The folk-individualist artist in 1970s Taiwan : Hung Tung (1920-87) and his art
Yang, Crystal Hui-Shu
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This interdisciplinary study explores the relation between intuition and art through a case study of Taiwanese self-taught painter Hung Tung (1920-1987) and the controversy his art caused in 1970s Taiwan. There were two turning points in this illiterate rural man’s life. At age of 50 (in 1969), Hung suddenly plunged himself into maniacal art creation, and his fame reached the top during the Hung Tung exhibition of 1976. These two turning points resulted in the legend of Hung Tung. An intuitive feeling is hard to verbalize, and intuitive art is ineffable. In order to understand Hung’s intuitive approach in art, the unconscious human mind (wherein the infinite creative potentials are hidden and intuitive cognition works involuntarily) is examined. As an amateur and untrained spirit medium, Hung revealed his hallucinatory and shamanistic visions in his paintings. In trance, Hung was able to access the forgotten, collective memories from time immemorial. The analysis of Hung’s paintings involves the subjects of Chinese ancient pictographs, Taoism, Taoist art, talisman, folk art, spirit-mediumship, shamanism, creativity, abstract thinking, hallucination, mythology, the art of children, primitive art, expressionist art, and abstract art. Usually, self-taught artists are inspired by religions or indigenous cultures, and driven by inner impulses to create art. They gather objects from their living environment, then manipulate and transform them into art works with personal touches—as they pick up subjects from their daily lives, internalize them, and turn out individual styles. Their intuitive art reflects very basic human natures, individuality, and folk culture. The term folk-individualist artist is applied to Hung—in contrast to such inadequate terms as primitive, naive, folk, Art Brut, and outsider artist. The controversy caused by Hung and his art represents the everlasting battle between the orthodox (who believe that art should be taught with formal training or learned in an educational setting) and the intuitive type artists (and their supporters) anywhere at anytime. As the term folk-individualist artist emphasizes both tradition and individuality, conclusively, the reconciliation of academic discipline and tradition with the intuitive approach in art education is advocated in this study.