Su Wang-shen was born in a small town of Pozhi, Chiayi in 1956. Inspired by great artist Wu Me-ling, the young boy decided that he would pursue a career in art. Su graduated from the Fine Art Department of Chinese Culture University in 1979. He took up a designer’s job for a short period of time, and worked as an art teacher at the Tamsui Junior High School for four years. He quit the job in 1987 and became a fulltime artist. In the late 1980s, Su used animals resembling cats and dogs and a special setting out of a tilted birds-eye-view to express his opinions on the society of Taiwan and humanity. It was during this time that a unique style of his was confirmed. From the 1990s till now, in-depth cultural and social reflections have always been present in Su’s works. Although no sharp criticism may be found, Su’s fulfilling graphic metaphors encourage people to revisit the history and imagery of Taiwan.
Su created the An Island of Castles while he was a resident artist in Matsu in 1999. The painting’s title in Chinese: “Bao Dao” can refer to both “Island of Castles” and “Taiwan.” The artist attempts to reflect the cross-strait politics of the island country of Taiwan by painting Matsu, a wartime outpost against communist China. As in many of Su’s works, a birds-eye-view is adopted in this painting. A dark brown island appears in a grayish-white setting like an amoeba—a living organism. Towers, forts, firing pots, tunnels, stone inscriptions, civilian residences and roads scatter around the island seem to indicate uproar coming from underground. . Just like the tortoise in the lower right carrying a heavy stone inscription, the Island of Castles also bears heavy burdens of the past. Both of them struggle to keep themselves alive on the vast sea. Su fully expressed his care for Taiwan and lamentation for history through this painting.
Just when his classmates were dedicated to organizing painting groups and setting up networks in the 1980s, Su was never a participating member although he often discussed creative art and the latest social affairs with his schoolmate friends. When critical, aggressive narrative styles were popular after the end of the martial laws, Su used life elements like streets, allies, houses, cats, dogs and garden trees to examine his homeland from a distant perspective. Nevertheless, it will be wrong to say he is indifferent. His way of criticizing the society is an understated one, but still powerful enough to critique society. For more than 20 years, he chose to be independent from crowds, both in life and in art. He has always lived in suburban areas around Taiwan, such as Tamsui and Zhuoying. While he lives an independent lifestyle, he is not apathetic. He constantly looks for what’s worth being cared for in his birthplace from an aerial view. In a melancholic setting, he shows love and concern.
|English title：||An Island of Castles|
|Medium / Classification：||Oil paints and Acrylic colors|
|Collection Unit：||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：||Unique Vision Ⅱ：Highlights from the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts Collection|