In my paintings, I try to bring out the “true appearance” of a landscape, the spiritual rather than superficial aspect. (Chen Houei-Kuen)
The course of Chen Houei-Kuen’s life reflects the history of modern Taiwan, from the Qing dynasty to the colonial era, to the Republic of China. During these times of political change and social unrest, he devoted himself to creating art of “truth, goodness, and beauty.” Chen combined diverse aspects of Chinese, Western, Japanese, and Taiwanese culture, and possessed passion for Japanese painting, Chinese ink painting, and a variety of Western painting schools and techniques. By the age of 70, he developed a unique and inimitable style, displaying radiant and harmonious color.
The year 1960 was a critical turning point for Chen Houei-Kuen. He studied abroad in France for a year, observing the art education system and visiting important galleries. During this time, he also came to a new and deeper understanding of post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), whom he greatly admired. Rather than worrying about creating a picture’s outer light, he realized the importance of layering the depicted subject with brushwork and colors in order to present a so-called “surface,” which is then used to construct a “subject.” By this time, Chen had begun to display a higher level of skill and understanding.
After returning to Taiwan, Chen focused his creative energy on his homeland. This served as the starting point for “A Life's Journey – A Memorial Exhibition Marking the 110th Anniversary of Chen Houei-Kuen's Birth.” All the artworks featured the land of Taiwan. He depicted the soul of the land, imparting images with distinct sentiments and wisdom that praised and showed gratitude toward the land. That land is essential to our survival.
His detailed Japanese-style paintings, meticulously-textured ink paintings, and even Western color technique paintings have surpassed narrow stereotypes. The artworks possess a greater “capacity” and displays the artist’s ease with himself. Color temperature captures the flow of time, elevating scenes of hometown life beyond mere landscapes, and possess a temporal or historical depth, or the breath of life, or an optimistic life that surpasses mundane, everyday existence.
The former generation of Taiwanese artists displayed timeless qualities of respect for life and the land, insistence on their preference, and dedication to art. In their hearts, they respected Heaven, Earth, humans, and themselves, seamlessly imparting this spirit into their art. Ultimately, they secured themselves a place in the history of modern Taiwanese art.