Taiwanese Miner/Artist Hung Jui-lin's works to return home

01/20/2020 12:05 PM
A photograph of Hung Jui-lin
A photograph of Hung Jui-lin

Los Angeles, Jan. 19 (CNA) "One evening when my father and I were taking a walk, he started to feel a bit homesick," Hung Chun-hsiung (洪鈞雄), the son of late Taiwanese artist Hung Jui-lin (洪瑞麟) recalls from the family's house in Los Angeles, California.

"Looking at the sunset, he said, 'If I keep walking in that direction, I could walk to Taiwan.'"

In 2020, 24 years after that conversation, which occurred months before the older Hung passed away in 1996, more than 2,500 of his works are making their way across the Pacific Ocean, back home to Taiwan.

Hung Jui-lin was born in Taipei in 1912, when Taiwan was under Japanese rule. When he was 18, he traveled to Japan to pursue a degree at Teikoku Art School in Tokyo, and returned to Taiwan eight years later.

"My dad was an ordinary man, who led an ordinary life," Hung Chun-hsiung, the artist's eldest son, told CNA in an interview.

After the artist went back to Taiwan, he fell in love with a mine foreman's daughter, and started working as a supervisor in a mine in Ruifang, which is now a district in New Taipei. He worked there for the next 35 years, during which time he cultivated a simple, rugged, and expressive style of painting.

Hung became renowned for his paintings of miners, the central motif of most of his works. He had a profound respect for these men, and referred to them as "mighty, nameless warriors" in a poem dedicated to those who worked in the dangerous profession.

One of Hung Jui-lin
One of Hung Jui-lin's paintings of miners.

In his later years, Hung moved to the United States to live with his eldest son, who had a restaurant in California. He continued to paint in the family's home there, which was situated by the sea in Redondo Beach, until he passed away from heart complications at 84.

Today, 2,500 paintings by Hung, dating from 1930 when he was a young student in Tokyo to his passing in 1996, are still in the U.S., but they will soon make the journey across the ocean to Taiwan, as Hung Chun-hsiung and his family have decided to donate most of them to the Ministry of Culture.

These include paintings of miners, nudes and landscapes, painted in watercolors, oils and ink, according to an initial analysis conducted by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and art historian Hsiao Chong-ray (蕭瓊瑞).

There are also some sketches, handwritten notes that Hung took in the mines, and his last painting of a group of miners sitting in a circle.

One of Hung Jui-lin
One of Hung Jui-lin's paintings of miners.

Hung Chun-hsiung said the family will keep some of his father's paintings for memory's sake, and though he is sad to let most of them go, he is deeply grateful that these priceless works have found a home.

One of the few paintings that the family is keeping depicts a sunset by the sea, the sky painted shades of purple, pink, orange and green, with sailboats bobbing on the water.

According to Hung Chun-hsiung, his father painted the work after the walk they took together in 1996, when he felt homesick.

In that same conversation, "As we were walking, he said he heard music playing, though I could only hear the sound of waves," Hung said.

"He said that the sunset was performing a symphony. 'All of the colors were coming out to speak to me,' he told me, 'like at the end of a concert where all of the instruments join in one by one, before going out with a bang. It was as if the colors were saying goodbye.'"

"Whenever I look at this painting, I feel as though my father is speaking to me," Hung said.

(By Lin Hung-han and Chiang Yi-ching)


Hung Jui-lin
Hung Jui-lin's painting of a sunset.
Hung Jui-lin
Hung Jui-lin's eldest son Hung Chun-hsiung in the family's home in the U.S.
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