Cheng-Tsung Feng has taken the art world by storm with his interesting medium — bamboo. His bamboo art finds a beautiful balance between the ancient and the modern, the normal and the eccentric, and between raw talent and mastered dexterity.
The Taiwanese bamboo artist is internationally recognized for his modern take on bamboo art. He’s worked with top companies like Apple, Nike, Aesop, and Loewe, among others. Remarkable Living, a series that follows traditional and revolutionary stories about artisans and visionaries, has also acclaimed his designs.
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He says he loves working with bamboo because it’s natural and malleable. It gives an artist endless possibilities because you can turn it into powder, strings, soft strips, or firm tubes. As a result, he can create anything from flexible artworks to massive firm art installations.
His major artworks include Fish Trap House, Meeting Dome, and Raining Dome, among others.
Cheng-Tsung Feng inspiration
Cheng-Tsung Feng strives to combine art, heritage, and craftsmanship in his art. He has always been a creative and gifted designer. As a child, he used to take electrical appliances apart with a screwdriver and reassemble them. He says putting these pieces on the ground produced “a neat image,” and reassembling them was like “building a mold.”
He took up industrial design at university and learned basic design theory. He also acquired practical skills through exploring different techniques and museums. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he joined a master’s degree in design. It’s here that he fell in love with bamboo after taking part in a bamboo project. He also got the opportunity to work with a bamboo master.
The bamboo artist believes he’s an old soul in a young man’s body. So, he usually seeks inspiration from traditional hand-made pieces. And to him, there’s nothing better than learning from the best. So, he seeks older people well-versed in the craft he wants to replicate and learn from.
For instance, when he was commissioned to create the bamboo art installation at Sun Moon Lake, he was inspired by Thao’s traditional ways of weaving fishing traps. So he sought to learn from the last Thao man who could make fishing traps the indigenous way. And from him, Cheng-Tsung Feng learned a lot. Here, he got the idea to transform this simple creation into something bigger (Fish Trap at Sun Moon Lake).
How does he visualize his artwork?
According to Cheng-Tsung Feng, every piece has a different story and a unique production method. As mentioned, he combines the old and the new to keep age-old techniques alive. Time and time again, he has shown his mastery by applying these traditional styles in his works. And he uses these ancient handcrafting techniques to produce large-scale installations.
Besides bamboo, Cheng-Tsung Feng has worked with several materials, including metal, wood, and fabric. But he says he would choose bamboo every single time.
First, it represents the culture of the Taiwanese people. For millennia, they have used it to make everyday objects and utensils. So when he started, he realized how bamboo was used to create things in everyday life, such as chopsticks. And that’s when he began working on the idea that bamboo could be made into something more valuable.
This led to the creation of a bamboo chair, Flow, displayed at the Triennale di Milano Museum of Art and Design in 2013. He believes Flow was a career changer because it allowed him to see the traditional side of art. But, more importantly, it was his starting point.
Today, Cheng-Tsung Feng combines indigenous techniques with modern tech. He uses 3D printers, robotic arms, and computer digital 2D and 3D software in his art.
Influences and collaborations
Cheng-Tsung Feng follows several art heroes who use natural materials. His biggest inspiration comes from two Japanese artists, Hajime Nakatomi, and Hisako Sekijima. Both of them are masters of detailed woven art.
Jerry, a journalist interested in Taiwanese culture, has been working with Cheng-Tsung Feng for over six years. They have collaborated on past projects, and he believes Cheng-Tsung Feng’s bamboo artwork is fantastic.
In an interview with Remarkable Living, Jerry said, “every time I see his art, it is obvious a machine could not have made them. I find it inspiring and interesting that his work consists of the simplest steps, and at the same time, it represents old traditional methods.”
Cheng-Tsung Feng believes the Taiwanese people are more environmentally conscious today. And when it comes to his art, he strives to use eco-friendly materials such as rattan, wood, bamboo, and straw.
For short-term projects, he also considers how the installations will be disposed of after being demolished. After being dismantled, some of these installations are reused, donated to schools, or given to the public for free.
Changing the art world
Cheng-Tsung Feng is an inspiration to several upcoming artists. He shows artists that they can use readily-available materials to produce remarkable objects.
Today, he has employed several artists with similar dreams. He also attends workshops to learn, teach, and interact with students and enthusiasts.