Yang Cheng-yuan was born in Hualien, 1947. He was admitted to the Department of Fine Arts, National Normal University in 1967 and taught four years at a school upon graduation. After that, he pursued further studies in Japan, and graduated from the Oil Painting Course, Fine Arts Department, Osaka University of Arts in 1981. Upon homecoming, he settled down in Keelung and began teaching and creating art. The symbolist portraits of women he created in Japan are already are full of his trademark metaphoric symbols. He also delved into printmaking during the overseas years and joined the Evergreen Graphic Art Association and the Graphic Art Society of the Republic of China as he returned. Yang’s works are many. His prints and oil paintings can serve as reference for one another.
Other than the aforementioned portraits series, Yang released the “Fossils and Space” series in the mid 1980s and started to explore the historic sites (and architecture) of Taiwan. After reexamining related cultural structure and identity issues, he released the “Famous Historic Sites of Taiwan,” “Modern Architecture in Taiwan,” “Chinese Architectures,” and “Architectures in Modern Cities in Taiwan” series (the last one was created after year 2000). Although images of Taiwanese architecture had been selected to make these series, Yang’s goal is not to re-present how architectural styles change over the course of time, but to reflect upon the underlying culture and history.
The Test of the Ancient Batteries is part of the artist’s “Taiwan Historical Monuments” series. The work depicts the Tenable Gate of the Sea, a battery encampment in Keelung constructed in the late 19th century. The numerous symbols of measurement, seemingly exploring the island’s geographic space symbolize historically significant role of artillery batteries in Taiwan’s relations with the outside world.
Yang’s more systematic creations were made in the mid 1980s when Taiwan experienced drastic political and social changes around the lifting of martial laws. Decades of repression resulted in the burst of exponentially forceful energy once constraints were gone. On the way to becoming a democratic country, Taiwan had a turbulent period when clashes of ideologies were many, although this seems to be inevitable. It was also during this time that quite a few young artists challenged political taboos and criticized the authorities through art. Compared to his younger counterparts, Yang did not focus so much on the external changes. Instead, he opted for a more introspective approach to ponder on his cultural roots and cultural identity over time.
Yang’s works have a surrealistic, delicate touch and exude quiet charm. The many different signs in his paintings are clues which spectators can use to decipher the artist’s thoughts. In fact, because the signs are often juxtaposed, they are able to render even richer layers of meanings. His paintings are like a lens that refracts lights across times. They allow the spectators to meditate on the multi-faceted Taiwanese culture as they appreciate one historical scene after another through his artworks.
|English title：||The Test of the Ancient Batteries|
|Medium / Classification：|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Guide to the Use of Image Files and Data from the Online Collection Database
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1941-1950|