A Constant Appreciation for Moonlight: The Artist Ho Huai-shuo

by Professor Yen Chuan-ying
PH.D. in History of Art (Harvard)

The young drifter

Ho Huai-shuo was born November 3, 1941 in Chao'an, a small, very close-minded village in Guangdong. His family was poor, but they were also Christians. This was fortunate, since biblical literature, church music and Christian art opened a door for He into the realm of art and literature. He finished primary and junior high school in his home town and knew at an early age that he was destined to pursue a creative career in literature or art. For a poor student, a brush was cheaper than any musical instrument, and Ho Huai-shuo realized that a painting brush could express his passion and concern for the world more accurately than a writing brush. Nevertheless, he never did abandon his literary interests.

Ho Huai-shuo grew up fast. Early on he thought about breaking free from the constraints imposed on him by his immediate surroundings. He was full of curiosity about the outside world. After graduating from junior high school, he traveled far from home, full of youthful high spirits on seeing the world for the first time, and entered the senior high school attached to Hubei Art Academy in Wuchang (1956-1959). He also left the church at this time. The training he received emphasized Western painting techniques in drawing, watercolor, and oil painting. Ho Huai-shuo did not decide to focus on ink painting until shortly before he entered the university. He was accustomed to frugal living and searching for books in his impoverished surroundings that could satisfy his thirst for knowledge. Next to the Art College was Huazhong University; its library's holdings in literature and philosophy formed his best companions. After drawing up his own reading plan, he pored through important literary classics from the Book of Poetry to Tang poetry, together with recent critical studies. He even copied out their different arguments in order to draw comparisons among them. His habit of reading widely gave him the capacity to form his own judgements at an early age. Later on he would make many artistic friends, but his wide-ranging interests also made him stand out among peers.

The time he attended high school and college in Hubei coincided with the 1957-1958 Anti-Rightist movement, in which intellectuals who were not "reformed" became targets for oppression, while party loyalty and class origins were emphasized. During the immediately following period, from 1958 to 1960, the Communist Party's "Great Leap Forward" caused such a large number of people to die of starvation or malnutrition that it stands as one of the greatest calamities in human history. Ho Huai-shuo, whose build was slight to begin with, had to deal with a lot of spiritual pressure and do his reading surreptitiously to avoid discovery and criticism. Besides having to participate in forced labor projects, he lived always on the verge of starvation and sickness because of poor material conditions. Finally, after finishing his first year at Hubei Art Academy in 1961, he had the good fortune of being granted permission to visit his parents in Hong Kong. After entering the British colony, he spent one year as a dependent of his father, who held a menial job. In 1962, he received permission to go to Taiwan as an overseas Chinese student and took preparatory classes at Overseas Chinese University.

During his time at Hubei Art Academy, Ho Huai-shuo not only received academic training in art but also learned about many important recent Chinese artists through art books and journals. Of these, the four recent ink painters who had the greatest influence on him were Huang Binhong (1865-1955), Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), and Li Keran (1907-1989). He claimed that when he was young he had already admired Huang Binhong for the tenacious strength of his brushwork and copied over a hundred of Huang's works. As for Lin Fengmian, who had studied in France and created oil paintings that adapted traditional Chinese artistic forms, Ho Huai-shuo admired the pure simplicity of his subject-matter and his casual but accomplished manner. He thought that Lin Fengmian represented the combination of Western creativity with Chinese ideas, realized in a refined, purified painting vocabulary.

When Fu Baoshi passed through Wuhan in 1956 during a tour to visit scenic spots, he held a small solo exhibition at Hubei Art Academy that greatly inspired He. Fu Baoshi may have led a rugged life, drifting through one hardship after another, but he had high ambitions, studied with determination, and strove to remold the tradition of Chinese ink painting. The balance between the vast spiritual force and lyricism in Fu's paintings stimulated Ho Huai-shuo the most, and this is also why he later adopted the name Huaishuo ("embracing greatness") for himself. Li Keran's works were also displayed for copying at the college and attracted much student interest.

