感謝外交部《台灣光華雜誌 Taiwan Panorama》採訪與報導
He was a country boy who set his sights on becoming an artist when he was ten, went north for his education,
received an unexpected cultural baptism while pursuing graduate studies in the United States,
and then returned to Taiwan to be pulled between ide-alism and pragmatism.
From his series of works “Lion Roar,” “Rest-less,” “Coffee” and “Embrace,”
to the oddly heterogeneous world of “Canvas of the Arcana,”
his long journey of self-exploration bears witness to the continual self-refinement of an artist.
Marvelously combining modern abstract painting with traditional East Asian ink-wash painting,
the middle-aged Taiwanese painter Huang Cheng-yuan is a farmer who has come to turn the soil of artistic expression.
Though a resident of Taichung,
for the last ten years the painter Huang Cheng-yuan has spent three days a
week living and working in a studio in a house in the
Zhaomen area of Hsinchu County’s Xinpu Township.
It’s a place to come far from the madding crowd to create art and find peace,
as if returning to the womb. Apart from his paintings,
the studio is filled with items that Huang has found on his walks around the area.
Even a piece of termite-ravaged wood in Huang’s eyes can become an
objet d’art in possession of great style.
A ten-year-old’s dream of art
Huang grew up in a village in Tainan’s Qigu,
an area famous for its salt production.
When asked how he first thought about pursuing a career in art,
Huang doesn’t hesitate to answer: “For my first essay in third grade,
I wrote that I wanted to become an artist when I grew up.”
Fellow villagers urged his parents to dissuade him from this plan.
“My parents tried to get me to develop other interests,
but fortunately they were open-minded and realized they couldn’t control me, so they relented.”
Because traveling to the city was time consuming,
up through high school Huang didn’t formally study art,
but he did spend much of his lunch breaks and time after school painting and drawing.
“There are a lot of paint-ings in school textbooks, which demonstrate a variety of
textures and brushstrokes.” Huang laughs at his recollec-tion.
It seems as vivid as if it happened yesterday, and it demonstrates a determination that he has never lost.
Huang’s biggest turning point as an artist occurred while studying in the United States.
After graduating from the National Taiwan College of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts),
he enrolled in a master’s pro-gram at Fontbonne College (now Fontbonne University)
outside of St. Louis. Not only did he face tremendous cultural differences in America,
differences that had a massive impact on him both sensually and spiritually,
but he also faced another challenge: “When I wanted to give foreign friends a deeper
introduction to Eastern culture, I suddenly realized that I was a stranger to much
of my own culture.” That “discovery” pushed him to deeply reconsider his own approach to painting.
Huang thought about his brushwork and use of color, and even about the meaning of his own life,
and came to an epiphany. Suddenly, everything was clear:
He both understood painting in a new light and understood how to paint.
“I suddenly had the ability to probe the land-scape hidden under the glacier.
I could swim down to see the vast expanses of the subconscious.”
Huang’s cre-ative journey had entered a new stage: “After studying
Western painting techniques in the United States, I began
Huang’s brushes today are much like the farming implements of
his youth—each is applied with sincere effort to a kind of square,
whether of earth or canvas. (Photos by Chil Lin)
to reinterpret them through the lens of Eastern art the-ory.” Upon returning to Taiwan,
Huang began to take an entirely Asian approach to his conception of painting.
An epiphany: Process is key
From his earlier series of works, such as “Lion Roar,” “Restless,” “Coffee” and “Embrace,”
to his most recent series “Canvas of the Arcana,”
Huang Cheng-yuan has gradually been staking out new artistic ground.
All his projects have represented explorations of his personal life history.
“Lion Roar” bears witness to the catharsis he felt after having his epiphany in the United States.
“Restless” captures the bitter struggle between idealism and practicality.
“Coffee” examines the relief felt after an attitudinal adjustment.
“Embrace” explores the meaning of a life open fully to new experiences.
“I use my life in my painting. These series captured high and low points in my own journey.”
Huang takes a deep approach to-ward self-cultivation and engaging in a dialog with life,
finding joy everywhere. Speaking about the “Canvas of the Arcana” series,
Huang says with great emotion: “I used to have serious asthma,
but then I met a psychic who gradually helped me return to health.”
Because of that fortuitous twist of fate, Huang not only gained a sense of the universe’s
capacity for miraculous change, but he also became
aware that much of what happens today is just to lay the groundwork for greater future complexity,
as if it were all preordained. When asked whether he is worried
about getting caught in a certain style, he says in all hon-esty:
“I’ve always pushed myself to delve ever deeper.”
