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Painter | Ho Chau-chu

  • Date:2023-07-18
Ho Chau-chu

Chinese Name: 何肇衢

Born: 1931

Died: March 2, 2023

Birthplace: Hsinchu County (Northern Taiwan)

Did You Know?

Ho Chau-chu often absorbed new knowledge about foreign art through books. He would visit bookstores or libraries to browse art books or purchase art albums, so his studio was filled with a rich collection of books. He once mailed boxes of canned Taiwanese pineapple to a Japanese publishing company in exchange for expired art magazines, which became an important source of information for him to understand the global art trends.

Ho Chau-chu was born in 1931 in a Hakka farming village in Qionglin Township (芎林鄉), Hsinchu County, Taiwan. He was a prominent painter and part of the first generation of outstanding artists in Taiwan after World War II. Growing up during the Japanese colonial period, he received a Japanese-style education and was fluent in Japanese. It wasn’t until Taiwan came under the rule of the Kuomintang government in 1949 that he began relearning Chinese. Influenced by his father, who was a master of painting Buddha statues, and inspired and encouraged by his art teacher in high school, Ho developed a strong interest in art. Despite coming from a poor family, he worked hard to gain admission to Taipei Normal School (now National Taipei University of Education) on a government scholarship, majoring in art. After graduating, he became an elementary school art teacher.

Starting from 1957, when the “Modern Painting Movement” was flourishing in the Taiwanese art scene, Ho actively participated in important domestic art competitions and won the highest award, the Taiyang Award (臺陽獎), at the Taiyang Art Exhibition (臺陽美展) for three consecutive years. This honor led to a recommendation from the senior painter Li Mei-shu (李梅樹), and at the age of 31, Ho became the youngest member of the Taiyang Art Association (臺陽美術協會). From 1966 to 2021, he held a total of 35 solo exhibitions, actively promoting the popularization of Taiwanese art. His contributions included founding art magazines, cultivating elementary school art education, and promoting exchanges and exhibitions within the art community, and throughout, Ho Chau-chu was an inseparable presence.

In the 1960s, Ho began visiting art museums and sketching in Japan, Southeast Asia, and Europe. He sought inspiration from art masters such as Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Picasso, transforming their works into materials for his own self-study and improvement. Ho focused on painting natural landscapes, primarily using oil as his medium. His artistic style was influenced by representational art, abstract expressionism, and Picasso’s works. Before 1960, his works did not deliberately emphasize brushstrokes and color tones but focused on sketching skills. Afterward, he began incorporating elements of cubism, using block-like overlapping patterns to depict objects in an abstract manner. However, he still insisted on not painting from imagination but based on real scenes, bringing out deeper artistic expressions.

In an interview, Ho Chau-chu once said, “My creations are not based on imagination but on real objects. This empirical experience, for me, is closest to life.” He aimed to reproduce the images in his mind, not what his eyes saw, conveying the fleeting moments of inspiration and the experience of beauty.

In the 1980s, after traveling to various countries in Europe and seeing excellent works by local artists depicting their own landscapes, Ho questioned why he couldn’t properly document and express the beautiful scenery in Taiwan, which led him to make it the subject of his creations. After returning from Europe, Ho began painting landscapes from various places in Taiwan, with a particular fondness for the scenery of Tamsui (淡水) and Shiding (石碇) in New Taipei City. In 1989, he rented a studio space in Tamsui, and over the decades, he accumulated nearly 300 sketches and paintings featuring Tamsui as the main theme. Ho actively led members of art associations to sketch in various parts of Taiwan for over 30 years without interruption, encouraging friends who loved art to go outdoors because nature is the best teacher.

Growing up in an era of poverty and limited resources, Ho Chau-chu never formally apprenticed or had the opportunity to study abroad. He could only rely on books and magazines to indirectly acquire knowledge and skills in art. However, his efforts and perseverance allowed him to continue creating more diverse and rich artworks, filled with the vibrant colors of Taiwan’s landscapes.