan government has indeed done a good job in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, people have more confidence in the safety of life in Taiwan, and the housing market has become prosperous, so the interior design projects in our agency are busier than ever. The illustration part is as slow as usual, with no noticeable change. Above: I hope your life is smooth and steady by Hui-Yin Hsueh

In terms of work in general, the opportunities offered by online exhibitions have become even more important. Even with the cancellation of the Bologna Illustration Exhibition, which was to be held at the Taipei International Book Fair this year, as well as cancellation of the in-person the presentation of “Home Town Taiwan” at Taipei Academy, Houston, we are able to maintain visibility for these organizations, the artists, and their works.

PR: As the head of a design agency as well as being an artist, how do you see your work evolving in the near future? 

PT: As an art director, I am developing picture books and illustration projects , although at a somewhat slower pace than previously. There will be more graphic design projects in the studio, with more interior space aesthetics to be reflected in the illustration projects. The boundary between visual art and interior design will become increasingly blurred in my practice. Personally, I hope I can slowly sort out the artistic direction that is closest to my heart.

PR: What would be your dream assignment for 2021?

PT: I hope that the Covid-19 pandemic will end as soon as possible and that the discrimination between races can be eliminated. Additionally, I wish to spend more time with my family, sleep well, and live a healthier life. PRinterview

Page Tsou is a visual artist and art director base in Taiwan. He received a master's degree in communication art and design from the Royal College of Art, London, and has been selected for the Bologna Illustrator's Exhibition several times. He is also the winner of the SM International Illustration Award, Bologna, and the  "best of show" from 3×3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration competition.