Flow, Circumstance, and the Perfect Balance –In Memory of Mr. Chen Hsia-Yu
Written by Chen Hsiu-Fen
It has been forty years since I moved to Chingshui. Back in the times, every day I passed by Chingshui High School on my bike, I would look up to see the relief of “Confucius and His Disciples Sharing Their Wishes in Mount. Nung” on its gate. It was before I started my own gallery. It took me a long time to realize that the relief was the largest outdoor artwork by Chen Hsia-Yu, the deceased art master in Taiwan.
In 1999, I had a meeting with Ms. Chen Hsing-Wan at her place in Taichung to discuss her solo exhibition. She mentioned that her father “almost became a regular in hospital.” It was the first time I heard about Mr. Chen from someone close to him. A couple of months later in the following January, I saw the obituary of Mr. Chen and felt a deep sense of loss. Since then, I had a long-term collaboration with Ms. Chen Hsing-Wan to present her works at Ke-Yuan Gallery, and it was also at this period that I had gradually learned about the life and art of Mr. Chen.
When we were working on Ms. Chen’s solo exhibition in 2002, there was a time when Ms. Chen suddenly spoke to us in a serious tone: “if my father were still alive, he would not happy to see me holding my exhibitions so frequently because he would question how it was even possible for a good artist to make so many quality works in a year.” Her words made me desperate to know more about the master, so I opened the two art catalogues The Mysterious Sculpture Garden of Chen Hsia-Yu and The Perfect Image of Mind of Chen Hsia-Yu to read the interviews.
I still have this inspiring story from the book in my mind that Mr. Chen held his very first solo exhibition when he was pretty old and he said: “I’ve been shutting myself off from the world for decades, and I’ve made little contribution to the society, so this time I am trying something different by exhibiting my artworks, as an old citizen of Taichung, to return your favor, while it also gives me a chance to go through the oeuvre of my life, and I will take it as a new journey as the exhibition begins…” I can almost feel his responsibility as an artist. I also like the way how the master describes his aesthetic philosophy by emphasizing the phrases such as “to go with the flow,” “to mind the circumstance,” and “to find the perfect balance.”
Mr. Chen held his last, also the second, solo exhibition at Eslite Gallery when he was 81 years old. He had a heart attack the day before the opening, and he was sent to the hospital immediately. When the condition was stabilized, he kept apologizing to the Eslite Gallery owner Robert C.Y. Wu. All these stories showed how he respected art as a profession in terms of artmaking and exhibition. After the exhibition, Mr. Chen spent almost the rest of his life in his studio in Taichung. In spite of his physical suffering and health condition, he was determined to “fight his battle as an artist” until the last breath he took. Such an uncompromising dedication represents the spirit of the “beauty” indeed.
This year, with the approval of the family, we are lucky to organize a memorial exhibition for Mr. Chen Hsia-Yu, which is also the first memorial exhibition taking place at a commercial art gallery after the master passed away. It is such an honor to Ke-Yuan Gallery. In the March– the “Month of Chen Hsing-Wan” - of 2016 at Ke-Yuan Gallery, let us express our respect and love to Mr. Chen Hsia-Yu and his daughter Ms. Chen Hsing-Wan, the two great artists in Taiwan’s art history.