• Past
  • Solo exhibition of Ho Kan

Solo exhibition of Ho Kan

2015/3/14 ~ 2015/4/19
2015/03/14 PM3:00~5:00
  • Peace, Silence, and Thinking ── Art Creation of Hou Gang: The One-to-All Principle

Peace, Silence, and Thinking

── Art Creation of Hou Gang: The One-to-All Principle

  • Hsiao, Chong-Ray

Modern painting movement began in the late 1950s and peaked in the 1960s, which is the most influential art revolution in postwar Taiwan. As the founding member of Ton-Fan Group, Hou Gang is one of the most representative artists. Modern painting movement in Taiwan has been regarded as being affected by the spontaneous and automatic skills of the US abstract expressionism. The art work by Hou Gang justifies that it is not a correct or not exact way to say so.

Born in 1932 in Nanjing, Hou Gang came to Taiwan along with School for the Nationality Army Descendants. In 1950, he studied in the art department in National Taipei Teachers College (currently known as National Taipei University of Education) and met Chun-Shan Lee who was known as the tutor of modern painting in Taiwan. Then, he learned painting in a studio in An-tong Street Taipei and started his journey to explore modern paintings.

In the martial-law era of 1957, students of Lee established the Ton-Fan Group and brought up painting revolution in Taiwan. And the media called it the outlaw.

In 1964, Hou Gang stopped teaching and went to live in Milan Italy from then on. Although he has lived in Europe for more than 50 years, he never stops his connection with the art field in Taiwan. His peaceful, silent, and philosophic paintings became a tranquil and significant sign in the art field in Taiwan.

Painting in a flat way and splitting the painting into geometric, sometimes triangular, sometimes rectangular; exudes mystery in these spaces, there will always be some thin lines or dots appear beating to form a bright, clean, but floating image. It is a piece of work that Hou Gong sent from Italy to Taiwan in 1964 to participate in the 8th Tong Fan Exhibition. It is also the basic creative style for half a century, always bringing a peaceful, quiet, stable and sentimental feeling.

It turned out that when Hou went to Europe in 1964, it was also the era some artists initiated the International Punto Art Movement.

Punto means dots in Italy, which is the beginning and end of everything. In 1961, Italian artists, Japanese artists and Taiwanese artists (who were the members of Tong Fan Group such as Hsiao Qin and Lee Yuan-Jia) launched an international movement in Milan. Since 1950, international non-figurative art gradually developed into two extremes of "instinctive impulse of abstract expressionism" and "inhuman mechanical thinking constitute", expressing their dissatisfaction and propositions. They thought that art is a human noble spirit of activities aimed at artistic creation should be the pursuit of a serious structural and human performance purely speculative contemplation. Therefore, Punto Movement emphasized their artistic activities by starting to rebuild human thought system and urged painters, sculptors, and even writers, dramatists, musicians, publishers, collectors to join the movement.

Although at the time, new artistic trends emerged in Europe, Punto Movement still attracted a large number of artists, including the Italian space master Fantana and painters such as De Luigi and Bolcgnesi to join the first exhibition in 1961. More artists joined the movement, and in August 1962, there were more than one hundred artists from more than ten countries and they held exhibitions in cities in Italy, Netherlands, Spain and other countries, such as Milan, Barcelona, Florence, Madrid and Amsterdam. At least formally, Punto was just like the formation of a wave of international art blooming, optimistic and even art critics praised revival movement as a new spirit and a human nature activity.

Hou Gang came to Italy when Punto movement was growing in 1964, which is the most important point that it aligned with the oriental contemplation spirit, which was consistent to the orientalism emphasized by Lee Chun-Shan.

In a very short period of time, Hou Gang formed his unique style and continued to discuss, extend and deepen. It seemed to have less change, but it had no repetition. It seemed to be pure and stable, but it was full of moves and tensions. In such period of time, no matter the changes in the international art fields, his remained in his stable and strong way to create. Once he has said:

“Someone judge my paintings,

Someone praise my paintings,

While someone do not understand my paintings.

They have their own feelings, life backgrounds, environments and opinions. However, those will not change my spirit and creation. I have felt that my spiritual creation today was the same with that yesterday, even in the future. As an artist, he could not leave his life, environment, and time, which is closely related to his spirit. It would be ridiculous to blindly follow trends without his soul. Art is the creation of spirit. Artists must remain his unchanged soul and childhood heart in any environment.” (Self-reflection, 1994)

With such ideology, Hou Gang has been in his art tour for more than 60 years. In recent years, he found his lifelong partner in Taiwan and has spent more time in Taiwan. Therefore, Taiwanese audience have more opportunities to connect and see his art work. This article tried to analyze his art work from the difference perspectives below.

  1. Thick hand feeling, instead of cold machine

When we see Hou Gang’s art work, we can see many geometric styles, which made us easily to regard his art work as western geometric abstract, also called cold abstract. However, it can be observed that the geometric styles full of the warmth of hands. And it is totally difference from cold abstract.

