Hidden in plain sight: the extradordinary work of Hsieh Tong-liang (Part 2)

Part 2 of a feature for Guan Xi Media:

With tea and preliminary chit-chat done, Diane suggests we start our tour in the large exhibition space next door. Split into sections showcasing the various series of works that have occupied periods of Hsieh’s life spanning, in some cases, a single year, in others, decades, the room provides an overview of his 50-year career. Signs on the walls and suspended from the ceiling introduce the various displays.

On one of the walls is a watercolor portrait of Hsieh by Max Liu, a polymath whose devil-may-care attitude and unconventional approach led to him being dubbed the enfant terrible of Taiwanese art.

Trained as an engineer, a vocation which he maintained for most of his working life, Liu did not take to the easel until he was in his late 30s. In 1964, he responded to a call from the American military for Taiwanese engineers to work in Vietnam for danger money salaries that were hard to refuse.

When he returned home three years later, he had over 200 paintings under his belt, some of them influenced by Vietnam’s Champa ruins and culture, which indicated Liu’s future change of direction toward a career as a roving cultural anthropologist who traveled extensively across Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Liu’s work is frequently found on postcards at major art museums in Taiwan. Sketches from his time in Vietnam featured prominently in the superb Secret South exhibition at TFAM in 2020, which focused on Taiwan’s interactions with and place on the periphery of the Global South.

Some remarkable coincidences link Liu to Chen Shih-ting: They were both born in Fuzhou, less than nine months apart in December 1912 and August 1913 respectively and died within two days of each other in Taiwan in April 2002.

Click here to read the full article at Guan Xi Media.

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