The Creation of Enso San Yong – A Crystalline Union of Science and Art

 

Before beginning a painting, Enso San Yong would exhale in a deep meditation and muse about a sense in his mind.  Then holding up his brush, he would exclaim: “I am going to roam about the mountains and streams.”  Indeed, Enso San Yong’s paintings contain such a picturesque ambience with misty mountains and majestic waterfalls that viewers are often so bewitched into thinking that they are roaming with the artist.  This unique technique brought his creation to a transcendental state, but it did not stop here. His landscape images were not only brushed on paper, but also hidden in a durable medium, which he invented through years of long painstaking scientific research.

Enso San Yong died in May 2001 in Houston.  His original name is Wing-ki San, and his courtesy name, or “Hao” is Enso San Yong, where Enso means “silver bear” and Yong is a title of respect.  Born in Wu Han a few months after his father’s death, he was raised by his mother and sister, who was sixteen years his senior.  Enso San Yong spent his childhood and youth in Canton, a city full of traditional Chinese housing and gardens.  Influenced by the rich architecture and art of the city, he developed an appreciation and a longing for the beauty of the traditional Chinese painting.  During his teenage years, Enso San Yong became attracted to the mystery of science and was quick to dream up unusual gimmicks to solve surrounding problems.  He decided to choose engineering as his profession and attended Zhong Shan University. 

After Graduating in 1937 with a degree in Civil Engineering, Enso San Yong dedicated himself to the modernization of the Chinese highway system.  To gain the best training, the ambitious young San Yong joined the Hainan Island Survey team with the goal of mapping out the blueprint for the future construction of a highway passing through the famous Five Fingered Mountain, directly connecting the north and south of Hainan Island.  He spent months in the jungle in what seemed like an intolerable environment.  It was swampy and the smell of marsh gas constantly penetrated the air.  However, Enso San Yong loved nature and as Auyang Shan once said: “Being a drunkard, his mind is not in the wine, but in the mountains and rivers”.  The majestic cloudy cliff of the Hainan Five Fingered mountain range, the mysterious drifting sea of mist, and the flying waterfalls were engraved deeply in his memory and became the rich source of his creation years later.

After a year of climbing endless mountains, the team finally arrived at the southern tip of Hainan, which has been called “A column pointed to the southern sky”.  While they were celebrating the successful journey, they heard about the war between China and Japan.  Without hesitation, Enso San Yong returned to the mainland and joined the Highway Bureau, constructing roads through mountains and bridges to speed up the transportation of soldiers, armory and food.  In just a few years, his industrious devotion, persistence, originality, and bravery led to his promotion as the director of the Highway Bureau.  In the next few years, Enso San Yong left his footprint in countless places, from Kunming to Qing Zang Plateau, from Szechwan Loc Mountain to Tibet.  In the meantime, he elevated the manuscript for his art to a higher level.

After the Second World War, Enso San Yong devoted his life to scientific research and later became the head of the Building Material Research Center in Canton, China.  During this time, he published over 30 papers and two books on building materials, especially on his inventions using bamboo or fiberglass as reinforcement.  He was often invited to give special topic lectures in numerous universities to educate the younger generation, to which he gladly dedicated time.  But his busy research life did not stop him from revisiting his childhood dream from time to time, searching for a weather-durable, artistic medium that could serve as his canvas.  He believed that such medium would not only preserve the beauty of the art form, but also would enhance the painting.

 

 

Techniques

 

About 40 years ago, Enso San Yong invented a stronger, more durable form of concrete using bamboo or fiberglass as reinforcement.  He soon embraced the new material as his canvas, and the idea of “hidden brush” – painting the picture inside the medium instead of on the front surface was born.  During his years in Hong Kong, while he continued to improve the medium, Enso San Yong became a diligent and devoted student of both Chinese and Western painting.  He found himself drawn to landscape and adopted that form as his specialty.  When he left Hong Kong for America in 1983, Enso San Yong had a fully workable prototype for his medium, but even so, he worked further to perfect it after his arrival in this country.

In order to create the image inside the medium, San Yong devised a technique that was nothing like the traditional painting method.  Moreover, the making of each “hidden brush stone painting” distinguished itself from the traditional painting process.

The landscape paintings of Enso San Yong, whether they are brushed on paper or hidden in stone, are not based on that which is physically apparent to a painter’s eye at the moment, but more frequently, the recalled scenery of his decades of travel through China and later America.  You will find such vistas as the misty Kweilin waterway, the bold Five Fingered mountain of Hainan, the astonishing waterfall and perpetual spring of Kunming, the lofty cliffs of Mt. Omei, the beautiful Lok Mountain and Galing River.  The artist’s travels even took him to Tibet where you will find another landscape from a high plateau, and the view seems to be endless.  In addition, don’t be surprised to find a landscape from the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.

The brush stroke technique of Enso San Yong’s painting is ever changing, at times capricious.  Sometimes you will find it fast and dripping wet, like thousands of galloping horses; other times it is meticulous and exquisite; sometimes it is pliable, tough yet gentle; other times it is mature and full of strength.  His ever searching for the unknown in science veiled his painting mysteriously and hazily.

 

Style

 

Enso San Yong’s painting can be categorized into six different groups based on his frame of mind: Listening to Waterfalls, Waterfall Gazing, Descending Waterfalls, Waves Caress Cliff, Misty Mountains, and Wonder Rocks.  The focal point of the first three categories is waterfalls descending lofty cliffs.  The serene valley and hanging plateau are the landing places for the viewers.  Although that is how the paintings are categorized and named, listening or gazing purely depends on the imagination of viewers.  Other extraordinary scenery in Enso San Yong’s painting is misty mountains, which often elevate the viewer as if riding with the clouds in the mist and floating above never-ending cliffs. Other images that dominate San Yong’s painting are green waves leisurely caressing curious rocks under a blue sky.   The “Wonder Rocks” paintings demonstrate the unity of East and West painting techniques of Enso San Yong

In summary, the paintings of Enso San Yong are ever-changing with endless surprising scenery, leading the viewer into wonderland.  His brush technique is not influenced by just one painting school. His style does not belong to any group, but rather, it is a unique style merging the East and the West.  Above all, his creation is the crystalline union of science and art.