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Ink Painter | Cheng Shan-hsi

  • Date:2017-11-13
Ink Painter | Cheng Shan-hsi

  • Birth Name: 鄭善禧
  • Born: 1932
  • Birthplace: Fujian Province (Republic of China)
  • Did You Know That …?
  • Cheng used to search for American magazines at second-hand book roadside vendors in Taipei's Ximending district to learn different aesthetics and styles from the illustrations, especially those cartoon pictures with artistic, street, and whimsical features.

As one of the most representative ink painters in Taiwan's post-war era, Cheng Shan-hsi is notable for his colorful portrayal of Taiwan's culture, landscape, and people, having spent over six decades recording the beauty of Taiwan through his paintings. Cheng's contribution to Taiwan's contemporary art scene has made him the winner of the 36th National Cultural Award.

Growing up in turbulent times in China, Cheng resettled to Taiwan in 1950 to escape from war. Having acquired an interest in folk art from childhood, Cheng applied to and entered the National University of Tainan to study fine art.

During his academic years, Cheng visited tourist spots and historical sites across Tainan city to practice sketches, cultivating his ability to draw whatever he saw in the surroundings.

Later Cheng pursued further studies in art at the National Taiwan Normal University, where he acquired different styles and techniques from master painters such as Lin Yu-shan (林玉山), Liao Chi-chun (廖繼春), Lee Tze-fan (李澤藩), and Huang Chun-pi (黃君璧).

In 1969, Cheng went to New York for an art conference. Deeply drawn by New York's cultural and art scenes, Cheng decided to stay there for a year. After visiting museums regularly and drawing decorative paintings for a factory there, Cheng was influenced by modern painting, and started to add bold colors to his traditional black-and-white ink paintings.

After returning to Taiwan, he came to a realization that ink painters usually only portray the natural landscape of classical China; however, every place in the world has its own characteristics, and Taiwan's unique natural and cultural landscapes should also become subjects of such ink paintings.

Thus, without following the trend of abstract ink painting at that time, Cheng established his own style integrating calligraphy, ink painting, and still-life drawing. Having noticed the difference between Taiwan's mountains and those of mainland China, Cheng also developed the round and green images of mountains in Taiwan.

Later Cheng continued to transform Taiwan's everyday life, such as bamboo forests, cottages, rural village farmers, and high school students from his neighborhood, into paintings and inscribed texts to express his love for local landscapes.

In the past decades, Cheng has recorded numerous aspects of the scenery, local culture, and people of Taiwan in his vivid and colorful paintings. Art critic Lu Yung-chi (陸蓉之) once praised him by saying: "Cheng presents Taiwan in his landscape paintings, which are close to life and give audiences a sense of familiarity.”

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