A bitter youth

In 1963, Ho Huai-shuo was admitted as a third-year transfer student to the Dept. of Fine Art at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), which meant that he had to study day and night in order to finish all credits within two years. Meanwhile, he had no family members in Taiwan, and his way of thinking, especially on the painting tradition, was quite different from that of his classmates or even his teachers. In his view, contemporary mainland painters like Fu Baoshi and Lin Fengmian had already made great strides from tradition, but painters in Taiwan, including his teachers in the NTNU art department, were quite conservative. Besides using his paintings as an outlet for his depression, he also felt it necessary to repeatedly publish articles in on and off-campus journals to discuss his views. After living through the Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War, drifting from place to place, and being separated from his family through most of his education, he felt that he was deeply isolated, that he was always having to contend with his circumstances and stand out of the mainstream. Studying and writing essays all served to resolve his difficulties, broaden the range of his knowledge, and express his concern for society and culture, but in his personal life he felt bitter and lonely.

In the graduating students' exhibition of 1965, He received First Place in the Minister of Education Award. At this time, the annual NTNU Dept. of Fine Art graduating student exhibition attracted much notice throughout Taiwanese society. An American embassy official, a certain Mr. Littel, made the acquaintance of Ho Huai-shuo through this exhibition, and they became good friends. Littel finally invited He to hold an informal exhibition at the American embassy officials' residential compound on Yangmingshan, and he introduced friends to buy He's paintings. This not only helped to relieve Ho Huai-shuo's dire economic situation but also increased his name recognition. The channel for exchange with the US that was thus established eventually led to the opportunity for him to live in New York for four years (1974-1978).

In 1969, the president of Chinese Culture University, Chang Chi-chun, hired Ho Huai-shuo as a lecturer in that university's art department. To do so, Chang waived the usual master's degree requirement for a lecturer's position. During the one year He taught the junior-level "Chinese Aesthetic Thought" and other courses, he used the relatively stable living conditions on Yangmingshan to create a number of satisfying works. He also completed many articles on the spirit of Chinese art, its value and direction during this time. He did not expect, however, that his contract would be terminated suddenly after one year, so he went through yet another period of difficulty as he looked for work. In the fall of that year, Ho Huai-shuo held his first formal solo exhibition at the Sino-American Culture and Economic Association in Taipei, garnering many favorable reviews. In 1974, he accepted an invitation to hold an exhibition that toured several American universities, and he then resided in New York for four years.

Extending the spirit of the May 4th Movement-the intellectual's moral stance

Ho Huai-shuo sees himself not only as a professional artist but also as an intellectual concerned with the affairs of this world. An important subject in his writings is the opposing yet interactive relationship between the Chinese tradition and the West. While he wants to develop tradition, speed up reform, and advocate the absorption of the strong points of Western culture and art, he also opposes the hegemonic aspect of contemporary Western art, including modernism and postmodernism. In fact, Ho Huai-shuo has been deeply influenced by the May 4th Movement and reveres figures like Lu Xun and Guo Moruo. He has inherited their mixed love-hate feelings toward China and constantly struggles between Chinese and Western cultures. Like them, he feels that it is his destiny to learn from Western civilization without forgetting the spirit of the Chinese people, in order to build a contemporary Chinese civilization. Of course, this is all in the spirit of a movement inspired by a powerful sense of crisis and being surrounded by great powers. Even though the times have changed, this anxiety about the country and its people still manifests itself in Ho Huai-shuo's essays and paintings.

