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March 18, 2012

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Chinese mainland inspires Taiwanese artist

ARTIST Huang Tsai-sung strikes most people as a humble and quiet man, a persona that contrasts greatly with his sophisticated and multi-dimensional painting style.

The 60-year-old Taiwanese artist's out-sized works were displayed at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei in February, an honor bestowed on prominent artists in Taiwan.

In Huang's opinion, Chinese paintbrushes and the techniques they require are the best tools for expressing his interpretation of life and nature and creating his masterpieces.

Like many Chinese painters, his view of the world derives from Zen Buddhism, which emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment through meditation.

This world view inspires Huang and other painters to create works that send a message of tranquility and simplicity.

The works in his recent Taipei exhibition are unframed, making them more open to interpretation.

"I paint part of the landscape and leave enough space for the viewers to think for themselves. I think creation is about connotations both in and out of the picture," he says.

Huang's paintings feature the heavy use of light and mist, a technique that he attributes to his educational background.

After graduating from the Taiwan University of Arts, he went to Fontbonne University in the US state of Missouri, where he obtained a master's degree in oil painting.

Most of his paintings are extremely large, some as long as five meters and taking more than a year to complete.

He also does the occasional small sketch; even his simplest drawings are full of meaning.

With a few simple strokes he depicts the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac on a pair of scrolls, depicting dancing snakes as several intertwining curves with a few tiny dots.

But his landscapes are his treasures.

"Famous mountains and great waters can help a painter get closer to the natural greatness of the soul and are sources of creation," he says.

Before 1987, when a Chinese mainland travel ban was lifted for Taiwanese people, Huang's inspiration was limited to what he could directly observe in Taiwan.

When the ban was lifted, Huang threw himself into traveling in 1988, seeking out great new sources of inspiration for his landscapes.

He has visited Buddhist grottoes, bamboo forests and famous mountains, incorporating all of them into his paintings. Ten of the 54 paintings in his recent exhibit were inspired by mainland scenery.

Several times a year, Huang travels to the mainland where he also engages with mainland artists, discussing similarities and differences in their works.

"I'm glad to find and observe the differences," Huang says. "After all, an artist has to have his own style."


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