Art as Therapy for Psychological Well-Being
During difficult times like the experience of stress, anxiety and depression, art and painting can provide a soothing retreat or even a creative outlet for people living in a busy city. Taipei, a metropolis rich in natural, cultural, and landscape resources, is a cradle for nurturing artistic talents.
One such creative Taiwanese based in Taipei, Ling Ko (柯淑玲), an ink artist, finds her inspiration throughout small pockets of the city. Unbeknownst to many, she originally came from a family of little means, but that never stopped her from pursuing art.
“I was really into Chinese calligraphy, even from as young as elementary school. My teacher took note of this, and as a way to encourage my passion, gifted me with a set of Lam Sam Yick (林三益) brushes,” Ko says. “It was the first time in my life that I felt loved and recognized, and it was undoubtedly the key to my journey in discovering art.”
Later, as a teenager, Ko worked various jobs to support herself, including working at a ceramics gallery, where she would often admire art pieces while on the job. Ko later married the boss’s younger brother, which allowed her even further resources to venture into the art industry. However, after immigrating with her family to the US, she was later diagnosed with cancer at the age of 29.
Of this, she remarks, “From this challenge, I grew closer to Buddhism and experienced the power of life and death through my faith, and as such, have been able to turn these personal struggles into art.”
Having fought against cancer successfully, she now lives her life as freely as possible. “After everything that has happened, I don’t want to feel restrained anymore. I enjoy the freedom of nature and creative innovation. And splashing ink and watercolor is just that — a natural expression for my deepest, innermost feelings.”
Inspiring and Relaxing in Taipei
Currently back in Taiwan and residing in Shipai (石牌) in Taipei City, Ko feels thankful she has another shot at life. “Every day when I get up, I look at myself in the mirror and count my blessings,” she says with immense gratitude. “I normally recite a few sutras and do some meditation to calm my mind,” she further tells us.
“And after I’ve had some rest, I usually take a short 10-minute walk to the studio near my house to work on my art. Every day, I set aside time to talk with myself and practice calligraphy, copying the scriptures with a brush and improving upon the quality of my work.”
Ko firmly believes that it is only through years and years of cultivation and practice that one can become a master and professional of the trade. “I fully pursue art and religion throughout my life. And as such, I consider myself an expert in these fields,” she smiles proudly.
Ko shares with us her way of enjoying the city life in Taipei. “I often visit different museums and art galleries in Taipei for inspiration, including the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Palace Museum, National Museum of History (國立歷史博物館), National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (國立國父紀念館) and other various exhibitions.” She enjoys seeing the different ways artists express themselves and finds inspiration when viewing their works. (Read more: A Guide to Modern and Contemporary Art Spaces in Taipei)
At the same time, she also appreciates the vastness of natural art that can be found within Mother Nature. “Every week, I venture up to Yangmingshan. It is truly relaxing and still my favorite place to really be one with nature in Taipei. Whether it’s climbing mountains or riding bicycles, I can feel the buzz and energy of nature,” she says with joy. “There I can fully appreciate the trees, relax on the grass, listen to the chirps of insects, and feel the changes in the breeze,” she says with her eyes gleaming, further pointing out that all of these natural elements inspire her creativity. (You might also like: The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Yangmingshan National Park)
Art as a Part of Life
Ko creates her art with brushes, ink, and colors, and shares with us her favorite shop in Taipei. “I’m a bit biased. Since I was gifted with a set of Lam Sam Yick brushes by my teacher, it has always been the top choice of mine. The brush set that I currently use was also purchased from the Lam Sam Yick store,” Ko tells us.
Art also trickles down into design for Ko. As a natural artist who enjoys dressing up and feeling beautiful, she often purchases clothes from local Taipei designers such as Huang Shu-chi (黃淑琦), Fu Zi-jing (傅子菁), and many others. “I once collaborated with Fu Zi-jing at the Taipei International Flora Exposition (台北國際花卉博覽會) in 2011 to combine ink- splashing art with fashion and clothing design,” she says. “I fully believe art can be intertwined with anything in life, which just serves as more motivation to keep on creating and innovating. And the city of Taipei really provides an avenue for artists such as me to find inspiration anywhere and everywhere!”
Discovering Love in Art
Although Ko has never undergone any professional training in the field, she has received influence from various other masters in Asian art such as Yang Shan- shen (楊善深), Zao Wou-Ki (趙無極), and Chu Teh-Chun (朱德群). These artists have successfully combined Asian ink painting with Western-style art. “They are always encouraging me to listen to my heart and to be my best self,” she says. “More importantly, they remind me to pay less heed to criticism from others and just keep making original art,” she remarks proudly. (You might also like: Meet the Masters: A Tracing of Taipei’s Modern Architecture)
With their support, Ko continues to discover her own way of creating art. “Art is about discovering your inner self, of finding humanity and love,” she shares. Ko also spends a lot of time volunteering at local hospitals and motivating other cancer fighters with her personal story. She hopes that by doing so, she can encourage others to live their best lives and experience things more fully. She notes, “For me, art is about sharing love and seeing the real value of life.”
For Ko herself, she has never stopped exploring her own life. “I have a bucket list that serves as a constant reminder to try new things, and Taipei is just the perfect place to discover these new activities,” she says. She enjoys the energy of the city, which ultimately has become her never-ending source of creative innovation and self-expression.
Author Catherine Shih
Photographer Ling Ko, Taiwan Scene, Yenping Yang
This article is reproduced under the permission of TAIPEI. Original content can be found on the website of Taipei Travel Net (www.travel.taipei/en).