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Artist|Feng Cheng-tsung

  • Date:2023-02-10
Artist|Feng Cheng-tsung

‧ Chinese Name: 范承宗

‧ Year of Birth: 1987

‧ Place of Birth: Hsinchu (Northern Taiwan)


Did You Know?

Feng Cheng-tsung graduated from the Department of Industrial Design of Yunlin University of Science and Technology, coming out of college having learned nothing about craftwork. He had no sense of traditional culture and always pursued design trends popular in Europe, America, or Japan; Tradition, which can often seem synonymous with "old" and "outdated," often finds it difficult to secure a place in the vision of young people, even finding itself rejected outright.

In 2013, Feng Cheng-tsung happened to see that the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute had organized a project which would pair designers with senior craftsmen in pairs to create a work between them, which would then see them and their work go to Milan Design Week to participate. Feng Cheng-tsung had a deep longing to take part in Milan Design Week, and so he decided sign up for the project. What he could never have foreseen is that this exhibition experience would be the spark that ignited a career as a traditional craft artist. Working with bamboo artist Chen Gao-ming (陳高明), Feng designed a chair that in which people could sit or lie down, one which would also communicate to them the strength and resilience of bamboo. This work, entitled "flow," broke through the stereotypical imaginations contemporary people have about bamboo and attracted the attention of major international media.

In the creative process, Feng Cheng-tsung saw the materials and skills used by bamboo artists and was deeply fascinated by the wisdom and aesthetics contained in this traditional handicraft. He found himself increasingly more interested in the story and methods behind the finished product than in the work itself. What he found he liked most, said Feng, was the information hidden within the creative process, which amazed him the more he pondered it. He didn’t know who invented these production processes, but despite the anonymity of their creators, they were still being used after centuries. He came to admire the way bamboo art brings together history, anthropology, materials science, and even botany, truly forming an extensive and profound art form.

To further explore the beauty of traditional crafts, Feng Cheng-tsung began visiting veteran craftsmen all over Taiwan to learn bamboo art, carpentry, cloth dyeing, paper making, and other crafts. As long as there was an old master who could do it, he was willing to learn it. With a cautious and detail-oriented approach, he recorded every important step in the process, and then used hundreds of images to classify and sort them under labels like "form," "material," and "method." In 2015, Feng established Studio Kao Gong Ji (考工記工作室), presenting art in a more diversified way with his partners.

In 2017, he began working with more than 60 local residents without bamboo weaving experience in Hsinchu Teng Yu-hsien Music Culture Park to complete an installation piece called "Beside (旁邊)," which was an interesting creative experience for him. This large woven-bamboo artwork has countless holes, large and small. During the day, it can produce a layered sense of visual penetration, with a meticulous effect reminiscent of lace. At night, it is a huge night light, the lights inside shining out through those same holes.

Since then, Feng Cheng-tsung's large creations have been on show at a number of venues and events, including the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Center for Traditional Arts in Yilan, the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and Yuguang Island Art Festival, including pieces like "Fish Trap House (筌屋)," which is based on the fishing traps of the indigenous Thao people, and the National Centre for Traditional Arts' "Burr Puzzle Tower (魯班塔)."

Taking old, traditional handmade objects in Taiwan as his creative concepts, Feng has explored a variety of Taiwanese artifacts and items, investigating the characteristics of their materials and techniques, absorbing the old wisdom, interest, and other things worth looking into from the ancients, while also adding elements from contemporary art to create beautiful artifacts of different sizes, full of modern styles and radiating strong Taiwanese memory.

Feng insists that every work he designs must make use of techniques that cannot be replicated by machines. His creative ideas are thus quite different from the mainstream insistence on the economical choice of mass reproduction. He has said that his design principles all come from the same vein: cultural wisdom that exists beyond time and space. Through his designs, he brings this wisdom back into use in a way that fits with the demands of the times, helping traditional crafts continue to be passed along.

(Photo courtesy of Feng Cheng-tsung)