Cut-and-paste ceramic artist Chen San-huo (陳三火) yesterday received the National Crafts Achievement Award in recognition of his work over the past six decades and his preservation of the nearly extinct technique.
Chen, 71, who received the honor at the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute in Nantou County, said in Hoklo — commonly known as Taiwanese — that he wanted more people to understand the technique.
The award would serve as a reminder that passing it down should be his mission, he said.
Cut-and-paste ceramic art uses tools to cut pieces from disused or broken bowls or vases, and pieces them together to create temple ornaments in the shapes of animals — often birds — deities or historical figures such as generals.
The technique, dating back up to 400 years, was introduced to Taiwan by Qing Dynasty artists about 150 years ago. It has since become ubiquitous at temples across the country.
Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te (李永得) told the award ceremony that Chen was not only “the artist on the rooftop,” which Chen has long been dubbed, but also an environmentalist artist.
Most importantly Chen is an artist philosopher and has brought every fragmented piece he has worked on to life, Lee said.
Born in 1949 in Tainan, Chen is a fourth-generation artist of the Taiwan Quan school of cut-and-paste ceramics. He learned the art from his brother at the age of 17.
As he noticed a gradual decline in the demand for delicate cut-and-paste ceramics, Chen developed his own unique version by following the curves of a bowl or vase when chipping off pieces, creating vibrant forms. His development of the traditional technique allowed him to gain a foothold in the art world.
With a career spanning six decades, Chen has decorated hundreds of temples in Taiwan. He has also been invited to decorate a temple in Hong Kong and a hotel in Japan, the Ministry of Culture said.
Chen has been recognized by the ministry as a preserver of the cultural heritage of cut-and-paste ceramics and is considered a national treasure as a craftsman, it said.
He has also been honored with a wide array of awards and recognitions, including the Taiwan Distinguished Master Award in 2013, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tainan City Government in 2015 the Global Chinese Culture Award in 2016, the ministry said, adding that he has been named a National Living Treasure last year.
The National Crafts Achievement Award is Taiwan’s highest crafts prize.
He was selected from a list of 21 veteran artisans to receive the award at the ceremony’s 15th edition.
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