Doctor of Creative Arts
Faculty of Creative Arts
Wai-Ming, San, "Primitivism" in the West and the East: reflections on contemporary Taiwan, Doctor of Creative Arts thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 2003. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/911
Primitivism as it developed in western art in the early twentieth century came to mean a style with 'primitive" tendencies influenced by the art of Africa and Oceania. As well, it implied a certain creative attitude to the making of art with an emphasis on subliminal, which became crucial in the new sciences of psychology and psychiatry. Another important aspect of 'Primitivism' has been the inspiration from the previously submerged art forms such as folk art and children's art in the inner life of artists which has resulted in a further search for self-consciousness for the individual artist, and a breaking of traditional forms. The result was the wholly fresh new look art Primitivism has therefore had many layers and levels in its long history and is not fixed to one approach or place, with influential schools not only in Paris but also in other European centres (Cobra Group, Blau Reiter Group) and in America. The exponents of this movement included Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee. Looking over twentieth century western modern art, it is apparent that tribal art, folk art or children's art all fit within a general definition of "Primitivism".
The major point of this thesis is the investigation, and a personal introspection, into another kind of direction that Primitivism has given to the art arena in Taiwan after 1946, after a long-term molding and influences from western traditional aesthetics. This study explores creative forms and techniques used by contemporary Taiwanese artists influenced by Taiwanese folk art and Taiwanese Aboriginal art. A significant area of this thesis is not only a personal introspection in the creation of my paintings, but also a reconstruction of psychological foundations in understanding a primitive approach to art making. This reveals an underlying aesthetics in both Aboriginal and folk art of Taiwan. This thesis examines the work of Hung Tung and Liu Chi-wai as the window into the local connotations of their art styles and their sources in Taiwanese folk art, and their wider relationship to Primitivism. These ancient sources emphasise the spiritual in their work.
The structure of the thesis moves from an exploration of Primitivism and its background in western art history to a discussion of the viewpoints of eastern and western scholars in developing a particular understanding of Primitivist artists and their methods of expression through an analysis of child art, folk art and the forms Aboriginal art in Taiwan. How these ideas integrate into my painting exhibition "Torso" and my method of working is a central aspect of this research.