"Hand" and "Biography"- About Artist Hou    by Cheng Nai-Ming

 

Starting Hand

 

Hou Chung Ying knows being satisfied, and in turn is able to look back and knows being grateful, knows he owns happiness.

 

For such a person, even adversity will eventually be passed safely.

 

When his son was still at conception, in one routine pregnancy examination, the doctor found on ultra-wave pictures that it seemed to have developed so-called microtia (note: a disease caused by lesions generated in the Ectoderm cells when the external ears are formed at the embryonic stage, with an incidence rate of 1 out of 5000-6000 births in Asian) he said, "the moment we heard that, an indescribable shock stroke upon us. After that, the doctor offered considerable assistance, but repeated examinations through more exquisite apparatuses did not show optimistic results, and he diagnosed without any miracle. My wife was so much calmer and braver than me.

 

I inevitably harbored grudge after all, questioning myself incessantly if I had done anything wrong, if l had not done enough charity works, and so on. The doctor of course had suggested us consider labor induction. However, my wife and I were exceptionally firm with this matter. We had not even the slightest regret as to the coming of our second child. No matter how difficult the operation and more to come in the future, we would welcome it into our family."

 

During the period Hou was waiting for his son's birth, he suffered extremely format angled heart, and the only outlet for him was keeping records with his brush; the work I will Be with You Forever has exactly depicted his feeling during that time. In this work, the adorable kewpie baby indeed has one incomplete ear. But" for my wife and me, our son is the angel of this family, which would not change

a bit because of the defect in his body. Therefore, I painted on the doll a pair of wings with the form of open palms."

 

On the day of its birth, Hou's whole heart was suspended. The paradox was, when miracles were deemed impossible, at the moment when he saw the doctor greeting the infant with hands, that ear, the one that had never been spotted within repetitive apparatus examinations, originally sticking to the cheek closely, at that time like in an animate picture unfolded slowly and steadily, and was born where it should. Since then, his little son has been well, without any problems with ears.

 

Hou's thrilled voice still cannot be contained when recollecting this experience.

But no one had expected yet another grace, in the same period, vividly inspired Hou in a different approach.

 

"I was then an assistant professor, full-time at Hsuan Chuang University, and part-time at National Taiwan Normal University, and was thus invited to Taishan Senior High School as an interviewer in a simulated college interview organized for the year's graduates. A student who was going to the department of architecture, upon being seated, talked confidently about having been a microtia patient in birth. He was, however, never discriminated or bullied because of the disease, but instead received full love when he grew up; it was for the same reason that he was treated with even more affection and care. The student said he would become an architect, and build a large house to accommodate all the love."Hou, facing this student, was suddenly speechless. A senior high graduate, with his positive and open mind, enlightened this young teacher as well as a father with a lesson that when stumbling on a huge dilemma in life, he could face it in a different perspective, and resolve reconciled grudge that might seize hold of our heart for all our life.

 

Lifting Hand

 

I have always had a feeling that Hou's artwork stands for the maximum of his personality.

He keeps notes of life through painting. The change in the role he plays in life animates the subject in his creation; the smooth flow in his works also manifests

his state of mind: open- mindedness and humor, melancholy, oppression, and more. The most important key is, Hou deeply understands that he is a blessed man; his works are therefore full of joy from his heart to be shared with people, which is where the core value of his art lies.

 

As the father of two children, Hou' various roles in life superimpose one above another, and artistically express his internal feeling with absolute nicety. Take his work of 2018,The Sisyphean Song, for example. The classic mythological character now bears not the boulder as legend has it, but clenched fists. This piece is at once extremely humorous and realistic. In front of Hou is not the responsibility he shares for taking care of children with his "golden right hand" he uses for painting, but rather the social expectation for him to live up to.

Under the fully competitive urban circumstances, almost everyone has to face the power, intended or unintended, tangible or intangible, that again and again turns into stress in mind, and burden on shoulders. Hou presents in the picture-clenched fists, which are psychologically linked to reticence, distance, waiting, and even power of social class. When such an element is placed upon the shoulders of a classic character, it seems Hou not only talks about the statuesque, but also unveils palpable gravity with which males have been burdened by society since the dawn of man. In addition, The Beginning of Universe is also an intriguing work, where a plastic doll in the form of a soldier arduously opens up

huge palms with effort, and the separation of the sky and the earth is not just aspiration for receiving heaven's light; it is rather more for the reluctance to be controlled and restricted by destined fate.

 

I reckon that Hou, initially a son, then a teacher, a husband, and now a father, looks at himself in an angle or viewpoint where he is not the presence others expect to see, but the role he desires to bring to them. He pens down his inner soul through his works, without even a slight intention of dodging. On the contrary, in his works you see his incarnation as the braveness to undertake responsibilities and break the frame. I imagine the impact before and after the birth of his little son is definitely a contributing factor, To be more practical, nonetheless, it is what he feels in life that guides him to accomplishments in paintings, where he returns to his original intention, asks himself about the future, listens to his heart, and delights in following his heart.

