HSU KUOHUANG: Views of Taroko Gorge
November 12, 2014 – January 31, 2015
On November 12th, M. Sutherland Fine Art opens its fourth exhibition of extraordinary
works on paper by the renowned artist Hsu Kuohaung (b.1950.) On view will be a collection of sixteen
new landscape paintings: framed and traditionally mounted as hanging scrolls.
The gallery’s relationship with Hsu goes back over 35 years, when Martha Sutherland met Hsu
Kuohuang in a seminar on connoisseurship of the Four Great Yuan Masters at National Taiwan
University, in 1979. The seminar, a first of its kind, was taught by the leading expert in the field, Chiang
Chaoshen, through studying original examples of paintings from the National Palace Museum collection.
For Hsu, it was just the beginning. He learned not only the advanced skills of painting and calligraphy
from Chiang but also profound connoisseurship of Chinese classical ink painting.
Hsu worked at the National Palace Museum for over 20 years where he continually studied the
original masterpieces of Chinese painting in the former imperial collection. At the same time, he painted
his own works, and practiced calligraphy of all script varieties. No one else practicing Chinese ink
painting today has Hsu’s deep background and ability to transcend this context in his personal work.
Hsu Kuohuang’s fourth exhibition at M. Sutherland Fine Arts draws its inspiration from the
breathtaking peaks and gorges of Taroko Gorge. After retiring from the Palace Museum, Hsu moved back
to his wife’s hometown of Hualien, on the eastern coast of Taiwan, near the Taroko Gorge National Park.
Based on years of sketching and photographing on hikes in the park, Hsu has completed a series of
paintings inspired by the rare, extreme views of the Taroko Gorge scenery. The rushing blue-grey
torrent of the river winds through a rocky gorge whose vertiginous angles seem to defy the laws of
Hsu dramatizes the extreme landscape forms with cropped compositions and shimmering
brushwork. His painting style has grown more confident and experimental through the years, as in the
series “The Pen Follows Where the Mind Wanders,” where Hsu paints in abstract drip and drops. These
recent works display the inner strength and freshness of an artist at the pinnacle of his creative powers.
He is not afraid to lend ambiguity to rock and landscape elements to suspend reality in the scenery,
thereby encouraging the viewer to linger over the virtuosity of his brushwork as abstract technique.
Students of Chinese painting history can see the links between Hsu and early 20th Century Shanghai
School artists, back to Nanjing Eccentrics of the 18th Century, and then to Late Wu School masters. The
difference is, Hsu uses these traditions as a springboard from which he embraces a modern fantastic
realm, but one with subtle classical and figurative references. Hsu’s paintings don’t “shout” at the viewer,
but deftly convey a reverence of Nature, in keeping with the artist’s strict Buddhist beliefs.