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Yen Ye-Cheng

Artist's Background

National Taiwan University of Arts, Department of Fine Arts, Professor

National Taiwan University of Arts, Department of Fine Arts, Bachelor, 1978

State University of New York, Graduate Institute of Art Studies, Master, 1993

Creative Ideas

I. My practice of Guqin: Artmaking reflects how one lives.  I am always fascinated by the arts beyond my professional practice, including traditional painting and calligraphy, poems, the art of tea, gardening, Kunqu, Taiji, Buddhist Zen, etc.  I began my Guqin lessons in 2017.  For a tone-deaf like me, after years of futile effort in classical music, it is more than a blessing hearing how my fingers make music on a guqin.   

II. The character tablature to play off Score: The guqin notation only marks its tuning and finger positions, but without any fixed rhythm, so every player can come up with very different rendition.  Even for the same music piece, different tablatures may have different notations derived from various schools, while it is very possible that every time a musician plays it, he or she will play it differently.  We can say that every time we play the instrument, some new free-improvised music is created. 

III. Flora and its beyond: My flora paintings are not merely a realistic representation or transformation of flowers and plants.  As long as I have the flora in my heart, there will be flora in my paintings too.  Every stroke and mass is the freehand rendition of the flowers, grasses, branches, and leaves, while it is also the abstract dots, lines, and planes.   

IV. The ambiguity of similarity: Between difference and similarity, abstraction and figuration, East and West, or even history and the present, we open up the possibility of contemporary painting.  

V. Where the overtone begins: Since the in-betweenness avoids repetition and stagnation, every time I paint is to start a direct and ceaseless conversation with the canvas.  My experience of artmaking changes every minute with the passing of life.  Eventually, every painting becomes the beginning of a new exploration (“the start of overtone,” Fanchi” in Chinese, is a notation character meaning, as its name suggests, where the overtone begins.)

VI. Improvised painting: I never make drafts for my paintings, never make plans in advance, never limit myself to fixed strategy and process, and as a result, I can never predict what my artworks will be like when they are finished.  I always improvise with a strong dedication, desiring the freedom of brushwork on the canvas.  

VII. Thinking and painting, painting and thinking: I try my best to capture the fugitive chance and randomness.  My brush follows the path of my heart.  I am painting what I think, and I am thinking when I paint.
Painting while thinking; thinking while painting. 

VIII. Call and response: When I go with the first stroke, I will feel what the image brings me as a whole and respond it with my second stroke.  Similarly, the third is to answer the second, and it goes on like this.  In the end, the practice of painting becomes a call-and-response experience between the painter and the canvas. 

IX. The aura: The character notation shows no rhythm on it, so it allows players to freely improvise.  However, musicians from the past to the present have always valued the traditional spirit of guqin, the so-called antiquity.  My artistic practice also pursues the sublime contemporary antiquity, or in other words, the aura of guqin.    

X. Beyond what words can express: The aura can be understood as the main theme of my painting.  Instead of giving each one of them a specific name, I generalize them as flowers in breeze because a painting is enough to express itself, which is the essence beyond what words can express.  There is no need to depend on texts for further explanation.  The true meaning of a painting can only be approached through the painting itself.  

XI. The meaningless meaning: When we talk about how Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) titled his 1915 readymade (a snow shovel) In Advance of the Broken Arm and how Rene Magritte (1898-1967) in 1958 titled his work of a painted umbrella and the transparent water glass above it Hegel's Holiday, “title” has its meaning and function.  However, although the literal definition of a title may enrich the work, “title” still has little relevance to the meaning and the content of that work.   

XII. The Guqin-related titles: Title extends the meaning of the work to create another layer of interpretation.  I began to give titles to my works in 2017, but in a different way for that the titles were closely related to the content of the works.  They are more like the inscriptions in ink wash paintings for that the titles become my response to the works.

XIII. Echoing the music.: Some of the titles derive from the practice of Guqin, the various tunes such as diao, yi, nung, tsao, and yin, as if the paintings were to echo the sound of Guqin and to become the reflection of my practice. 

Beyond the scale

I. “外 (wai)” is also a sign in character notation.  The left part “夕” indicates the finger positions of one’s left ring finger, while the right part “卜 (Po)” means that the position is outside the thirteen-note scale.   

II. Zhang Ziqian says it in The Diary of Playing Qin that “I used to say playing for someone is not really qualified as playing, while gathering with colleagues to study the art of playing it is not qualified as playing either; only when playing for myself can somehow be qualified as playing.”  While he is referring to guqin, it is also about painting!  The practice of painting should return to its essence.  This is probably the most active meaning of painting in the Twentieth-first Century and the most radical value in such a commercial age. 


2015《Flowers in Breeze - Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》National Tsing-Hua University Arts Center, Hsinchu City, Taiwan

2012《Illustration of Plant--- Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》Arts Gallery of Lunghwa University, Taipei County, Taiwan

2009《Illustration of Land--- Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》Taichung County Seaport Arts Center, Taichung County, Taiwan

2003《Dionysus--- Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》Taipei County Arts Center, Taipei County, Taiwan

1999《Illustration of Nature ---Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》Howard Salon, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

1997《Rational Dream - Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》G-Zen 50 Gallery, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

1994《Erebus - Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》IT Park Gallery, Taipei City, Taiwan

1993《Erebus - Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》435 Gallery, New York City,USA

1988《Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》American Culture Center, Taipei City, Taiwan

1989《Ye-Cheng Yen Solo Exhibition》Howard Salon, Taipei City, Taiwan