Around the end of 2017, the Taiwanese artist Jack J. Liang reached out to seventeen of his contemporaries to create a series of eighteen watercolor on paper circular paintings each in their own style and depicting a subject of the artists’ choosing. Ranging from dramatic mythical figures to serene paintings of peonies, the paintings form an excellent survey of contemporary Taiwanese paintings done in a classical Chinese style. Fifteen of these works were donated to the Bowers Museum in August of 2020. In this post we look at a selection of these paintings and the artists who made them.
Perhaps the most vibrant in subject matter and palette, Repel Evil and Bring Good Fortune is a painting of Zhong Kui by Taiwanese artist Tang Jian-Feng. Tang is a hobby painter with a background in news media. His diverse interests include Chinese and Western painting, comics, photography, design and writing. Characterized by humor, irony, imagination, and humanitarianism, his painting features natural and unrestrained strokes, but it is the subject matter which may spark the most interest. Zhong Kui, the figure in red, is a mythological Chinese folk hero and ghost hunter. Despite being the top of his class Zhong Kui was stripped of all honors because his face was so hideous. In despair, he committed suicide. Rather than heading to the next life though, he was blessed with supernatural powers and leads an army of ghosts and demons to defend humanity against evildoers.
Li Chi Mao
The Heart of Buddha is a watercolor on paper painting by the late professor Li Chi Mao (born Woyang County, Anhui Province, China, 1925). Considered a national treasure of Taiwan in life, in addition to being a highly respected Chinese brush maestro, calligrapher, scholar, and art educator, he also sponsored arts programs in Malaysia. Li has received numerous awards, among them recognition for contributions to culture from then-President of Taiwan Chiang Kai-shek (1973), Taiwan's Council of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, and the National Literature and Arts Prize, Taiwan in 1982. For his role as a cultural ambassador the city of San Francisco in 1987 designated November 29 as 'Li Chi Mao Day'. This red-robed figure is unidentified but bears a strong resemblance to Zhong Kui who is often depicted as a bearded man in a red robe.
Liang Shiow-Chung’s Girl Among Flowers shows a woman in a moment of repose amidst a field of flowers. Prof. Liang has served as Professor, Chairperson, and Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the National Normal University in Taiwan. She excels at figure painting, with her skills deriving not only from traditional Chinese techniques, but also from her own individual creation. This painting demonstrates her control of color, linework, and contrast, through which she conveys individuals’ character. Liang’s genius was cultivated through years of study and effort.
While the other works in this donation apply a classic Chinese style to traditional subjects, Hong Bo’s Hollywood sets itself apart by taking on a contemporary subject. Many of the Taiwanese artists featured in this donation have settled and work in the United States. His art is known for its fresh and vigorous style, one which has led him to win numerous awards from important art exhibitions in China and abroad. His two international exhibitions, held in 2009 and 2011, not only attracted the attention of the public and mainstream media, but also received acknowledgements from United States political leaders such as Congresswoman Judy Chu, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, the members of the California State Senate. Like Li Chi Mao, he has been called "an ambassador for the Chinese-American cultural exchange."
Jack J. Liang
The man responsible for organizing the collection, Jack J. Liang, is himself an accomplished neoclassical Chinese painter. His submission, Great Fortune, was painted in 2017 which was the year of the rooster under the Chinese zodiac. Liang tends to specialize in figure and floral paintings, to which he applies his own unique blend of eastern water ink and western watercolor techniques. Mr. Liang has received many awards in Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Japan, and the United States. His artworks are owned by numerous individuals, museums, public and corporate collectors, and galleries. Currently he is a member of the California Art Club, the Advisor of Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Society of USA, the Advisor of Taiwan Art Institute, and Director of Guangdong International Culture Exchange Center.
Text and images may be under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. References are available on request. Information subject to change upon further research.
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