Cheng Tsai-Tung is one of an important group of Taiwan artists who first made their mark during the late 1970s and early 1980s by contemporising literati aesthetics via a unique mode of Expressionism, blended with subtly surrealist imagery. Cheng creates compositions of Taiwan quotidian life into which he inserts a version of himself as the loitering intellectual—a personal statement of engagement with his own time. He also has a strong grasp of two elements that most contemporary artists interested in the literati mode have neglected: an authentic use of colour and an understanding of the aesthetics of “you”, an interior/exterior quality of dimness and quietude. Cheng’s spirit of literati leisure is a form of wisdom, because an easy heart is not restricted by historical space-time. Whether at work or play, he treads lightly and leaves no traces. He partakes equally of the pleasures of antiquity and the engagements of contemporary life, but he carries no baggage with him.
Born in Taipei in 1953, Cheng Tsai-Tung became active in the art world since the 1980s. In 1992, Cheng received the Hsiung-Shih Award for Creativity. In late 1990s, Cheng Zheng left Taipei to reside in Shanghai, and has begun to visit well-known mountains and rivers ever since, tracing down the pulse of traditional Chinese culture.
In 2019, Cheng Tsai-Tung’s majour solo exhibition was presented at the Tofuku-ji Tempo in Kyoto, which was built in 1236 by the imperial chancellor Kujō Michiie. The exhibition examined elements of traditional Chinese literati (scholar-artist) aesthetics and the way these can be applied to a contemporary context, in particular as regards the literati way of engaging with art in an environment.