He once said:

I attach a lot of importance to the intellectual's moral stance. This stance does not refer to old notions, such as viewing self-sacrifice for the country as the complete attainment of benevolence, and so on¡K. [Instead] we have to strive constantly to make our culture possess new life. This spirit is not patriotism narrowly defined or some kind of ideological patriotism, but something possessed in common by people throughout the world¡K. Our local native culture should be on a par with the best in the world. This is our responsibility and honor¡K. If it does not, this indicates that we have been defeated in the human cultural competition¡K. [From an interview conducted November 28, 1998]

Of course, realizing such aspirations and sense of responsibility in today's society would be very difficult, and it would be difficult to get most people to identify with such a stance. However, Ho Huai-shuo's predecessors in contemporary Chinese art, such as Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, and Fu Baoshi, despite all their tragic experiences, are his models. Their example encourages him to continue his struggle.

Individual style and modernity

Ho Huai-shuo thinks that artistic creativity arises from three sources. The first is the accomplishment of prior masters, i.e., the inheritance of historical tradition. This is not limited to China, the West, or Japan, or the visual arts, literature, or theater; even philosophy and science fall into one's historical tradition. Next is the phenomenal world-the universe, nature, human life, society. The third is one's own spirit. An important volume among Ho Huai-shuo's writings on art criticism is Discourse on Modern Chinese Painters-the Spirit of the Masters (hereafter called The Masters for short). In this book, he selects eight painters whom he thinks reflects the age, reflects the crisis of Chinese culture, and expresses an individual awakening or unique personal feeling.

Regarding the second source of artistic creativity, the phenomenal world, Ho Huai-shuo thinks that the most important concept is reflecting the time one lives in. This temporal sense is expressed concretely in the practical aspects of life, i.e., the human condition that one personally experiences. However, ever since Ho Huai-shuo began writing during his "miserable youth," he has always held a strongly critical attitude toward society. The vicissitudes of nature and social life can only function as a negative mirror for his creativity. This idea is also conveyed, for example, when he writes of Fu Baoshi: "All of Fu Baoshi's best paintings well up from images within his heart, though the investigation of nature and the borrowed perspectives from people of the past cannot be absent" (The Masters, p. 321). Thus, for him the artist's sense of the times is still ultimately linked to his own conceptual innovations and expressions of his own inner world.

Ho Huai-shuo recognizes "human dignity and the liberation of personality" as the essence of what the May 4th Movement absorbed from Western contemporary thought. Once individual personality was awakened, people were endowed with the right to frankly express the bitterness and struggle of human life, and they were allowed to break free from the quasi-doctrinal constraints of traditional Confucianism. Only by emphasizing the unique inner world of the individual instead of the aesthetic of realism, "capturing the beauty of nature and the beauty of objects," the painter can concentrate on revealing the inner imaginary world or the already-disappeared past.

In conjunction with his first solo exhibition in 1969, Ho Huai-shuo declared feelingly that he is devoted to the concept that artistic creation has a tragic aspect. We live in tragic and painful times, and the painter calls us to realize this truth for ourselves. As it is the painter's destiny to establish what is contemporary Chinese artistic thought, its direction "is to use our Chinese spiritual essence to look squarely at the modern world, and through artistic expression in painting I experience and reflect upon contemporary life and the contemporary world" (Misery, p. 144). Modern art liberated the Chinese painter, allowing him to concentrate on uncovering his inner worlds, but the painter's inner mind actually becomes one with the tragic events of modern Chinese history, since artistic creation depends on reflecting one's times.

Creating new realms

After experiencing a difficult, drifting life as a young man and confronting the fact that he could not return home, Ho Huai-shuo's sense of the crises of our times and the precariousness of human life is cast back into his paintings with powerful intensity. As this life no longer has any beautiful dream or innocent expectation, there are only pain, fear and suffering in fantasy. However, the only way to begin healing is to return to the lonely world of one's dreams, because no matter how vacant or monstrous it is, it provides broader room for self-expression than the real world ever can.

This is not to say that Ho Huai-shuo is cold and unfeeling, because he still has limitless affection for the here and now. Thus, in the absence of beautiful dreams, he constantly expresses the emotion of loneliness. Let us try looking at one of his earlier paintings. In his early period, he was clearly influenced by Fu Baoshi and Li Keran. However, these paintings are not filled with a world of tragedy and melancholy. In fact, many paintings are rendered from a bird's-eye perspective and convey a sense of blithe, floating ease. For instance, in On a Lone Flight of 1971 (Fig. 1), he uses an eagle spreading its wings high over a desert to guide the viewer's perspective. Among the limited number of objects a constant call-and-response is established. Although there is a sense of isolation, genuine loneliness is absent. A dead tree stands in the midst of a mostly featureless expanse and seems to wave in the breeze, beckoning toward the eagle.

Painting and literature

Ho Huai-shuo, who has always been keenly interested in literature, is deeply aware of the close connection between Chinese painting and poetry. He thinks that painting has to rely on literature to fill out its spiritual content, because literature, especially poetry, is capable of the most profound, complete expression in the arts. Poetry is the "soul" of all the arts. Content-wise, painting and literature both express the romance, subjective spirit, and humanist color of Chinese art as a whole. The refined simplicity of subject-matter in Ho Huai-shuo's paintings is undoubtedly related to his experience of the art of poetry, and through further exploration of the narrative aspect of painting he has modeled its identity with literature. He thinks that Chinese painting can express time's passage. For instance, in Solitary Journey of 1980 (Fig. 2), the expanse of land is flattened through the eagle's perspective, but a line of mountains suddenly rises through the mists, blocking our line of sight and the eagle's flight path. This kind of opposition and contention for preeminence among images is also seen in the parallelisms of Chinese poetry, as found for example in Wang Wei's couplet, "Over the vast desert, a solitary line of smoke rises; / Over the Yangtze River, the setting sun is round."

Alley in the Rain (Fig. 3) is a celebrated work of the early 1980s that Ho Huai-shuo is proud of. Although the composition is inspired from Li Keran, it is more detailed and powerful in its execution. The attenuated backwards "S" formed by the rows of rain-drenched rooftops defines the path of a solitary traveler. The poetic inscription is taken from an emotion-filled line by the modern romantic poet Dai Wangshu (1905-1950): "Grasping an oil-paper umbrella, wandering alone down a wet and long, long lonely alley."

Accumulating and combining techniques

Ho Huai-shuo consistently uses rice paper for his paintings and applies repeated washes for a layered effect. Before undertaking a painting, he will always do many studies, compare their strong and weak points, and refine the composition to unassailable perfection. He will not take up the brush for the final work until he is confident to do so. The process of forming an idea is quite long, since he thinks that repeated revision in the drafting stage makes possible the creation of a multi-layered, cumulative effect in the final composition. This approach is very different from the traditional emphasis in Chinese painting on forming a whole composition "at one go" on the basis of an image formed in the heart, and is rather borrowed from Western notions of composition. This is a part of He's effort to change Chinese tradition.

The effect of long, complete concentration during the process of refinement (he is accustomed to working late into the night) is also evident in the free but pensive mood in his paintings. For instance, in 1983's Passing Guests (Fig. 4), dodder-like vines rise skyward, their blossoms appearing like so many butterflies. Around 1975, Ho Huai-shuo had begun using river images to represent memory of the past, thus (by extension) of home. In this painting, the river rushes up from the foreground as if it were standing vertically, and an old, decrepit footbridge arcs high above it. As in traditional Chinese poetry, where our lives are compared with floating duckweed and travelers passing by, this painting features no cozy dwellings where the human figures can find lodging. We should note that apart from the wooden bridge, rendered with an economy of means, this painting already provides no narrative visual guide. Instead, the artist tilts the plane of the composition up in order to highlight the rhythm of the lines on the surface. The large masses of vines occupy the left and right, establishing a mutual attraction. The rocks in the stream, rendered with sparse, suggestive brushstrokes, seem to punctuate the composition's rhythm.

