A 29-year-old Taiwanese illustrator would say the best art form to encapsulate the varied aspects of Taiwan is an aesthetic female figure that was created through his paint strokes.
From Penghu’s Tianhou Temple, a Matsu temple built in 1604, to corrugated metal shacks alongside roads, from betel nut beauties to bus drivers, a young illustrator going by the pseudonym Chih Yu (蚩尤) brings the nation’s cultural characteristics, religions, architecture and ecology to life in the form of illustrated female characters.
On the cover of We Stay, We Live, a compilation of about 20 hand-drawn works by Chih, a glamorous woman curls her slender body in a position that mimics the contours of Taiwan.
She is embellished from head to toe with Taiwanese features, such as azaleas from Taipei, the Hakka patterns from Miaoli County and the giant Buddha sculpture on Bagua Mountain in Changhua County.
Chih said he put a map of Taiwan underneath the paper he drew on to better adjust the body posture of the female character to represent Taiwan.
The scruffy corrugated metal shacks common throughout Taiwan also come to life through the tip of Chih’s paintbrushes, being transformed into a youthful woman with corrugated steel sheets winding softly around her silken body.
“Such a representation hints at the way modern people who live in an urban jungle are smothered by concrete and steel, while becoming habituated to it,” Chih said.
In another illustration titled the Betel Nut Beauties, Chih presents a lighter side of Taiwan. A motorcyclist in the form of a pig — an animal that often represents promiscuous men in Taiwanese culture — is depicted falling off his -motorbike after trying to peep at a betel nut beauty while driving, knocking over the betel nut stand and launching the betel nut beauty into the sky.
The scene was inspired by one of Chih’s personal experiences, he said, in which he crashed his motorcycle because he was staring at a betel nut beauty while driving.
We Stay, We Live is meant to convey the way he see the country, Chih said.
“However, what truly matters is not the way I perceive her [Taiwan], but if you [the public] really love her [Taiwan].”
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer