A great artist should become a medium or a sorcerer; whether he creates with images or text, his works should contain talismanic power.”

Born 1963, Liuchiao, Taiwan. Lives and works in Taiwan

Given his obsession with finding and depicting mythic elements in his life story, it’s not surprising that Hou Chun-Ming’s favourite alias (and the name on his website) is Legend Hou. To convey his self-composed legend to a wide audience, he has plundered folk and religious art, manga, myths and legends from China, Taiwan and Japan. Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea (2008)—the title refers to a Chinese tale about gods who use their distinctive gifts to ride storm-tossed waves—arose from a period of deep reflection triggered by the approach of the artist’s 50th birthday. Presenting his past selves as eight characters, from Confucius-reading young nerd to blissful father, the 7-metre-long work resembles a traditional woodblock, but consists of the red- and black-inked plates rather than the print. Love (2012) and Mercy (2012) are part of a series exploring the talismanic power of writing, which the artist has always included in his works. These characters are his own confections, rearranging the elements of the standard Mandarin characters. (An analogous move in English would be to write MERCY as RCMEY.) The images were inspired by spring couplets, artfully composed lines of poetry and greeting that are hung on doorways during Chinese New Year.

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