Organized Panel Session
The Fifth Moon and Ton Fong painting groups were radically anti-traditionalist in their inception in late 1950s Taiwan, aiming to open up a new art world that was connected to international modernism and distinct from the academic educations that many of their young graduates had recently received. The physical environment from which they sought to emerge was one of material hardship after World War II, while their distinctive psychological milieu was determined by the severing of contacts with mainland China and the Republic of China’s alignment with American Cold War policies. Initially their artwork followed European trends of the pre-War period that might be loosely associated with the School of Paris, but by the early 1960s all had thrown themselves into abstract painting and printmaking that took cues from the New York school, with echoes from Seoul and Tokyo. In some respects their ambitions were in step with their government’s diplomatic program of promoting Chinese culture, but this convergence soon collapsed when their iconoclastic pursuit of Western ideals clashed with the paranoia of the regime. The Qin Song affair, in which one of their members was falsely accused of hiding an upside down word signifying “Down with Chiang Kai-shek” among the lines in his abstract painting brought this potential conflict to a head, leaving artists to choose between publicly pursuing their ideals and withdrawing to safety. Those who persisted entered the international art world. This paper will explore how that world was constructed by artists in 1960s Taiwan.