A 30-year-old Taiwanese illustrator is to showcase the nation’s culture and religion through his delicate illustrations of female figures at the 40th Angouleme International Comics Festival in France.
Illustrator Wang Chong-ju (王重儒), who goes by the pseudonym Chiyou (蚩尤), is scheduled to leave for France today to join about 1,600 comic book artists from 36 countries in the annual comic book extravaganza, which will begin on Thursday and ends on Sunday.
Exhibitors must audition to win a spot representing their countries at the festival and Chiyou managed to win over the members of the Taiwanese selection panel with his exquisite illustrations, even though it was his first bid to participate in the internationally renowned event.
Seven other Taiwanese illustrators will also participate in the festival: Push Comic (阿推), Chang Sheng (常勝), Chou Hsien-tsung (周顯宗), Lin Min-xuan, M2 (艾姆兔), Nicky Lee (李崇萍) and Ahn Zhe (安哲), who has been selected as one of the top 20 Best New Artists at the event.
Chiyou’s illustrations are renowned for their delicate strokes and harmonious colors, and have transformed several national landmarks — such as Penghu’s Tianhou Temple and New Taipei City’s (新北市) Lin Family Mansion and Garden — into seductive beauties whose slender bodies are embellished with images representing traditional elements of Taiwanese culture and society.
One of his most popular publications, an illustrated book titled We Stay, We Live, features about 20 drawings depicting various aspects of Taiwanese culture, religion, lifestyle and architecture. The book’s cover bears an image of a woman curling her body into a shape that mimics the nation’s geographic contours.
The publication sold nearly 1,000 copies in six months after it was released in January last year and has attracted the attention of several prominent publishing houses in Japan.
“Whether it is their fingers, hair or the shape of their eyes, women’s bodies have the most gracious, elegant lines on Earth,” Chiyou said.
Chiyou said he had decided to showcase his latest religious-themed work, Liu Shen Chih Ming (留神之冥), at the festival because most young people who have come of age in the so-called information era have surprisingly little knowledge about the background of the deities they pay tribute to.
The book, which was released on Saturday, centers on several mythical Chinese figures of the underworld, ranging from the prosecutor of the underworld’s district court, Cheng Huang (城隍), and his guardians, Ox-Head (牛頭) and Horse-Face (馬面), to ghost escorts General Fan (范爺) and General Hsieh (謝爺).
It also seeks to balance the characters’ fearsome reputations by depicting them as women tattooed with religious and temple-themed images.
“The goal of these religiously themed illustrations is to lure viewers into wanting to find out more about the culture that surrounds them,” Chiyou said.
The illustrator said it took him about two months of research into religious history and another four months of drawing to complete the book.