Despite opposition from family members, a young Tsou woman pursued her passion to become a painter, drawing inspiration from myths that have been passed down within her community over several generations.
Wu Yu-lien (吳鈺槤), 21, said she learned to play the piano and violin in her childhood, but she preferred painting to music.
“Music is too exact, too ‘perfect,’ whereas painting is more spontaneous and free,” Wu said.
The painter added that learning art was much more enjoyable than studying music.
She said most of her ideas come from the various legends and myths she heard recited by community elders or her parents during her childhood.
Her works feature daring and bright contrasts of color. Some pieces have been dusted with glitter or incorporate bits of cloth and dried leaves in multimedia collages.
The artist’s mother said that there have been times when Wu’s portrayal of tragic scenes were overtly cheerful, adding that her daughter’s art teacher had also suggested — in jest — that she “rein in” some of her ebullience in her pieces.
Her mother said Wu had loved to doodle since her early childhood and often “made a mess around the house, when she could get her hands on any type of colors.”
The habit of the incipient artist created a mother-daughter conflict that led to restrictions regarding which walls could become canvases and which were off-limits.
“Eventually, I convinced myself that a colorful home was also aesthetically pleasing ... in a way,” Wu’s mother said.
She also recounted the conflict when Wu chose design as her major, adding that she had hoped that her daughter would become a musician.
Wu’s mother said she had come to terms with the young artist’s choice and began to volunteer to share traditional stories to provide source material for her daughter’s paintings.
Regarding her source material, Wu said that she had to take care when creating art pieces from cultural mythology and traditional stories, as there are certain taboos to observe when making images of the spirits and deities to avoid offending them.
Pointing to Granny Millet (小米婆婆), a deity who harvests and sows grain and who makes frequent appearances in Wu’s works, Wu said she avoided drawing the eyes of the figure, as that would constitute a cultural taboo.
All of Wu’s 21 oil paintings were exhibited in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋) at 435 Art Studio in the Fuzhou Hall Exhibition Center earlier this month. The exhibition closed on Sunday.