The Art of Silence: The Beauty of Chinese Ink Painting
An exploration into artist Chen Shih-Hang's creative process and how his Silent Landscapes speak volumes
As the curtain fell on the 2020 Chung-Shan Youth Art Awards, Taiwan’s most prestigious honour for emerging artists, the spotlight shone brightest on a fresh, new talent: Chen Shih-Hang. His ink-wash chef-d’oeuvre, Mountain of Immortals, stood out among a sea of entries and captured first place in its category.
Lauding Chen’s seamless integration of tradition and innovation, the judges found themselves moved by his piece. “Chen’s artistry struck a chord in a genre where respecting roots while fostering growth is a high-wire act. Ultimately, Mountain of Immortals pushed the boundaries of ink-wash painting—breathing life into a storied art form—yet honouring its legacy and ancestral spirit,” they said.
What makes Chen even more compelling is his unconventional persona. Born in the 1990s, he deviates sharply from his digitally engaged peers. Instead of immersing himself in video games or social media, Chen devotes his time to the canvas. This singular focus begs an intriguing question: What draws Chen so intensely to painting, enabling him to sidestep the distractions of our digital age?
Diving into the sublime
“Painting is not just my craft; it’s my calling,” says Chen, whose lifelong dance with ink painting began at a young age, and only intensified over the years. He finds pure joy in watching ink mix with water and seep into a sheet of white Xuan paper. This mesmerizing process evokes a magnetic fascination—each droplet of ink swirling in water becomes a celestial event, a small universe in the making.
A man of few spoken words, Chen found his voice in his art. The canvases became his sanctuary—a world where silence isn’t a shield but an eloquent storyteller, revealing layers of his hidden self.
Chen’s academic path was deliberate; he consistently chose to pursue his studies in art-focused schools, culminating in a master’s degree from the prestigious National Taiwan University of the Arts. While his peers navigated the rapid currents of the digital world, Chen anchored himself in his art, tirelessly exploring novel ways to depict the “mountains and rivers” that flow within him.