Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Art helps former convict to turn over a new leaf

By Ting Wei-chieh and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wu Chung-yi, right, and Kao Chi-jung give a thumbs-up in Chiayi County on Thursday when Wu presented Kao with the stone carving standing between them.

Photo: Ting Wei-chieh, Taipei Times

A former convict in Chiayi City has been using his talent for art to make a name for himself as a rock sculptor and reintegrate into society.

Wu Chung-yi (吳忠益) has a checkered past, as he used to clash with the law and served four prison sentences.

After leaving prison the last time, Wu decided to turn over a new leaf and leave his past behind, but he was uncertain of his future until he got acquainted with a local 7-Eleven convenience store manager, Kao Chi-jung (高基榮), who he said became a good friend and gave him a new direction in life.

“About four years ago I started seeing Wu coming in regularly to buy coffee. He would sit quietly by himself, drinking his coffee in a seat in the corner,” Kao recalled.

Kao said he approached Wu to find out more about him, and learned that Wu had a criminal past and had just left prison.

Wu told him that he spent most of his time doing rock carvings at home and that he was especially good at sculpting monkeys.

When the two men became friends, Kao encouraged Wu to break out of the traditional mold with his artwork. He also helped to advertise and promote Wu’s carvings on the Internet.

As Wu refined his skills and produced more interesting artistic creations, he began to gain recognition and went on to win a number of awards in competitions organized by the Chiayi City Government in recent years. He has also passed the qualification test to obtain a street performer license.

His most recent project was an ambitious one. It was a collaboration with two renowned rock sculptors, Tsai Chin-tung (蔡錦同) and Wang Chien-tsung (王建宗), to produce a large rock carving for display at Chiayi’s Chuei Yang Elementary School.

With support from Kao, Wu said he was able to focus his creative energy and so came up with the concept of “customized stone monkeys.”

When he completed the first set, it was presented to Kao as a token of appreciation.

For this item, two seemingly playful monkeys are sitting together on top of the number “7.” Wu said the carved monkeys symbolize welcoming in good fortune and prosperity, while the number “7” symbolizes Kau’s workplace.

This piece of art has attracted the attention of a large number of Chiayi residents. The owner of a nearby carwash business also took a fancy to it and has requested a customized “carwash stone monkeys” carving, Wu said.

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