Ho Huai-shuo's use of the method of splashing on paint with the brush reached its height in his 1988 work, Eternal Rain (Fig. 5). The inscription is worth noting:

My use of this method to paint foliage and vines began from an inspiration while traveling in Europe in 1977, and my painting Passing Guests, done in the summer of 1983, was the most thoroughly drenched. In 1984 I had a solo show at the Hong Kong Art Center, and a guest remarked, "This is Jackson Pollock's [1912-1956] method modified for ink-extremely clever!" I felt as if I had suddenly awakened. But when I created this method, I was not thinking of Pollock at all. In midsummer, 1988, Ho Huai-shuo, with inscription.

Of course, Ho Huai-shuo's attenuated, wandering lines and splashed-on dots are not directly taken from the American abstract expressionist master Jackson Pollock. However, since the 1960s, the new generation of painters in Taiwan were familiar with Pollock's improvised, spontaneous methods. Ho Huai-shuo had always been very interested in modern Western art, and when painting clouds he also retains some of the effects achieved through spontaneity and improvisation. One can tell that the techniques he absorbed from Western contemporary painting rounded out his compositional ideas. As for the images formed, he might also have received inspiration from impressionism, the Nabis, and expressionism, so that he escaped more completely from the shackles of traditional landscape and freed the fantastic images in his mind.

In a preface he wrote for a solo exhibition in 1990, he indicated that his creative work had already been internalized, that it had become the expression of his personal, inner fantasies:

The larger part of my favorite subject matter is transcendent, what is suspended over "reality", phantom sensations in my mind. Some of these phantoms are images, evolved from certain indescribable "secrets" deep in my heart since childhood¡K. And the pursuit of knowledge, artistic training, absorption of Chinese and Western culture, world travel, and personal experiences over a number of decades have refined those images and guided them, so that in my exploration I arrive at and express the appropriate forms.

Visions and demons on moonlit nights

Moonlit nights always lead the mind to wander. Ho Huai-shuo is especially skilled at depicting contrasting light rays and imbuing them with feeling. In Thinking of Distant Loved Ones Beneath the Same Moon (Fig. 6), which was executed in 1987, a solitary person is seated on a plank bridge with a thatch roof, looking much like one of the many rocks. The moon itself is somewhere over the painting-there is only the reflection of the moon's light on the water. The play of the light is such that the poet could just as well be seated under a spotlight. The rocks jutting from the water's surface are arranged in a sequential order from the lower left corner toward the horizon, as if to suggest the longed-for loved one. The scintillating effect of the reflected moonlight is captured by the fine, dense brushwork, yet the light remains something impalpable, like a fine wisp of smoke.

Although the moon is eternal, it too can grow old. In his Ancient Moon of 1979 (Fig. 7), Ho Huai-shuo inscribes a "new-style" poem by Yu Kuang-chung evoking the landscape of the "old country":

Indistinct, an ancient moon lies in wait,
The longer I go, the more the mirage recedes.
A flute has been playing a thousand years-
I can't hear Chang an,
I can't hear the Great Wall.

I record lines from Yu Kuang-chung's "White Jade, Bitter Melon." On a rainy spring night in the year jiwei [1979], Ho Huai-shuo creates this scene in Taipei and writes.

In this painting, the old city gate tower represents the old capital of Chang an, and especially his feelings for old China. The red mirage is broken up in the mists, as if to suggest that Chinese traditions are about to crumble like that old city.

The ancient, familiar image of the moon has often symbolized the poet's eternal companion and gentle femininity, but the moon is also full of mysterious, strange and fearful fantasies. A contrasting, more positive image in traditional landscape paintings has been trees, since they were taken to represent male virility and vitality and the accumulation of time and wisdom. A thick tree trunk always gives people a sense of security and stability. Winter Light (Fig. 8), painted in 1986, presents a scene with all the simplicity and force of a children's tale. The house seems to float between the gray sky and dry grassy plain like a big face, its black door a wry smile tilted toward the right. The two trunks in the foreground form a giant arc off-centered toward the left. The asymmetrical arrangement creates an implicit tension.

