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Yeh Shih-Chiang: Edge of Sea and Sky

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
25 March, 2019
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Closing / End Date:
4 May, 2019
Event Category:
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Hanart TZ Gallery is honoured this March to present ‘Edge of Sea and Sky’, a solo exhibition by late Taiwanese master artist Yeh Shih-Chiang, featuring over 30 oil paintings. A musical reception will take place over two evenings, on Monday, 25 March and Tuesday, 26 March 2019, from 6 to 8pm, at Hanart TZ Gallery.


Yeh Shih-Chiang settled in Taiwan in 1949 after first visiting the island as an art student from Guangzhou. This was a time when many Taiwanese artists were coming into contact with Western Post-War modernism, which inspired them to embark on an intensive period of experimentation, seeking for a new language of Chinese ‘modernism’ with ink painting as its basis. Yeh Shih-Chiang was not interested in becoming simply a follower of new Western trends, and at the same time he also was averse to being trapped within the confines of the national ‘guohua’ painting style. In a sense one could say he was avoiding the ideological impasse represented by the two sides of the Cold War. Ultimately he found his solution in a return to the pure and eternal realm of art, taking elements he found compelling from both modern and traditional languages as he developed his own painting practice. His strong, iconoclastic personality and his solitary nature fuelled his ability to break the rules and create his own artistic path. While he refused submitting to constraints of the academy system, he also rejected the art market and the bureaucracy of exhibitions. The intense singularity of Yeh Shih-Chiang’s art has won devoted followings among connoisseurs in the inner circles of the art world. His artistic practices highlight unresolved problems in China’s modern art historical discourse, in particular issues dealing with national culture and the modern nation-state, and the role of the artist under siege of ideologies (from either the left or the right). Yeh took China’s modern experiment into new trajectories, and one might go so far as to claim that his artistic position, developed over his years in China and Taiwan, challenges the mainstream art historical narrative based on modern nation-state discourse, particularly that of the Post-War era, opening up a fruitful new ground for research.


About Yeh Shih-Chiang (1926-2012)

Yeh Shih-Chiang was born in 1926 in Guangdong Province, China, and died in Taipei in 2012. He was among the last class of students at the Guangzhou Municipal Junior Art College under the directorship of the illustrious ink painter Gao Jianfu. In 1949, Yeh and a few classmates planned an art expedition to the famous Dunhuang Grottoes, but they were frustrated in the effort due to China’s civil war, which prompted them to redirect their journey to Taiwan instead; but here Yeh was caught up with the retreat of the National Republic government, and spent the rest of his life in Taiwan.

The experiences of his later youth, when he moved to Taiwan and was separated from his homeland, reflect the displacement, separation and mass migrations of the era. In Taiwan, he lived the life of a recluse in the countryside, and taught only part time at the Fu-Hsin Trade and Art School and the Art Society of National Taiwan University. His teaching style and mentoring, exemplified by his words and deeds are remembered fondly by generations of students. Over the years, he also became celebrated as a maker of ‘guqin’ (Chinese zither). In contrast to his fame as a maker of this music instrument, he was reluctant to exhibit his paintings and calligraphy, his true métier, although in time the legend of his art grew even with the limited works seen by Taiwan’s art circle. Living in extreme simplicity and isolation, Yeh sought to maintain the purity of his artistic pursuit by rejecting the institutional constraints of the art world, even as his lifelong vision was to find his place in art history. In Yeh’s final years, he rejected the offer of a major exhibition by the National Museum of History due to disagreement with standard curatorial practice. His first properly curated one-man show was presented posthumously to great critical acclaim by the Hong Kong Arts Centre in 2015.


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