Chiu Ya-tsai (real name Tien-tsai) was born in 1949 in Suao to a simple working-class farming family.
Chiu’s grades at school were not exceptional and he quit school after junior high school. However he remained keen to continue to educate himself. Chiu moved to Taipei at the age of 16 where he worked as an editor in a comic publisher. During his national military service Chiu started to read the "New Art and Literature" magazine which featured the work of Chinese and foreign writers and got to know the work of Yukio Mishima. Later, he began reading more widely, including the work of Duce Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, and even SimaQian's "Records of the Grand Historian". Chiu Ya-tsai once said that reading a lot of classic works during his military service “enlightened” him and was a key influence on his later paintings and writing.
Chiu Ya-tsai only started painting aged 30. Before becoming a professional painter he did a lot of different manual labor jobs. In the early 1980s, Chiu Ya-tsai frequented the Wistaria Teahouse in Taipei, a gathering place for thinkers and social activists.He also held exhibitions at the cafe and made connections, and his paintings began to get noticed. As a full-time painter and writer, Chiu Ya-tsai would paint in the day and write at night. In 1993 he published his first anthology "The Rogue”, and in 1994 he won the Wu Cho Prize for Literature with “Laoching the Alcoholic”. Chiu suffered from Alzheimer's disease in later life and his health and memory deteriorated. He died in April 2013 at home, at the age of 64.
The artist describes his own works as imagery-like life reality. He intentionally focuses on the coldness to highlight the absurdity and the void of life. In Scholar, the lonely silhouette is particularly elongated while it also has a round face like those beautiful women in the classical Chinese female portraits. The figure in the painting is beyond time-and-space as well as yin-and-yan, demonstrating the general intellectuals’ apathetic attitude.
Chiu Ya-tsai is almost unique in the art world in Taiwan in that he neither received a college art education, nor any art apprenticeship, and his artistic inspiration came from classic literature more so than art. Few artists in Taiwan can claim to have experienced a similar background to Chiu. Because he was bullied and excluded at school, Chiu was quite reserved with people but this also made him believe stronger in his abilities. He learned about people and human nature through reading the works of Yukio Mishima, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and other literary masters; and by sitting alone in Wistaria Teahouse observing other people. The upheavals in Taiwan society in the 1980s did not seem to affect the integrity of his artistic world.
Chiu’s interest in people is reflected in his art. People, especially in his work "Person", were always a key motif of Chiu’s. The people in Chiu’s portraits tend to be pale and slender, and appear particularly lonely and melancholy. Homeless people, lonely travellers, and scholars and other thinkers often feature in his works. Chiu conveys their loneliness and sadness, and creates a forlorn, dejected atmosphere. For viewers Chiu’s paintings so often resonate with their life experiences in our contemporary society.
|Medium / Classification：||Oil paints and Acrylic colors|
|Life-span：||1949 - 2013|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the Goethe Art Center|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Goethe Art Center
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1941-1950|