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Abstract Artist | Ho Kan

  • Date:2023-09-05
Abstract Artist | Ho Kan

Chinese Name: 霍剛

Birth Name: Hou Hsueh-kang (霍學剛)

Born: July 23, 1932

Place of Birth: Nanjing, China

Did You Know?

Ho Kan is the first generation of modern abstract artist in Taiwan, who studied under the guidance of “Taiwan’s modern art mentor” Li Zhong-sheng (李仲生). In 1957, he co-founded the Eastern Painting Society (東方畫會) with seven fellow painters, and became a representative figure of the Taiwanese Modern Art Movement.

Ho Kan’s grandfather was a famous calligrapher, and under his influence, Ho not only developed excellent calligraphy skills, but also developed a passion for painting, laying the foundation for his future artistic career. He once stated that he aspired to become a painter when he was just over 10 years old. In 1950, Ho Kan entered the Art Department of Taipei Normal College (now the Department of Art and Design, National Taipei University of Education), but the education provided by the school did not satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He often visited art exhibitions, attended lectures, read art critiques, and engaged in extracurricular activities to enrich his artistic studies. In 1951, he entered Li Zhong-sheng’s studio to further his learning.


Li Zhong-sheng’s teaching method focused on concepts rather than techniques, breaking away from the traditional academic approach of step-by-step skill development. He emphasized individual inspiration, independent thinking, spirituality, and creativity, mainly teaching two concepts—“seeing” and “finding”: seeing the entirety of an object and finding its essence. Li’s teaching was free and unrestricted, allowing Ho Kan to understand that artistic creation requires a personal style. This led him to transition from hyperrealism to geometric abstraction, establishing his own artistic style.

In 1953, after graduating from Taipei Normal College, Ho Kan taught at Jingmei Elementary School in the Wenshan District of Taipei City, actively promoting art education for post-war children in Taiwan and establishing the first art classroom in a national school. His teaching experience allowed him to maintain a childlike innocence in his future artworks.

After five years of guidance from Li Zhong-sheng, Ho, along with seven fellow painters including Li Yuan-jia (李元佳), Wu Hao (吳昊), Ouyang Wenyuan (歐陽文苑), Hsia Yang (夏陽), Hsiao Chin (蕭勤), Chen Dao-ming (陳道明), and Hsiao Ming-hsien (蕭明賢), formed the Eastern Painting Society in 1956, leading the painting revolution in Taiwan and being referred to as the “Eight Outlaws (八大響馬)” by the media at the time. The Eastern Painting Society aimed to absorb Western modern art concepts and techniques, integrate them into Eastern painting, present diverse artistic styles, allow the public to experience the enjoyment of modern art, and take the lead in promoting international painting exchanges. In 1957, the Eight Outlaws held the first Eastern Painting Exhibition in Taipei. In 1960, they were invited to the Mi Chou Gallery (米舟畫廊) in New York, finally venturing overseas.


In 1964, during the peak of the Punto International Art Movement, Ho Kan ended his brief teaching career and went to Milan, Italy, unexpectedly staying there for half a century.

Milan, known as a city of art, opened up Ho Kan’s artistic horizons and revealed the boundless world of painting to him. Initially, Ho wanted to develop towards surrealism, but the emerging clean, condensed, spiritual, and rational geometric abstraction intrigued him despite its higher difficulty. He was deeply influenced by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, American artist Josef Albers, and Italian artist Antonio Calderara. The appropriation of Eastern calligraphy by American abstract painters Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and German artist Paul Klee also had a profound impact on him.

After studying calligraphy, epigraphy, cultural totems, and analyzing vessels, Ho Kan explored the spiritual essence of images by deconstructing them from a physical perspective, removing their sensory functionality. In order to differentiate himself from Western artists, Ho incorporated Chinese calligraphy, Eastern spirituality, and the concept of emptiness, paving a new path and becoming a pioneer of geometric abstract art in Taiwan.

Ho Kan’s works are characterized by the use of dots, lines, and planes as elements of form. There are also many symbols such as short lines, long lines, and strings, which are related to his love for music. From the surrealism style of the 1950s to the gradual shift towards geometric forms influenced by Western art concepts in the 1970s, he developed his own unique Eastern lyrical abstraction with a minimalist and poetic visual language. From Taiwan to Europe, his artistic journey accompanied the various stages of modern art development. The seemingly abstract geometric shapes actually contain the traditions of both Chinese and Western cultures and artistic concepts.