Woodblock printmaking originated in China at least a thousand
years earlier than in the West, it is estimated. Its history is
brilliant, boasting numerous illustrations of Buddhist sutra and
books of fiction and drama, as well as in the drawing manuals
and the colorful New Year decorative pictures later.
As new materials are gradually introduced to printmaking
in the West, it has given new life to the art. During the late nineteenth
and the twentieth century, it attracted many famous
artists, such as Picasso, Vuillard and Matisse, who contributed to
the growth and popularity of this art. Of all art forms, printmaking,
rendered methodically and mechanically stroke by stroke, can most effectively express an idea, aesthetic or otherwise.
Manually produced, woodblock prints are bound to retain more
the spirit and flavor of the artist both in the texture of the wood
and perhaps more in the cuts made.
A Pastoral Song 牧歌, woodblock engraving, 14.1× 12.7 cm, 1956
Woodcuts appeared in Taiwan roughly 300 years ago. In
the beginning, they were not so much art as an effort to fulfill
people’s needs for their everyday life: pictures of gods to worship,
New Year decorative pictures to highlight and celebrate the
occasion, etc. In other words, they were “folk art.” It was not
until after the retrocession of Taiwan in 1945 when local artists
seriously practiced woodcut printmaking as an art form.
Chen Chi-Mao, who arrived in Taiwan from Fukien, China,
in 1946, is one of the pioneers of Taiwan’s printmaking art. He
A Little Pavement Artist 小畫家, woodcut, 48.5×66.5 cm, 1974
started his creative career in his low teens, never once swerving
from art and literature for the rest of his life. Over the years he
naturally developed his own unique style. He was good both at
printmaking and at oil painting. His Chinese brush painting,
never officially shown in public, was admirable, too. Yet printmaking
was undoubtedly the genre he devoted his heart and
mind to, indefatigably and unfalteringly through the years. It is
in printmaking that he achieved the most and left a remarkable
artistic legacy. In fact,...