A Typographic Journey to Tainan

Painting with Chinese Typography

April 10th, 20104:56 am @ | 5,080 views

Artist Tsai Yu and her work


Artist - Tsai Yu

We have been given an opportunity to meet with a Tainan local artist, Tsai Yu – a well known painter specializing in oil painting, Chinese calligraphy,  jewelery design and ceramic tile works. Her work focuses on the pictorial aspect of the Chinese typography, using Chinese characters as images to play roles in her story telling episodes.

‘Tsai’ (蔡) = Sounds like ‘Vegetables’ in Chinese, and ‘Yu’ (漁) = translates to ‘Fish’; as you can see there is a fish jumping out of the water in her signature.

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Taiwan high speed rail provided the convenience of a 30 minutes ride from Taichung to Tainan, but in order to save some money, and to make the most by enjoying the 2 hour scenery looking out the window, we decided to take the cheap train to get there. We arrived in Tainan at around 11.30am, the train station was filled with people coming into, and going out of Tainan.

Green rice field of Taiwan

Looking out the train window - Green rice field and traditional farm shed passing by

High Power Tower

Looking out the train window - Infinite number of power towers inter-connecting

Visiting the Confucius Temple – Built in 1665

We decided to take a quick tour around Tainan before meeting up with Tsai Yu. It was a pleasant walk into the courtyard of the Confucius temple; vivid red walls and the surrounding greenery paints a beautiful picture. Tainan Confucius Temple is the oldest architecture monument in Taiwan, built in 1665 and is Taiwan’s most spectacular Confucius Temple.

Tsai Yu’s antique shop

Tsai Yu is also an antique collector, she is well traveled and has collected an impressive number of artifacts from around the world. The wooden Bodhisattva shown below is as old as the Tang Dynasty, well preserved in natural lacquer. The antique shop at the street corner is literally packed with stuff; each and every item is unique, but all packed closely together in one little room, the presentation really doesn’t do much justice to any of them… having said that, the shop really is a heaven for antique lovers to come in and dig for treasure!

Tsai Yu’s Studio

Tsai Yu's Trademark Signature

Tsai Yu's Trademark Signature

Tsai Yu’s studio is located on the 5th floor, in a large open plan room in Tainan. Inside the studio, stored a large body of  her paintings, along with some precious collection of antique, wooden carvings and stone sculptures.

We have had the pleasure of viewing a few of her original oil paintings, this includes large panels of her seasonal typographic works. Tsai Yu is the fist painter in Taiwan to paint with Chinese characters, and she has spent the last 30 years studying the development and the art of Chinese characters.

From Chinese Characters to Beautiful Jeweleries

Tsai Yu is also a jewelery designer, extending her artistic practice from canvas to the field of jewelery design. Each design is based on a Chinese pictograph, hand crafted cast in silver/alloy and precious/ancient stones/gems, and only 1 is ever made for each character, this can not be mass produced due to the uniqueness of each precious stone/gem, and the artistic nature on each one of them. If you like to own one of these, let me know and I am happy to make some inquiries for you. Below are some examples of her work, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do… more on Tsai Yu’s work to come, stay tuned!

Tsai Yu's Typographic Jewry Design

Tsai Yu's Typographic Pendant - Phonetic = 'An', translation = 'To be safe'

The 'Swallow' (燕) - Jewry Design out of Chinese Character for Swallow (bird)

The 'Swallow' (燕) - Pendant Design out of Chinese Character for Swallow (bird)

Tsai Yu's Jewry Design 'Dance' (舞)

Tsai Yu's Design - 'Dance' (舞) The Dance of Your Life