_________________________ Landscape - Yim Maukun

Landscape

Yuanming Garden (Old Summer Palace) on a Winter Day (Beijing, China)

Oil on Canvas

72.5×60.5 cm

2007

The ruins of Yuanming Garden in Beijing is a testament to national shame and pain[1]. The broken pillars and shattered sculptures have become important motifs in literature and art for artists to express their sorrow for China’s modern history. The sight of the ruins suddenly made me feel as if I was setting a challenge to my predecessors. The atmosphere felt as solemn as if I was climbing the Dayan Tower with Du Fu, Cen Can and Gao Shi of the Tang Dynasty to recite poetry. I was of course not being put to the test, but I couldn’t keep the images of those sculptured columns out of my mind.

 When I glanced back as I walked out of the inner garden, I noticed three bare willow trees with the broken columns gleaming in the background. Standing there in front of the trees in the warm sunlight, the anger and sorrow of history seemed to melt away. This painting therefore contained not only history but is more importantly, a landscape painting.

Langyu, Langyu(Taitung, Taiwan)

Oil on Canvas

130×97 cm

1989

On my first trip to Langyu in 1989, I flew there from Taitung (in Southern Taiwan) in a small plane. The plane had only four seats and there were only three people onboard including the pilot. The plane’s windows and doors rattled incessantly and swooped down like a swallow upon sighting the tiny airport. I was nearly scared out of my wits!

Langyu is really beautiful. It has fairytale like boats, the deep blue sea, the warm and hard-working Tao people, as well as a wondrous coastline. Langyu was like a fantasy world. I rode slowly along the round-island highway on a motor scooter and the indigenous people invited me into their timber house on the hillside to chat. I also climbed up onto the wooden tower next to the house to feel the sea breeze. Langyu was beautiful like a fairytale – it is itself a fairytale.

The painting is of Langyu’s east side. This is the Dongqing Bay, the largest Tao settlement.

A Poetic Land(North Island, New Zealand)

Oil on Canvas

60.5×45 cm

1994

I decided to visit New Zealand at the suggestion of a doctor friend in Taiwan. He had bought a house in Auckland, migrated with his family and was full of praise for his new homeland. As a result, I took the 11-hour flight to Auckland on the North Island with my paint box and canvas. I traveled with a small tour group for the first few days then spent about a month driving by myself in a rented car through North Island and South Island.

This was my first plein-air painting in New Zealand. It was painted with a free flowing approach that made the brush strokes seem to fly across the canvas. I think I was so excited because I had become used to painting rice paddies and this was the first time that I had come across such a wild landscape.

Alishan Forest(Chiayi, Taiwan)

Oil on Canvas

250×152 cm

2000

I’ve been to Alishan (Mount Ali) on many occasions. On my first and second trip, the “Sacred Tree” over 3000 years old was still standing. Countless people mourned its loss when the forest giant eventually toppled over. When we visit Alisha, we are there not for the mountains but for the red cypress trees and forest. The red cypress forest is magnificent, silent yet somehow accessible.

The first time I saw the forest I immediately thought of Ivan Shishkin, the 19th century Russian landscape master and bard of the forests. The Alishan forest was very similar to the pine woods painted by Shishkin and nobody seemed to have painted the Alishan forest in Taiwan yet. I decided to challenge myself and finally completed this larger-than-usual landscape oil painting after spending a whole year. You will not find the scene in this painting up on the mountains however because it is the forest in my head.

Chatong Landing(Huanyuan County, Xiangxi, China)

Oil on Canvas

60.5X45.5cm

1988

This painting is part of the collection I did on a painting trip to Xiangxi (Western Hunan Province) in 1988. This particular collection of my paintings was exhibited for the first time at the East Gallery in Taipei in early 1989 where they were well received.

As for this painting, Chatong is located at the meeting point of three provinces: Hunan, Guizhou and Sichuan. The You River flows through here before joining the Yuan River and was a quite prosperous outpost on the Xiangxi border in the early years. The local people are fond of saying that the area used to be nicknamed Little Nanjing. What was even more impressive was that Shen Congwen, the talented Xiangxi-born author, went to the Second Provincial Normal College here (the school was relocated here at one point) in his youth. He later used Chatong as the background to write his most representative mid-length novel Border Town. It was not until the 1980’s when Shen Congwen was released from “deep freeze” that the townspeople discovered that they had a proud history of their own.