The development of the anthropomorphized trunk motif in Ho Huai-shuo's paintings seems to reach a climax with the two trunks, suggestive of a man and woman, in the right half of Sea Passion (Fig. 9), painted in 1989. After this, He stopped using this motif for a while, shifting to develop the river motif. It is worth noting that the background of Sea Passion uses the same technique as that of the moon-reflecting sea in Thinking of Distant Loved Ones beneath the Same Moon. Although the moon's image cannot be seen, the gentleness of its light is everywhere, immediately present.

Motifs suggestive of struggle and desire were developing at the same time in He's oeuvre, as if they were really parts of the same idea. The motif of the destroyed forest, for instance, suggests repeated trials and suffering, until everything has been scorched away. The most perfect expression of the death of a forest (and all that implies) is found in Elegy of the Yellow River (Fig. 10), which was painted in 1989 after Ho Huai-shuo had witnessed the Tiananmen Incident. (The title of the painting is borrowed from the title of a famous Chinese television documentary series that had been broadcast a few months before the Tiananmen Incident.) The inscription reads:

Elegy of the Yellow River
I did this for China's suffering. In xiaoshu [July 6-8] of the year jisi [1989], Huai Huaishuo, with inscription.

This painting is simultaneously an expression of He's fondness for Chinese history and his sadness and protest against the current Chinese political culture. The Yellow River in the background may represent the unbroken line of history, but the forest dominating the foreground of the composition is utterly blasted, as if struck by lightning and burned completely. He uses this painting to express his grief and anger for the dead. However, not all has been lost: hope for the return of life is revealed through the river, whose calm, gentle surface, bathed in moonlight, forms a sharp contrast to the monstrosity of the forest. The river and forest make a complementary Yin-Yang pair, adding another important symbolic dimension to the painting.

In July 1987, Taiwan declared the lifting of martial law, and in January 1988 Pres. Chiang Ching-kuo passed away, thus ending the era of authoritarian government. During the period of political transition, Taiwan's political scene showed signs of upheaval from left and right. Ho Huai-shuo joined a group of friends in the academic community to start up the Purifying Society (Cheng She), which sought to observe Taiwan's political and social development from a non-party-affiliated perspective and express commentary through the mass media. The group attracted much attention. However, as Taiwan's political situation stabilized during the 1990s, the Purifying Society's purpose gradually faded.

Mental scenes

The year 1993, when Ho Huai-shuo made a trip to Russia, marked a new milestone in the development of his paintings. The poverty in Russia's society, juxtaposed with nostalgia for the past, was utterly at odds with what he had studied about Russian culture and language when he was young. When he was young, he had admired Russian landscapes, but what about the present? After calmly listening to his recollections and sad songs, the image of a scene without a past, present or future appeared in his mind. After he returned home, he created a painting entitled The Scene of Mind: Incessant Clouds (Fig. 11). The inscription reads:

This is a scene in my mind. When I was in Russia, this image welled up in my mind, and I completed it upon my return. Ho Huai-shuo, the seventh lunar month of kueiyu or August 28, 1993, with inscription.

The line of the horizon is pressed down to the lower one-fourth of this painting, and the viewer looks up to a partly cloud-covered gibbous moon in a starless sky. In the lower left is a simple yet vaguely familiar house, standing squarely on a grassy plain. In the phantasmagoric heavens, clots of black cloud emerge behind the moon, covering the sky. Only the area around the house is covered with faint moonlight.

In 1996, typhoon Herb brought disaster to the area around Taipei (an avalanche in Hsichih, part of an apartment complex destroyed). That night, when the artist was listening to the howling wind, he painted Eternal Moon Light (Fig. 12), which shows a pair of trees, representing a man and woman with their backs to the viewer, looking at the thin line of a stream in the distance. In a disaster, what most deserves to be cherished amidst the destruction? What is really eternal and unchanging? Perhaps it is the moon, the poet's constant companion. Even though the moon is presented as a vacant circle with indistinct edges, it still reveals the artist's unlimited affection. The wide, transparent trees, looking like puffs of cotton candy, are also an expression of his love for humanity. The sky is mostly clear, save for a luminous cloud that graces the "feminine" tree on the right.

