More on Qin Song, abstract painting and circles versus squares

Posted recently two poems and visual art works by Qin Song. Following up now with a bit more about him, and the project concerning Abstract expression I’ve got going. Qin was born in Anhui in 1932, and moved to Taiwan in ’49. He had a very successful career there in the 1950s, leading the modern printmaking movement (版畫), a work of which entitled “Sun Festival” (太陽節) gained him international acclaim. He was also the chair of the Modern Art Festival in 1966-1967.

At about the same time, he garnered attention of a wholly different sort, namely the ideological police of “Free China’s” ultra anti-left government. They found a single abstract image of his, a somewhat undulating red square, to be a reference to Chinese Communist Party. With that “discovery” they proceeded to find leftward leaning in anything he did, for instance the following “Spring View” (春望):


In fact this image was problematic for its containing the first character of Taiwan’s leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣), only its rendered upside down, which “translates” to “dao” 倒, meaning also to “bring down” or end a period of power. Try as I might, I can’t seem to quite find the character in the image.

After constant pressure and what amounted to a blacklisting of his work, Qing left Taiwan in 1969, emigrating to New York where he lived until his death in 2007.

In his later years he was more a painter than a poet (or printmaker, which as mentioned in previous post was his main claim to fame in the 1960s). His works are abstract, and mostly acrylic on canvas. They are also marked by a single enduring theme, namely the relationship between circles and squares. Paraphrasing her observations, this basic dichotomy is very rich in associations:


indicate nature,  like seeds, suns, and moons; circles are primitive, emotional, timeless, and original.


are man-made, they are limited, rule-based, reasonable, and ideological, and occasionally dogmatic. 

(抒情抽象繪畫 黃麗絹 行政院文化建設委員會, 2004)

Huang could go further with the same discussion, pushing back into Chinese philosophical tradition, namely the Yijing which includes discussion of the same dynamic (圓神方智), though with slightly more neutral (balanced) outcomes (–my thanks to Kiki Liu for this perspective). Regardless, with these oppositional scheme in mind, images do become more compelling:

“Variations on Circle and Square”方圓變奏


Abstract Paintings and Poems by Chin Sung

Here of late my work returns to the abstract. Below two images and two poems, all by once New York-based Chin Sung (Qin Song). The first is a strikingly experimental poem (“Black Rain”) from 1950, following an image (“Black Forest”) from 1959, then an acrylic painting from 1991 (“Variations”) followed by a poem from 2000 “Notes of a Market Goer”. More on Qin’s biography, etc. in subsequent post.

Night Rain

Windy trysts in the wilds and eloped

Night’s kiss of death loses consciousness

Rapping of rain and monk’s monotonous wood fish

In the distance thus cries of flowing water?

Ice cold dream is colorless

Weeping night sings a black song

like a black funeral march

Midwifing tomorrow’s landscape

The resurrected sun robes itself in a red cassock

Resurrected bearing a superlative cross of gold












Notes of a Market-goer

No matter Nirvana attained or not

He goes to the flea market to catch a show

That cream-colored woman with thick red lips

Sways like shadows in the hot sun

Variety of forms don’t impede joy

A parasol a pair of rain boots some

Used stamps envelopes old record albums

And lost missing person items waiting to be found et cetera

Nirvana once attained  numerous trips to the

Performance    you catch those serendipitous

Market shows  (lost items missing persons et cetera found locations unknown)  that cream-colored woman

Thick red lips under a hot sun like a record album

Like a flea     swaying swirling shadows upon

Shadows (lost items found waiting missing persons?)

Serendipitous joy of a market in unknown location

The beauty of slow smoldering ruins long after the fires of war










涅槃寂滅一次    趕墟戲

游數場  彼等趕幾回不約

而會之墟 (失物尋人等招領



跳騷一樣    搖搖晃晃的影子與