He thus believes that it is only natural that he moved to-
ward his series “Canvas of the Arcana” as he continued his explorations.
The interplay between the real and the fantastical in
Huang Cheng-yuan’s works has always fascinated peo-ple.
“After living in a ‘fantastical reality’ for a couple of decades,
I finally came to know that the key thing isn’t whether something is fantasy or reality,
but rather the journey between the two.” With that realization, he dis-
covered the importance of the changing extent of his art-works’ completion.
“There are paintings I have finished in one go, never to change again,
and others that I have revised 100 times. This potential for change allows room to
breathe and to emote. It is endemic to the process of painting and something that fascinates people.”
Sense and sensibility
Line has always been an important element of Huang’s work.
“I used to believe that lines demonstrated life en-ergy.
Emphasizing the expression of personal emotion,
my lines were naturally tangled or wavering. Now,
his lines not only show the path he has traveled, but they also provide direction.
“Lines represent my goals and deter-mination.
They can be pulled longer, or bent, or tangled— yet my goals can still be found in them.”
also clearly expresses Huang’s current state of mind.
Although he studied Western painting, Huang’s workdisplays an Oriental mood everywhere.
“I love ink-wash painting and am keen on Asian culture.”
After Huang had his creative epiphany in America, when he looked back toward the Far East,
everything became suddenlyclear, like after a rain: whether fantasy or reality,
strength or weakness, movement or calm, he could take it all in at a glance.
Even the spaces he leaves blank show the Asian influence.
Huang takes landscapes and the feelings they engender to create an atmosphere.
This inspiration flows from traditional Eastern painting theory,
which holds that an ink-wash painting should make its viewers feel pres ent at their location,
as if they were rambling within it.
Regarding the sense and sensibility of painting,
Huang has a unique perspective. “Sensibility is important,
but sensibility is only a start. If you don’t understand
the surface techniques or the metaphysical aspects,
you get stuck at a certain level. But you can only gain a
full understanding by continuing to dig deeper.”
When asked whether there is reason to his art, he says without hesitation,
“There is reason in it for sure, but reason isn’t enough to completely grasp it.
There are equal portionsof sense and sensibility.
It’s like how movement can only exist in relationship to stillness,
yin to yang, fantasy to reality, strength to weakness.”
A cycle of creation and destruction
When Huang describes his own paintings, he is like a farmer plowing his fields:
only by first breaking open the soil can he begin to cultivate it.
“It is through this continuing cycle of destruction and construction that
the eventual work of art emerges.” Many people lookat Huang’s paintings
and think that he knocks themout quickly, but in fact each painting takes a long time:
“Many people will ask me: How do you get into the state of mind to paint?
What brings you to this result?” recalls Huang.
“In truth, I’m not all that clear myself, because it emerges from a process of creative destruction.”
Huang’s paintings are often featured in cross-strait exchange exhibitions,
and last year, for the first time, his works were shown at Art Cologne.
“Artists must create goals for themselves if they want their potential
to be realized and the scope and ambitions of their art to be sufficiently large.”
By participating in international exhibitions, he gains a better understanding of his own work.
In recent years Huang has been gaining his first exposure in Europe and America,
and his work has been garnering some good reviews there.
The key in his mind to his success: “The art has got to be able to demonstrate
something they understand, and in fact the abstraction
that is endemic to Eastern art holds a certain inexplicable attraction in Europe and America.”
“Looking at the world from one’s individual perspective
while using painting to analyze and explain life.”
These are principles that Huang has consistently
observed in this life and art since turning painting into a form of self-cultivation.
“There is power in simplicity.”
As far as Huang is concerned, the clearer he sees things,
the simpler they are, and the more powerful he feels.
“Hiking to the river’s source, I sit and watch the rising clouds,”
wrote the classical Chinese poet Wang Wei.
Those emotions aren’t far removed from one of Huang’s own creative epiphanies:
“When it appears that there is no way forward, what appears is another realm of life,
which in fact possesses a completely different meaning and value.”
At dusk, Hsinchu’s powerful howling winds are suggestive of Huang’s
own untrammeled artistic passions and ambitions.
On his long and winding road of artistic creation, Huang continues to use lines full of vitality,
with a mind and eyes that are clear and accepting, constantly creating new possibilities for life.