Moon at the End of the Century (Fig. 13), finished in 1995, suspends an intensely radiant silver moon over a ziggurat-like apartment tower. Each of the souls residing there has a different face, a different set of memories; each has modified his space accordingly, creating a jumbled exterior reminiscent of many apartment buildings in Taiwan. Wisps of cloud float lightly outside the windows, and the top is so close to the moon that one could almost reach up and grasp it. The artist uses this image as a clear, moving expression of his sympathy and passion for humanity.

The drifting moon as a symbol of emptiness

In 1989, the feminized natural image appears clearly and more effectively in River of Lust (Fig. 14). After this painting, the female image that had stood in the form of trees began to recline in the form of undulating rivers. Many drafts and studies were completed before this painting achieved its final form, and the artist spent many long nights before finally arriving at the most effective composition. The painting brings the viewer into its own complete, independent, closed world, unaffected by anything outside. It is a quiet inner journey, a meandering thought. The full, gentle image of the river simultaneously contains within it the notion of "life source" and something that constantly flows on, never to return. It is a dual image suggestive of both life and death.

Moon River I (Fig. 15) depicts a wide expanse of barren, desert-like land. A huge moon near the horizon shines over it all. A line of trees with skinny trunks stand in the foreground, recording the passage of time. The bright river looks like a reclining woman who stretches her arms lazily over her head while bathing herself in the cool moonlight. Across her attenuated body are streaks of mud and water. In the deserted territory of this painting, this long stream could stand for life's potential.

Most recently, the artist has explored the motif of returning to primordial landscapes. The journey is accomplished after purifying the thought in order to search for a place to consign one's spirit. Wandering Clouds (Fig. 16), finished in 1998, also embodies this idea. The canyon face is the wall that forms the object of the artist's meditation (many old tales relate how one or another Taoist monk meditated for years while staring at a wall). Long clouds float in the pure air, suspended and still. A tree lined up in the foreground seem to link hands to guard the near ground, whose contours form a female body. Perhaps the space is a dried-up riverbed where seeds are scattered to await the re-awakening of the earth.

Finally, let us quote from a section of the artist's preface to an exhibition at the beginning of this year, to echo these ideas:

"Dreams are a higher truth than reality." . . . . This statement is my constant companion. Our physical selves, rooted in the real world, are not free-only the free spirit can undertake limitless quests. All transcendental pursuits occur through dream, and are the only thing worth striving for in this life even as it wastes away. Thus, they are the highest truth in life. My paintings are a series of visual constructions from my own inner fantastic landscapes. I use the techniques of realism, broadly defined, to express the most twisting, mysterious, abstract, dark, difficult-to-describe mental activities. Perhaps one could call it "dream realism." I like to use constantly appearing visual images to create suggestive or symbolic expressions. This tendency is probably more readily apparent in my paintings over the past nearly ten years.


"A sense of the tragic was a lofty feeling, because it expressed the struggle in one's internal world-the meaning of being human," declared the young Ho Huai-shuo in January, 1969. However, in any time and for any person, developing a sense for the tragic aspect of life is also inescapable. How does the artist distinguish himself? Sometimes by encouraging himself, assuming a lofty stance; sometimes by making severe demands on himself, always struggling to overcome difficulty. For Ho Huai-shuo, returning to the dream world is always for the purpose of facing the isolated, lonely life of this one. No matter how old the world becomes, it cannot rinse away the lingering affection for the past, the memory of suffering. Sadness eventually fades away, and the sky clears to reveal a high, bright moon amidst wisps of cloud in a still night.