Master of Ink and Brushes –Painter Hung Ken-shen/水墨畫家洪根深


Master of Ink and Brushes –Painter Hung Ken-shen

◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi 

◎Photo by Huang Ching-wen


洪根深先生 Mr. Hung Ken-shen  Ink painter Mr. Hung Ken-shen has long hair, appears somewhat detached, and issues strong personal statements. But once he opens up, you warm to him immediately.

  Now 68 years old, Mr. Hung is one of the most respected contemporary Taiwanese ink painters. Breaking away from the framework of modern Chinese ink painting, he launched what has become known as "Taiwanese Post-modern Ink Painting." It has become a school in its own right, and is seen as a pivotal point in the history of art in Taiwan. Mr. Hung was born and raised in Penghu, an archipelago located near Taiwan's southwest coast. He moved to Kaohsiung in 1972, and has been living and working there ever since. In Mr. Hung's eyes, the municipality's unique urban characteristics make it a nursery for distinctive art and culture, and it has become his inspiration. In Kaohsiung, his creativity put down roots, flourished and blossomed.

  Mr. Hung says that being a true artist means keeping up with times. It is therefore important for an artist to keenly observe the world and continue to evolve. He is no fan of the idea of sticking to one method of painting for a lifetime, adding that the transformation of one's painting style is a never-ending work in progress, not an overnight transformation. Looking at works from different phases of his career, one gets distinctively different impressions, yet each style is meaningful and enriching in its own right.

  For Mr. Hung, ink painting is part of his identity, a familiar element from his childhood. He can remember watching his grandfather and father writing with ink and brush pens. He studied in the Department of Fine Art, National Taiwan Normal University, and started to focus on landscape images created with ink after graduation. His signature style, the so-called "dry landscape" was developed during this period. Between 1977 and 1979, his dry landscapes reached maturity. With the deliberate play of brush strokes and different shades of ink, he was able to present natural scenes such as rocks, trees, as well as time and weather elements such as dawn and rain. His unique brush technique created a dry sense of beauty; hence he called his works "dry landscapes." Other than black ink, he also uses highly saturated colors such as orange, blue and yellow. He does not limit himself to brush pens; employing layers of sprayed paint, dyes, prints and rubbings give his paintings extra depth.

  As an artist, Mr. Hung has demonstrated impressive creativity. In the 1980s, he painted mostly portraits in ink. It was his way to express his feelings and impressions towards Taiwan as a land, and the people who live here. In 1981, Mr. Hung's father suffered a car accident, and the image of his father lying in bed with his entire body wrapped in bandages has haunted him ever since. In 1983, Mr. Hung created a long horizontal scroll using acrylic paint and ink featuring human-shaped figures wrapped in bandages. This piece is called Modern Times, Human Nature, Human Life, and was the first time Mr. Hung had painted human figures as a vessel of expression. That was the beginning of his bandaged-figures era, with dry and heavy colors and textures, its signature style derived from liberal use of acrylic paint. In 1989, these dark images featuring bandaged figures were recognized as his "Black Sentiment" period, or Kaohsiung's "Black school of painting." Through his expert use of black, he started an open conversation with his audience about the anxieties that plague industrial cities across Taiwan as society marches forward and modernizes, while facing a suffocating atmosphere and the darkness within human nature.

  Of the numerous pieces Mr. Hung has created, he is most happy with the "Humanity Series" and the "Black Sentiment" series. He says he painted those with feelings from the bottom of his heart, and they moved him so much more than everything else.

  Already a leading figure in Taiwan's ink painting circles, Mr. Hung still feels the urge to paint and continually evolve, even after 44 years of creative work. His diligence is the fuel that drives "Taiwanese Post-modern Ink Painting" forward. But more than anything else, Mr. Hung inspires by showing how much he cares about this land and the people who lives here. In the splashes of black acrylic paint, one finds the rhythms of vibrant life forces that can move you.