 

In this year's exhibition The Creation of Adams organized by Parkview Green Art, we see a quantity of toys in Hou's works, and there is even several small-size drawings made in cooperation, which has best documented a father accompanying his children's growing up. One of his works Labyrinth of Age reveals the apprehension and ambivalence of a father who wishes his child not to grow up so fast. On the fresh strawberry butter cake the father single-handedly draws a directing trace. While kewpie is still a crawler, the father is already anxious enough to draw up a smooth path for the baby to crawl forward safely, intentionally avoiding the strawberries, a metaphor for hardship, hindrance, and sweet temptation in life. After watching this work, any father would subconsciously blush scarlet as if seen right through, but meanwhile feel content out of empathy.

 

Cloud Hand

 

The most admired production of Hou is his "Vision" series from 2007 to 2015, of which following works are still in progress, a series I personally consider a classic best representative of him.

 

Hou stepped out of the "Aspects of Hands" series from 2005 to 2010, which adopted the style of classic paintings, and changed the whole perspective from a restrictive, orderly one that presents the whole picture of hands, to a microscopic perspective where magnified hands resemble the sky, the earth, the mountains, the valleys, etc. This series reminds me of the legend during Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern dynasties that "In a former time when Pangu died, his head became the four cardinal mountains; his eyes, the sun and the moon; his grease, the rivers and the seas; his hair, the grasses and the trees. In Qin and Han, folks said the head of Panku became the eastern mountain; the stomach, the central; the left arm, the southern; the right arm, the northern; the feet, the western. Former literati said Pangu's weeping became the rivers; his breath, the wind; his voice, the thunder; his pupils, the lightning. The ancients said Pangu's joy became fine weather; his anger, cloudy weather." Hou returned to a conceptual structure resembling the Chinese classic myth of Nüwa smelting stones in order to patch up the sky: a beam disperses at the intersection of hands, as if light leaked from the chiseled sky with heaven's warmth. In this series of Hou, what is most appraised is his mastery of light and color temperature; on the hands, due to the close-up, fingerprints are transformed into imprints of time, but it seems age has not at all beaten the artist's optimism towards life. Through the artist's brush, the skin color of the hands is propelled from the interior, embodying the tenderness highlighted from within. The unexpected emphasis on details is fascinating. Also because of the luster of skin and the effects of light opening, this work seems to carry background music of cello, mellow, thick, and calm. Shifting from "Aspects of Hands" with formalized emotions expression, to the "Vision" series, Hou naturally transferred the warmness in his character into the picture; meanwhile it was the first time an explicit color of sexual passion appeared in his creation. But from a conservative family, with a disposition not so extroverted, Hou eventually ended up with a series exhibiting components of denser" passion" than confession of "desire".

 

Probably owing to the creation of "Vision" series, in his "Between Nature and

Humanity" series since 2010, hands are rendered more than just hands, but

Personification of nature; wandering and whirling lines of hands are placed into the picture with slow-moving graphics. This is the time his art has come to a state of low-profile breath; in "Black Sea" of 2012,"Formosa" of 2014, and" lceberg" of 2011, his mind is in a certain tuning process, where he first demonstrates the heaviness of cello, and then return to only sound of a standing bell-a low pitch peal, lingering in ears. There is no overhyped emotion, but that does not reduce a single bit of the movement of life. Hou lays his heart in a serene space, and such tranquility naturally infects you. I adores his" Spirit Mountain" of 2014 in particular, where the whole picture is only fingerprints and thick calluses; the thick skin of hands now appears like mountain ridges, where lives conduct travel, activities, and imprints, and the skin that contracts and dries for lack of moisture clearly illustrates suffusion of the atmosphere. At this point, Hou is not merely facing his picture! l estimate that he is braving his own life in graphics, candidly, relentlessly, and undisguisedly, enjoying every cause and effect in his life.

 

Bowing Forward and Yawning Back

It is surely nothing original to select hands as the subject of creation.

Notwithstanding that, every time I have the opportunity to view Hou's art, what always comes to my mind is the most celebrated scene of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by Steven Allan Spielberg in 1982, where the boy and alien, stretching their fingers, touch each other. This is the instant when time, space, and distinction and intersection of life are rewritten, reformed holistically into a monotone. Now language is no longer a barrier, because a pure heart is the only thing that further approaches nature of life, and awakens piety in different lives.

For an artist, it is critical to speak and paint what he understands, rather than to owe obedience to technique or flash around sociological theories he fancies as edgy. Hou has delved into the topic through a subject of ordinary life, andsees nature of life as simple and plain, but possesses thickness. Therefore, since fortune and misfortune are inevitable in life, we should learn to undertake and accept them, and turn obstacles into aid to life.

Can we feel warmth at last in artworks?

 

Hou has apparently enacted this thoroughly.