Oil painter Jason Chi-Han Cheng’s talents stretch far beyond the stroke of his brush. As a tattoo artist, Cheng creates history; as an oil painter, he memorializes it. Read his story about The Crossing below.
San Francisco, California • jasonchihancheng.com
I’m a tattoo artist; I find the process profound because the needle penetrates the skin. It creates a mark. It becomes part of your personal history. I’ve wanted to incorporate that meaning into the fine arts so that every image represents a story.
I was born in Taipei. As an MFA student at the Academy of Art University, I was studying abroad in Italy when my mother called to say that my grandpa was in the hospital. My grandpa raised me; I look like him; we have a great bond. I decided to come back. I was alone with him at the hospital. Whenever I would go back home, I would talk to him about his hometown and growing up. He Had Alzheimer’s, but he remembered the old days. When I saw him, though, he had been unconscious for days. All of a sudden, he woke up. He was trying to tell me something. I said, “It’s OK, Grandpa. If you’re too tired and you want to go, that’s fine.” The whole room filled with holiness, with a spirit. After that he passed away. The gold flakes indicate that moment; the swirl of the fabric is in the Japanese tradition—it also appears in tattoos. His death inspired me to tell his story, and the story of his death, for it is a story that we all share, a truth we will all face.