August 25- 27
Harbourfront Centre

Crashing Waves

1. Coastal Scenery Facing the Sea Horizon

2. Presumptions About the Location of the Painting

3. Coastal Plants

4. The Angler

5. Sea Erosion Terrain

6. Watercolor Paintings

7. “Atmosphere of the Wartime Era”?

8. “Excellent Work” in the Eyes of the Painter

Crashing Waves

The waves of the sea are rolling towards the shore one after another. As long as time allows, every inch of the territory in the painting will be swallowed up by a whole swell of blue. In the face of the waves lapping at the shore, the tawny rocks remain silent, and the jaggedness of the surfaces is the proof of their resistance. In the never-ending one-act play of nature and time, the man in the painting stands on the rock, fishing freely at the ocean. In the vast world, it seems that the sound of the waves can be heard in the middle of the painting.

1. Coastal Scenery Facing the Sea Horizon

Most of Chen Cheng-po’s surviving oil paintings that feature seaside scenes have the coastline on one side of the painting. It is rare to find a painting like this one that places the land in the foreground and ends with the sea level. A similar attempt was made in the 1929 painting Whitecaps amid Rain and Wind. If this painting were still around, what kind of colors would it have been?

2. Presumptions About the Location of the Painting

Chen Cheng-po does not explicitly suggest the location of this painting. However, we can find features in the area of Bitoujiao, on the northeastern coast of Taiwan, that are more in line with the environment in the painting. In addition to the sea-erosion terrain in the foreground, the outline of the cape extending from the right side of the painting is also a clue for reference.

3. Coastal Plants

In order to adapt to adversity, the growth patterns of the plants along the coastline appear to be quite different from those of ordinary land-based plants. The tree on the left side of the picture is standing on its own. Its leaves are sparse, but its trunk is unusually upright, and each branch reveals an imposing appearance. The powerful lines fully express the tenacious nature of this type of plant.

4. The Angler

Fearless of the wind and waves, the man wearing a hat and holding a fishing rod stands alone on a rocky block, as if he wishes to challenge the entire turbulent sea in front of him. Compared to the magnificent and dramatic natural world in the painting, the arrangement of the figures in this scene effectively contrasts and conveys a sense of isolation and independence.

5. Sea Erosion Terrain

Surrounded by sea, coastal erosion is a very common natural landscape in Taiwan. The alternating tides and sea gales have caused the rocks along the shore to expose their irregular textures. In the picture, these weathered rocks are arranged firmly on the shoreline, silently and powerfully blocking the incoming waves.

6. Watercolor Paintings

Among Chen Cheng-po’s remaining paintings, there are two watercolor works that are similar in perspective to Crashing Waves, especially the coastal terrain in the distance, which matches the contours. During his later years, Chen Cheng-po’s watercolor paintings were rare. Perhaps the artist wanted to use another medium to examine the representation of rocks and seawater?

7. “Atmosphere of the Wartime Era”?

In 1939, when Chen Cheng-po created this painting, the Japanese army was gradually advancing toward the inner region of China. During the war, a painter’s work may also need to consider how to reflect the changes in the prevailing political situation. Coastal landscapes are not common in Chen Cheng-po’s extant works, so could the turbulent waves in the painting be an expression of the atmosphere of the era?

7-OCT1_66 岩 32x41cm 6F 年代不詳

Chen Cheng-po, “Rock”, date unknown, oil on canvas, 32×41 cm. According to the research of art historian Li Su-chu, this landscape painting, which features waves crashing against the coast, has a piece of paper attached to the back with the inscription “Chen Cheng-po, Apprentice Student Corps”. In other words, this coastal landscape may have been presented to the government or the army as a work that reflects the atmosphere of war.

8. “Excellent Work” in the Eyes of the Painter

In a postcard from 1939, Chen Cheng-po described this painting as a work that he personally thought was “very good”. However, in a newspaper article published in that year, he said that the painting had a “dull sense of color”. What do you think?

7-LE2_090-003 1939.9.25陳澄波致陳碧女、陳重光之明信片

A Postcard dated September 25th 1939 from Chen Cheng-po to Chen Pi-nu and Chen Tsung-kuang. Collection of the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. It mentions that “Dad’s own painting, Crashing Waves (No. 50), which is the best one regarding ocean waves.”

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