LIAO SHIOU-PING TAIWAN AWARD PRINTMAKING
Graphic master recognised for ability to blend Eastern imagery and Western technique
Earlier this year, Taiwan’s Council for Cultural Affairs awarded graphic artist Liao Shiou-ping one of three National Cultural Awards. The 74-year-old artist, renowned for blending Western printmaking techniques with traditional Taiwanese and Chinese influences, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to Taiwan culture.
Liao was born in Taiwan in 1936. His father was a civil engineer and as a young child, Liao would often study the building blueprints spread across his father’s desk. His family lived near Taipei’s famed Longshan Temple and he drew on memories of the candles, incense and ghost money for much of his later work.
Shortly after graduating as a painter from the National Taiwan Normal University in 1959, Liao moved to Tokyo, Japan, and then to Paris, France, to further his studies. While in Japan he took graphic design classes, an additional course to his major studies, and here learnt valuable lessons in colour and composition. It was here, also, that he discovered printmaking.
Liao began to study oil painting at the Fine Arts Institute of Paris in 1965 and was pushed by his instructor to discover a unique style for himself. He would spend much of his time wandering the collections of Chinese artefacts in the Guimet Museum which reminded him of the things he saw as a child in Longshan Temple. He developed the Gate series, his first, during this time, creating a uniquely Eastern print genre.
In 1969, Liao received an invitation to exhibit at the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. He made the decision to relocate to New York with his family. Here he developed his Symbols series; inspiration stemmed from the images and traditions surrounding the Taiwanese Ghost Month. Liao believed that “an artist’s style reflects the rhythms of the society that he lives in.” His works from this period are strongly geometric expressing the symmetry of the city.
The artist returned to Taiwan in 1973 to teach at the National Taiwan Normal University and a year later published The Art of Printmaking, still “the gold standard of introductory texts on the subject in the Chinese language.” He followed this teaching position with a few years teaching in Tokyo and the USA. He didn’t take his family with him this time and therefore undertook all the domestic chores himself. Vegetables, fruit, kitchenware and potted plants feature heavily in his Seasons series, a series which then evolved into both the Gathering and Chat series.
His most recent works are those under the Knots, Life Symbols and Dreams series. Knots developed out of his anger with people who struggle to value their own prosperity. Life Symbols (2000) contains mixed-media collage pieces using oil and acrylic paint, pencil drawing, wooden slabs and 2D painting and printmaking. Liao says these works express “the hidden natural order that permeates even the complexity of modern life, and also a kind of celebratory joy.” The tragic death of his wife in 2002, who died falling off a cliff while birdwatching, inspired his Dreams series in 2003. Here he conveys the duality of yin and yang, life and death, through images of outstretched hands and ghost money. Although his production has slowed since Dreams he completed a large work entitled Timeless in 2005 and an installation piece called Speechless in 2008.
During his career, Liao Shiou-ping has held more than 70 solo exhibitions in New York, Paris, Tokyo and many other cities around the world. His artworks are collected by international museums including, but not exceeding, the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo), Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Shanghai Museum.
Liao founded the Prix de Paris fund with two other educators in 1993. The fund provides support for young artists to study abroad. He plans to donate his US$31,200 in prize money to this fund.
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