The novel tells the story of an old ferryman at Chatong Landing who lived with his beautiful granddaughter named Cuicui. Two boatmen fell in love with the same girl but the brothers drowned one after another in the deadly rapids of Yuan River.

My painting of the “Landing” not only resembled the ferry landing that Shen described but also stood out because of the boat crossing the river. And by coincidence, it also had a white-haired old boatman, making the painting the spitting image of “Border Town”! This was a plein-air painting that I painted live on the spot – the turbid river waters after the autumn floods, the boat shuttling back and forth carrying the passengers, as well as the old boatman.

People of the Mountains(Zhongdian, Yunnan Province, China)

Oil on Canvas

45×38 cm

2011

The world is a big place and so is China. There are just so many places that I would love to visit and paint. It took many years before I finally came to Yunnan in China’s Southwest. The mysterious tropical atmosphere of Xishuangbanna (Sipsongpanna) in Yunnan had long piqued the curiosity of the art community but I only discovered that it was also the home of the Bai and other beautiful, mysterious ethnic minorities after watching the movie “Ashima”. I then learned about Dianchi, Zhizhanglian, Erhai Lake, Cangshan, Dali and Lijiang, as well as Zhongdian and the meeting of three rivers on the highlands to the northwest…

Jinsha River is not far away from this mountain and a surprisingly large number of the Khams Tibetan people live on the sheer slopes. They built temples and towers, grew crops in the river valleys, kept livestock on the slopes, and countless generations have lived here in their clustered houses that have become part of the mountain.

The novel tells the story of an old ferryman at Chatong Landing who lived with his beautiful granddaughter named Cuicui. Two boatmen fell in love with the same girl but the brothers drowned one after another in the deadly rapids of Yuan River.

My painting of the “Landing” not only resembled the ferry landing that Shen described but also stood out because of the boat crossing the river. And by coincidence, it also had a white-haired old boatman, making the painting the spitting image of “Border Town”! This was a plein-air painting that I painted live on the spot – the turbid river waters after the autumn floods, the boat shuttling back and forth carrying the passengers, as well as the old boatman. My painting of the mountain, village and cow herds is intended as an ode to the people of the mountain.

Ranch by Twilight(Dieppe Auffay, France)

Oil on Canvas

91×65 cm

1990

If you head north from Rouen, you are surrounded by the rural countryside after less than half an hour on the train including towns, houses, farms, canals and willow threes. There are of course people and cows but very few cars. There are sights worth painting everywhere here so I even went to the sole real estate agent in the town to look at the prices on the for sales signs. Now that I think about it, that was a rather silly thing to do.

This was a studio painting and I took pains with the placement of the cows. I let the distant trees “climb” over the grassy embankment and the red glow in the sky was the product of my imagination.

River Bend Sunset(Suzdal, Russia)

Oil on Canvas

45.5×38 cm

2001

For Russian and Chinese oil painters, the name Levitan represented poetry and warmth. Born in 1961 from a poor Jewish family, he passed the entrance exam and went to the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture where he opted to study landscape painting. His teacher was Alexei Savrasov, famed for The Rooks Have Come Back. In his short 39 years of life, Levitan created the “Golden Autumn” series of very poetic Russian landscape paintings. All of these paintings carried some of that characteristic Levitan sense of sorrow.

I visited Suzdal on my trip to Russia in 2001. The farm houses, the church, the forest and the river were all filled with poetic and picturesque sights. Levitan often came here for plein-air painting and his works taught us to read the poetry of Mother Nature. I have always had Levitan and Repin close to my heart and they were with me through many difficult days. Reciting his name under my breath, I painted this sunset landscape and used this brief paragraphs to commemorate the memory of Levitan.

Sakura, Sakura (Shinjuku, Japan)

Oil on Canvas

145.5×97 cm

2003

In 2003, HCG president Qiu Jun Rong and his wife invited me to visit Japan for leisure and painting. We visited Tokyo, Atami, Shinjuku, Kyoto and the Izu Peninsula to admire the cherry blossoms and I used the time for plein-air painting as well.

I particularly remember our tour of the imperial gardens in Shinjuku. The spring chill, the fickle sun, the spring rains, the falling blossoms and pedals in the river all created a sense of melancholy beauty. The draft for this painting was completed with Mr. Qiu holding the umbrella for me and the couple later added it to their collection.

This scene was painted after my return to Taiwan. I not only simplified the flowering trees in the original scene but also “added a little extra” to the background.

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