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Unearthing Light: Hung Jui-Lin

Hung Jui-Lin (1912-1996), often known as “the mining painter," has long held an important place in the history of Taiwanese art, with works that stand as iconic symbols of the lives of laborers and other people on the lower strata of society.

 

As a child, Hung Jui-Lin attended Daojiang Private Charity School(Daojiang Gijuku), which was founded by the Japanese citizen Inagaki Tobei with the aim of upholding the spirit of philanthropy and human rights. Thus, Hung was inspired by humanitarianism very early in life. He also came to admire the Western painters Jean-François Millet and Vincent Van Gogh, both of whom felt concern for farmers and the poor. While living in Japan he became immersed in a variety of art philosophies and was influenced by the outsider spirit of independent groups and art movements beyond the official exhibition system. In the 1930s he expressed these ideas in a series of scenic paintings of the district behind Taipei Railway Station and the slum of Japan. Hung's well-known Yamagata series presented poignant images of “laborers in the bleak winter,” observing the self-sufficient life of local farming folk amid Yamagata’s snowy landscape.

 

After returning to Taiwan, Hung accepted a job managing the No. 2 Mine in Ruifang, to support his family and also to repay the artist Ni Chiang-Huai for funding the latter period of his studies in Japan. Throughout a career that spanned 30 years, he made numerous sketches of miners. With brush and ink Hung limned the truest light of humanity in the mines. Every day before daybreak, the miners would descend deep underground, risking their lives in exchange for livelihoods. Although the sun shone outside, the tunnels were dark, with no light source other than the miners’ headlamps. They had to wait until the day's work was done before they could finally exit the mine and see the real light. Covered in sweat and coal dust, the artist captured the beauty of his coworkers’ physical labor with dynamic brushstrokes, expressing the dignity of life “where the sun never shines” and forging a one-of-a-kind artistic style.

 

Many years of life in the subterranean darkness gave Hung Jui-Lin a particularly powerful longing for the dazzling sunlight. In his later years, he and his eldest son Hung Chun-Hsiung settled in a small seaside town in California, making the year-round sunshine his constant companion, as he had always wished. After he bade the shadowy mines farewell, bright skies and clouds became the theme of the final stage of the artist’s career.

 

This exhibition centers on the family collection donated to Taipei Fine Arts Museum by Hung Chun-Hsiung in 2020, supplemented by other works from private collectors and museums. Many of the artworks have not been glimpsed by Taiwanese viewers for over 35 years. The exhibition also features several rare works in Hung Jui-Lin’s oeuvre, such as large-scale oil paintings depicting entire scenes of mines, rare sketches of Japan, and important portraits of family members.

 

Curators:

Pai Hsueh-Lan, Fang Mei-Ching, Kao Tzu-Chin

  • Hung Jui-Lin
    Hung Jui-Lin was born in 1912 in Dadaocheng, Taipei. As a child, he studied at Daojiang Private Charity School (Daojiang Gijuku) founded by Inagaki Tobei, where he was first exposed to the ideas of humanitarianism. Hung was under the tutelage of Ishikawa Kinichiro at Taihoku Institute of Western Pai...
  • Pai Hsueh-Lan

    Pai Hsueh-Lan (1959- ) worked as an assistant researcher at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum from 1983 to 1990, and was deputy executive manager of Dimension Endowment of Art from 1990 to 1996. She has since worked as an independent curator, with a concentration on Taiwanese art. Since 2016, Pai has focu...