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Image: Chen Chi-kwan, The Mind's Eye: Commemorating the 90th Anniversary of His Birth
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The Void | The View | The Boundaries | The Emotions | The Art |
The Void: Circling the Universe
The Void: Circling the Universe_Vertigo (New window) Vertigo
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1997
Ink and colors on paper, 186 x 32 cm
Collection of the artist's family


The gyrating perspective of this painting reveals a landscape scene from the Earth's surface. This is an experience that came from Chen Chi-kwan's travels along the way to India in 1944, when the plane he was taking encountered turbulence and was forcing into a spin. The people on board started spinning along with the plane as they looked down at the land below. The special composition of this painting thus expresses a different perspective, namely that all kinds of change are possible.
The Void: Circling the Universe_Floating Planet (New window) Floating Planet
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1998
Ink and colors on paper, 186 x 32 cm
Collection of the artist's family


As science and technology advance in today's society, increasingly convenient forms of transportation have become common, resulting in the formation of a "global village." This painting takes an inclined view, also echoing the tilt to the Earth's rotation that produces the four seasons. In the work are representations of the sun and moon, placing the Earth in the universe. Thus, Chen Chi-kwan apparently wished that all things on Earth could co-exist in peace and harmony.
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The View: A Mind's Eye for Scenery
The View: A Mind's Eye for Scenery_Clear Day (New window) Clear Day
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1990
Ink and colors on paper, 30 x 61 cm
Collection of the artist's family

Zhangjiajie in western Hunan Province is a place that Chen Chi-kwan wanted to visit, and this work actually appears to depict the scenery of that place. However, it was only after completing this painting that he found out that a place that looks like this scenery really exists. Columnar peaks are a feature of Zhangjiajie, but this type of mountain appeared in Chen's paintings long before the scenic wonders of Zhangjiajie became known to the world.
The View: A Mind's Eye for Scenery_Lotus Rain (New window) Lotus Rain
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1990
Ink and colors on paper, 30.5
x 62 cm
Collection of the artist's family

The composition and colors of this painting are quite interesting. Lotus leaves stand in the rain as stems crisscross with only one opened lotus blossom seen among them. Of particular interest is the depiction of rain as dotted lines, creating an effect similar to that of a curtain of bead strands. Closer examination reveals many fish and shrimp swimming in the water.
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The Boundaries: Creating Space
The Boundaries: Creating Space_The Mountain City Chongqing (New window) The Mountain City Chongqing
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), circa 1975
Ink on paper, 180 x 29 cm
Collection of the artist's family


Chen Chi-kwan was very innovative and experimental in spirit, and this painting of his is one of the best examples of such. Done using the technique of monochrome ink lines ("baimiao"), he rendered an impression of the mountain city Chongqing during his time spent studying there. With architectural one-point perspectives, he used the traditional horizontal handscroll line of view and changed it into a vertical one of steps rising ever upwards, the zigzagging perspectives successfully creating a sense of movement.
The Boundaries: Creating Space_Depth (New window) Depth
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1979
Ink and colors on paper, 62 x 62 cm
Collection of the artist's family


This painting deals with depicting the notion of deep distance. In Western art, one-point perspective is usually used to express depth, but this technique is not found in traditional Chinese painting. Chen Chi-kwan, with his traditional training and Western studies, was able to use lines of view to pass through layers of round doorways and focus on the object of interest in the background, making it easier to achieve a sense of deep distance.
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The Emotions: A World of Affection
The Emotions: A World of Affection_Confusion (Untouchable)(New window) Confusion (Untouchable)
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1967
Ink on paper, 29 x 22 cm
Collection of the artist's family


This monochrome ink painting reveals the cleverness and humor of Chen Chi-kwan. With a single brushstroke, he rendered a cat from its tail to its paw reaching into the bowl and attempting to catch the goldfish. Tilted to the side, its head is viewed from the top as a square with two dots for the eyes and two for the ears. The cat seems to ponder how to get the fish out of the bowl without getting wet, the fish appearing safe and smug in its protective environment.

Chen Chi-kwan once said that the relationship between a cat and a fish is like that between Mainland China and Taiwan, respectively. People familiar with cross-Strait relations know what he is talking about. The original title of the work was "Untouchable," but when the work was displayed in Beijing, the title was changed to "Confusion" to avoid unnecessary speculation or problems.
The Emotions: A World of Affection_Slave (New window) Slave
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1967
Ink and colors on paper, 33 x 33 cm
Collection of the artist's family


Monkey painting was one of the fortes of Chen Chi-kwan. Whether it was the use of brush, ink, or composition, he excelled at all of them, this work being a classic example. An old monkey kneels over with its chin in its hand, using its body as a balance to serve as a stage for the little monkeys in raucous play. Is this not almost exactly like a portrayal of the Chinese expression, "Head bowed, I willingly serve the children like an ox"?
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The Art: Craft Refined, Colors Beautiful
The Art: Craft Refined, Colors Beautiful_Less is More (New window) Less is More
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1977
Lithograph, 32 x 62 cm
Collection of the artist's family

Here, "less" refers to reduced brushwork, while "more" means deeper significance to the artwork, Chen Chi-kwan's choice of words having a somewhat Daoist approach. Chen noted in particular that he had a feeling of "separation" and "sorrow" with respect to this work; the two goldfish in neighboring bowls can be interpreted as lovers in different lands, or even as Taiwan and the mainland--close yet separate.
The Art: Craft Refined, Colors Beautiful_Peace (New window) Peace
Chen Chi-kwan (1921-2007), 1985
Lithograph, 60 x 60 cm
Collection of the artist's family


In Chinese, the pronunciation for the characters in the words for "vase" and "peace" are the same ("ping"), which is why the Chinese used vase-shaped doorways to symbolize the phrase, "peace in and out (throughout)." This also naturally includes a desire for peace in the world, which is its ultimate expression. This work uses a view through layers of doorways similar to that in "Depth" and "View Within," all demonstrating "deep" space while also expressing its "tranquility."
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