Even it was a line, it might be drawn or scratched, but it is more possible that the line was left. “Left” means that the painting was covered by difference color fields and left the original bottom color between different color fields, forming a line. The creative technique formed richness of visual content, leaving a fun place for people. In my personal observation, Hou Gang’s art work is full of hand feelings. All the fields, lines and shapes were formed by hand drawing. Therefore, there is no feeling of sharpness and coldness, but full of warmth and depth.

  1. Rich in texture, not merely color fields

He used hand drawing to form the paintings, therefore there were lot of brush touches and the context of the painting material, forming richness in texture.

Those textures, including the directions of brush touches highlight the paintings, which prevent the crisis of design. When he was instructed by Lee, Lee always reminded his students: “You must have sketch basis. Modern paintings must have modern sketch basis. I think without sketch basis, it is not a painting, it is just an illustration. However, modern sketch is different from traditional sketch” (Chun-Shan Lee, My Painting Belief).

Huo’s mastery of texture images shows his modern painting and sketch, consolidating the painting and art of his art work, instead of general graphic design.

  1. Multiple layers of chroma, instead of single hue of value

When Hou Gang traveled in Italy in his early life, he used intermediate colors. And some critics suggest that he should use more sun-shine color! (Xiang Er, 1966)

But in terms of the future development, "sunshine" is not Huo’s attempt. In his over sixty years of creation, he builds a distinct and poetic mystery character. These colors are not seen under the sun, even cannot be found a general pantone. The colors in his art work are special after many times of mixture. And such mixture is not done on the palette, and more importantly, is done on the painting paper and canvas. Therefore, a color subsurface also revealed another underlying faint color, forming sloshing enigmatic feelings.

  1. Creative color matching, no systematic color matching principles

In color matching, Huo Gang exhibits his creative color matching of similar colors and contrast colors. In general, he used analog color particularly those belonging to the cold tone colors as the main framework composition; and for the large area of color analogy, we can often see two adjacent colors, which is repeatedly stacked brush color effect can be obtained. In this analogy color architecture, artist and then placed in a contrasting color or black and white color no small element, or round, or triangular, or thin, so they let the whole picture of contrasting colors to produce a highlight, jumping, lifting vibration visual experience. Small elements of contrasting colors, often become the focus of vision; but the analogy of color, the formation of the whole atmosphere of the picture.

  1. Creative organic composition, no filling color games

Colors cannot exist independently, and must be considered in form. Hou Gang’s forms are not pure geometric forms and make dialogues and compositions between balance and imbalance, geometric and non-geometric, linear and non-linear.

Colored composition plus shaped composition, Huo Gang’s paintings seemed to create like a design, in fact, the art work are full of humanism and spiritual art creation. Color Structure in atmosphere, in the form of their plots; especially in the form of which, along the line, the size of the circle or triangular arrangement, are highly schematic function. Huo Gang works so full that seems something is happening, or obviously have something you want to tell the enigmatic qualities, which is also the nature of music and poetic traits.

  1. Culture reflects spiritual space, instead of physical phase composed of shapes and colors

Hou Gang’s art work seemed to have western geometric and abstract phase, but full of oriental memories and poetic emotions. Most of his art work, especially between 1970s and 1980s, were affected by calligraphy art and gold structure. Due to the fall of the cliff public good at calligraphy grandfather, grandfather of his childhood often help pull the paper, noting that actions and demeanor when writing his grandfather, the magnificent to see him sometimes, and sometimes self-assured, this "air" is off the mark with the flow, to the his great revelation, has become his future picture smooth, serene rhythm of nature. As for the positive and negative effects of stone art, as well as incised, carved of structural changes, let him get a lot of inspiration in shape. Later works, then adding some Shang and Zhou bronze ritual vessels, as well as to attract and hinted the Han Vatan pattern of building, into the shape and color of Lingquan. He once described: in color, should be like the bronze-like "weight of all float, while the lightest but also extremely heavy!" Staggered rhythm of this severity, as the notes undulating fibrillation, but also a cultural heritage of the show, spiritual space was significantly.

Hou Gang once said,

“I love peace,

I love silence,

And I love thinking.

With free soul, I can draw and paint. I learn and pursue the nature of life. My paintings are symbols and inspiration, no matter to the composition and signs. The skills I used are to achieve spiritual space, between human and universe. I hope when everyone see my art work, they don’t have any prejudice and leave their attitude to ask for resolution behind, then experience and feel by their hearts.” (Self-reflection, 1994)

Peace, silence, and thinking are the essence of Hou Gang in all of his art work. However, he created pure and rich, contrast and harmony, advance and classical forms, which are the most neat and unique assets of the era.


(The author is the art historian in Taiwan, who wrote “May and Oriental.”)