AAU was granted a whole new way of looking at the world with a visit from Lo Ch’ing, an artist who found his creative inspiration somewhere between Western modernism and Chinese tradition. Ch’ing is a Taiwanese painter, poet, philosopher and scholar, who presented an introduction to his art and philosophy during a lecture and vernissage at AAU on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Born in 1948 in China, Ch’ing focuses his work on uniting the aesthetics of image and word, an idea that can be traced all the way back to the Song Dynasty. Simultaneously, he transcends the boundaries of the traditional Chinese art with playful expressiveness. This unique style is best exemplified through one of his self-portraits, which depicts a watermelon.

“The watermelon is my burden, or rather an artist’s own art is the burden,” said Ch’ing, grinning. “That’s the key to understanding my work; I juxtapose two seemingly unrelated images and leave it to the reader’s imagination to bridge that gap.”

Ch’ing’s lecture and exhibition at AAU is part of a project organized by the Chiang Ching-kuo International Sinological Centre of Charles University and the Taipei Economic and Cultural office in Prague, along with MiLu Publishing and several universities across the Czech Republic. He presented his works in Hradec Králové, Olomouc and Liberec, before coming to Prague for the very first time. The artist opened his vernissage at AAU courtyard by reciting a traditional Chinese poem that, in his view, perfectly depicts the curiosity each artist should master:

Every day there’s a sun setting in the West,
every day there’s a sun setting in the West,
every day there’s a sun setting in the West,
there must be a whole pile of suns in the West.

“This is a whole new point of view,” Ch’ing said as he laughed. Indeed, there was something almost childlike and innocent about him, as he stood in the middle of the crowd wearing his bright yellow bomber jacket and a broad smile. There was a kind of ease and approachability rarely found in renowned academics.

Ch’ing first became interested in art in his early childhood years. Growing up in the Taiwanese port city of Keelung, with the closest art gallery in Taipei being a two-hour drive away, he spent his time roaming around the town’s herb and medicine shops that displayed paintings of local artists and changed their collections seasonally.

Later on, he was given a rare chance to be mentored by the cousin of the last Chinese emperor, the artist called Puru. Ch’ing’s father’s trade connections allowed him to provide Puru with Chinese chocolates, for which he had a particular fondness, at a time when importing from China was almost impossible. As a gesture of gratitude, Puru allowed the boy to watch him at work. That, and a later friendship with a Zen Buddhist monk, gave Ch’ing the basis for developing his own creative style.

“To create, one has to study,” Ch’ing said. “Imagine a skyscraper. Sometimes a student is on the second floor and the teacher on the tenth; they simply cannot see the same things. But with practice, the student will grow and gradually see them. Then he’ll realize it was not so difficult after all. “

At the same time, Ch’ing emphasized that one cannot stop on the level of recreating the well-known aesthetic canons. He showed the audience a photograph of his Hong Kong studio door, whose green paint started peeling off many years ago. Instead of repainting it, he simply added a few elements with his brush, creating a giraffe’s shape. This playful approach was not just one of the artist’s eccentricities, but it embodied his whole philosophy of life.

“You have to become a very interesting man, you have to learn to enjoy life, before you can become an artist. Don’t become an expert in painting lemon trees, that’s boring. Paint apple trees too, ” he advises.

The works displayed at AAU seem to follow those ideas, showing Ch’ing’s appreciation and amazement at the world around him. If you are interested in seeing them yourself, the exhibition will be available to the public on AAU’s first floor until Oct. 7.

Photos by Arevik Zadoyan