EDITORIAL: The spirit of “the art of Formosa” continues


After a decade of hunting, the National History Museum managed to locate some thirty sculptures by Huang Tu-shui (黃土 水) for its retrospective in 1989.

Huang was considered a late-flowering genius who quickly became one of Taiwan’s most respected artists during the Japanese colonial era, and his first solo exhibition in 1927 attracted over 10,000 visitors.

Huang died young from overwork at the age of 35, and many of the 89 pieces shown in his posthumous exhibition were lost after World War II.

After Huang’s “rediscovery” during the nativist movement of the 1970s, many efforts were made to find Huang’s lost work – in particular the marble piece Sweet Dew (甘露 水) from 1921, which was presented at the Imperial Art Exhibition in Japan, the most prestigious exhibition of this era. nation.

The 1.75m piece, which is considered Taiwan’s first nude sculpture, was finally located earlier this year by Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗), a professor at Taipei National University of Education, who spent 20 years looking for it.

She donated it to the Culture Ministry last month – exactly 100 years after its completion – and it is due to be unveiled to the public at the university’s museum in December.

This is an exciting and momentous occasion for anyone interested in Taiwanese art, history and culture.

As young local designers continue to develop their own styles and forge a distinct but diverse Taiwanese identity, it is even more important to know Huang and his calling 99 years ago to create “the Formosa era of art. “.

Through an article titled “Born in Taiwan”, Huang extolled the beauty of his homeland to Japanese readers, calling it the “treasure of the south” and a “paradise on Earth”, but more importantly, he urged more young people to be inspired. by the breathtaking landscapes of Taiwan and create a style suited to its society, instead of just following stereotypical Chinese motifs.

“There is no doubt that this land will produce great artists,” he wrote.

Sadly, soon after Huang’s death, the Japanese launched their kominka policy and suppressed Taiwanese culture, and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime did the same after its arrival in 1945. machine, as well as his works of art.

Fortunately, the government and experts are committed to rebuilding this lost chapter in Taiwanese art history. After the 1989 exhibition, several of his pieces were found, including a bust of Japanese politician Teijiro Yamamoto who arrived in Taiwan in December last year on a three-year loan from the National Museum of Fine Arts. from Taiwan.

Thankfully, although it has been in a box in a factory for decades, Sweet Dew remains intact except for a few imperfections. Many have called it the Taiwanese version of Sandro Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus, but Lin says the play should be seen as more than that.

Even though Huang used Western techniques, the spirit and aesthetic of the piece is very Eastern or Taiwanese, she said.

This highlights Huang’s vision of applying alien techniques to themes surrounding his beloved homeland, which is also seen in his masterpiece Water Buffaloes (水牛 群像).

This kind of fusion of styles is what many Taiwanese artists aspire to these days, which makes this discovery even more prominent in today’s cultural landscape.

Huang wanted to show the world the beauty of Taiwan, despite its status as an isolated colony, and today people are trying to do the same to promote the nation in an unfavorable political context. It took 100 years, but it seems Huang’s vision of “the art of Formosa” is finally coming true.

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