Sculpture exhibition held to honor artistic masters
By Yali Chen
A special exhibition featuring 116 iconic sculptures by Taiwan's 11 artistic masters is taking place at the square and Guangfu Auditorium of the Taipei Zhongshan Hall. In honor of pioneering artist Huang Tu-shui, the exhibition showcases his works and will run until January 31 next year.
According to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), this year marks the 120th year of Huang's birth. Huang has been described as one of the most important artists of his generation.
The DCA is holding the sculpture exhibition, titled "Homage to the master: Special exhibition of Taiwan's 11 grand old sculptors", as a tribute to this trailblazing artist and ten other well-known artistic masters, including Pu Tien-sheng, Chiu Yun, Chen Hsia-yu, Chueh Ming-te, Chen Ting-shih, Ho Ming-chi, Chen Ing-chieh, Wang Shui-ho, Yang Ying-feng, and Lee Tsai-chien.
During the period of Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, Huang Tu-shui, Chen Hsia-yu and Pu Tien-sheng were the most important sculptors in Taiwan. They were all born in Taiwan, studied sculpture in Japan, and won recognition from Japanese artist circles after their works were selected for the Imperial Exhibition of Japan.
This well-known sculptor lived a short life (1895-1930), dying at the age of 36. But despite his brief lifetime, he has influenced the island's art scene forever.
Born in Taipei's old city of Mengjia, Huang was considered a genius sculptor in the history of Taiwanese art. As a child, he showed much interest in sculpture because he grew up in a carpenter's family.
His interest stimulated him to take up carving and to start recreating the images that he had seen in the shops and temples in the Dadaocheng area. When he displayed his work during a graduation exhibition, his teachers were surprised by this young man's talent. In 1915, a government officer recommended him to enroll at the Tokyo Fine Arts School to study western-style sculpture.
While in Japan, he was totally absorbed in artistic environments swirling with Western and Eastern concepts. In 1920 Huang's plaster sculpture, Child of the Mountain, was accepted into the Imperial Exhibition. Such achievements made his life full of many "firsts." He was the first Taiwan student to attend Tokyo Fine Arts School. Moreover, he became the first artist from Taiwan to gain entry into Japan's distinguished Imperial Exhibition. In 1921 his marble work, Sweet Dew, also gained entry into the exhibition. Huang returned to Taiwan in 1922, receiving a hero's welcome from local art circles. At the end of the same year, Posing Woman was his third sculpture to join the exhibition.
During his artistic career, Huang created memorable sculptures of humans and animals instilled with the qualities of peace and happiness. In 1926 his plaster work, Sakya, symbolized the pursuit of ultimate peace without fear of death. The water buffalo – a symbol of perseverance in Taiwanese society – was chosen by the artist for his next subject. In 1930 he worked on an ambitious creation, Water Buffaloes, for the exhibition. However, before finishing this work, the young artist died of peritonitis in December of that year. Huang's last piece was also recognized as a Taiwan's National Treasure by the Council of Cultural Affairs (now the Ministry of Culture) in March 2009.
In 1912, this active sculptor was born in Chiayi City and grew up in an artist's family. Inspired by Taiwan's well-known painter Chen Cheng-po, Pu went to Japan in 1931 to study sketching.
Next year, Pu gained admission to Teikoku Art School, one of the leading art universities in Japan. He first majored in gouache painting, a heavy and opaque watercolor paint, and then turned his interest toward sculpture. He also studied sculpture at the studio of Asakura Fumio, who was a student of world-renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Under private tutoring by Fumio for eight years, Pu specialized in bronze statues. In 1941, he finished a bronze work called My Wife to show his affection for his loving wife. In his entire life, Pu chose only the human body as his subject, especially the beauty of the woman's body. Another sculpture of a woman, Aura of Spring finished in 1958, was selected for the Imperial Exhibition.
Pu was also well-known for bronze statues and busts of famous people – including Lu Hsun, Sun Yat-sen, and Chiang Kai-shek. The Poet in Meditation, a seated statue of Lu Hsun, was accepted into the Spring Salon Exhibition of Paris in 1983 and collected by the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in 1995.
As a prolific artist, Pu devoted his entire life to sculpture. In 1996, He finished a bronze statue in memory of Lin Chien-chuan, a Taipei kindergarten teacher who died in a school bus fire while trying to rescue children. However, after sixteen days, he died of stomach cancer at the age of 85.
Born in Taichung County, this artist got interested in sculpture as a kid. After seeing a puppet show, the 6-year-old tried to carve his own puppet.
In 1934, Chen traveled to Japan, studying sculpture at the Tokyo Fine Arts School. From 1938 to 1940, young Chen's works – Nude Woman, Hair and After Bath – were selected for the Imperial Exhibition for the third consecutive year. With such achievements, Chen's reputation and status were now on par with Huang Tu-shui's in the history of Taiwanese sculpture. Most importantly, in 1941 Chen became the first Taiwanese artist given an honor of permanent exemption from censorship in the exhibition. At the same time, he was also awarded by the Japanese Sculptor Association and recommended to become a member of the association.
However, life did not go well for him after he returned to Taiwan from Japan. He lost his teaching job due to the 228 Incident – a massacre that took place in 1947. From then on, he led a very secluded life with little interest in public activities. A nude woman in his works always exhibits a gentle, smooth body curve with elegant beauty. Chen never abandoned his pursuit of art until he died of heart failure in 2000.
There was a time when sculpture in Taiwan was limited to the carvings of religious figures and decorative pieces for temples. But in the 1920s local sculptors started to develop their own styles. Yang Ying-feng, Ju Ming and Lee Tsai-chien are known for having opened a new chapter in the history of Taiwan sculpture by using different materials and creating innovative techniques that eventually led to contemporary Taiwanese sculpture being known for its beauty and power of expression.
Born in Yilan in 1926 and nicknamed "Yu-yu," Yang grew up surrounded by beautiful mountains and crystal-clear streams. He loved nature and became absorbed in clay sculpture and paper-cutting in his childhood.
In 1943, Yang went to Japan to study architecture at the Tokyo Fine Arts School. He also studied under Yoshida Isoya and Asakura Fumio. Studying under these masters laid a solid foundation in Yang's own style – lifescape sculpture which emphasizes the harmony of human, environment and art.
In 1953, Yang won his first award for Sudden Rain. Later in 1956, his Buddhist sculpture – Higher When You Look Up – was selected into the Sao Paulo Art Biennial and then collected by the National Museum of History in Taiwan.
In 1961 he started accepting commissions from governments, hotels and theme parks to produce a wide variety of sculptures, and became a well-known artist at home and abroad. In 1970, he was invited to the Expo '70 (a World's Fair held in Osaka, Japan) to display one of his most famous works – Advent of the Phoenix. Another piece, Little Flying Phoenix seen as an echo of Advent of the Phoenix, was later collected by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. In later life, he devoted himself to the development of lifescape sculpture which has influenced Ju Ming, another well-known sculptor. Yang died in Hsinchu, Taiwan in 1997.
A temporary post office has been set up near the Taipei Zhongshan Hall, where special commemorative stamps of Huang's Water Buffaloes are sold together with other souvenirs such as illustrated books, postcards, fans, notebooks and canvas bags.