Dakuan Building in Tamsui-SB18: 34
紙本鋼筆Pen on paper
In 1934, from a high place behind the Chapel of Presbyterian Church, Chen Cheng-po looked far into the upper reaches of the Tamsui River in the south. Most striking in the large field of vision is the Red House on the hill. Such an isolated Western-style house erectly standing halfway up the hill has the lofty quality of dominating the vast expanse of all the surroundings. No wonder, it is called “Dakuan Building” (i.e. the building embodying the idea of being magnanimous and philosophical). When inscribing the sketch, Chen Cheng-po deliberately wrote down the name of the structure in remarkably large Chinese characters. On the whole, the subject matter of this sketch is to represent the imposing air of the Red House.
Amusingly, in 1936, Chen Cheng-po visited Tamsui again and completed the No. 50 oil painting, i.e. Tamsui Riverside, with a similar optic angle and composition. Judging from their similar layouts—a tree to the right, Red House to the left, a triangular slope, the Tamsui River, and the hills—these two pictures look really alike.
It’s worth noticing that in the Tamsui Riverside (the lower picture), the Red House recedes to the corner of the picture plane and appears not as imposing as it is in the sketch. To the right, the withered tree is moved from the foreground to the margin and thus changed from the trunk into an ornament. Instead, a complex of traditional buildings piling up at the bottom of the picture plane takes the leading role in the oil painting.
In fact, Chen Cheng-po would repeatedly refine the construction of a picture plane in his rough sketches. Sometimes, he would shorten the frame for a finished picture to cut out the redundant parts. In the work of Tamsui Riverside, it is very likely that he deliberately changed the original arrangement of space and distance by choosing a higher viewpoint. As a result, the distance of the pictorial landscape is increased, and the field of vision becomes larger.
Let’s imagine: If Chen Cheng-po had used the composition of this sketch to complete an oil painting, what kind of work would it be?