When Huang Junbi happened to see some of Yu’s works in an exhibition in 1963, he was deeply impressed by what he described as the artist’s “genuine and sophisticated style, detailed yet detached,” and suggested to Yu that they swap some of their works as a sign of their mutual esteem and appreciation. When internationally renowned Chinese art historian Chu-tsing Li saw Yu’s paintings during a visit to Taiwan in 1965, he rated his works so highly that he invited Yu to participate in the joint exhibition “The New Chinese Landscape: Six Contemporary Chinese Artists” (organized by Li himself), which toured across several museums and university art galleries in the United States the following two years, and featured a number of other distinguished painters and ink wash masters, such as Chi-chien Wang, Chen Chi-Kwan, Liu Kuo-sung, Chuang Che, and Fong Chung-ray. That exhibition is now widely considered as a milestone in the development of modern art in Taiwan, in particular laying the foundation for a modern school of ink and wash painting.
In 1972, painter and connoisseur Chi-chien Wang bought two of Yu’s masterpieces, “Eight-screen Landscape” and “Four-screen Landscape,” reserving high praise for the artist: “Old Mr. Yu is an unusual painter. He has had no training, and yet his sense of structural design is first class. He has no brushwork to speak of, and yet his painting is magnificent. I have known many artists of the past and present who have had excellent training, and many who have far better brushwork, but I have never met anyone who can paint like Yu Cheng-yao. His art is truly amazing. I don't know how he does it. He must be 80 years old—lives all alone in a hovel and produces magnificent art.” (Quote from Joan Stanley-Baker, “Old Mr. Yu: Talent & Vision”)
Chi-chien Wang, also known as C. C. Wang, was widely known as having a keen eye for great art, and back in those days he owned one of the largest collections of Chinese literati art in the world, ranging from Song Dynasty landscapes to modern works: a cross section of Chinese painting through the centuries. Chi-chien Wang once said, “Yu Cheng-yao could very well be a second Wang Meng,” comparing Yu with the famous Yuan Dynasty landscape painter. But whether you call him a second Wang Meng or a Chinese van Gogh, Yu Cheng-yao certainly was not one to simply copy previous masters’ styles—rather, he is all about originality and invention, creating a plain, no-frills style that derives its appeal from its compactness and authenticity. He also developed a new form of “cunfa”, applying the texture strokes of traditional Chinese painting in a more uninhibited and inspired fashion to push the boundaries of landscape painting and attain new artistic heights. His latest works in particular show exceptional skill and maturity in color and composition.