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Artist | Paul Chiang

  • Date:2021-06-07
Artist | Paul Chiang

Chinese Name: 江賢二

Born: 1942

Place of Birth: Taichung, Taiwan

Did You Know...?

In his early years as a painter, Paul Chiang made a habit of blocking out all his windows with cardboard or curtains when he painted, blocking out any distracting sound or light from outside and isolating himself in his own dark, secretive room to create. Over the course of his decades of creative work, Chiang has not only been a painter, but also worked for advertising agencies and in interior design. Although he has had to work hard to make a living, nevertheless he has always insisted on never just casually selling his works for a bit of money. Chiang once said that if he had not become an artist, the profession he would most like to have pursued is that of architect.

Paul Chiang was born in 1942 in Taichung. Today, he splits his time for both life and work between Taitung and Taipei. As a child, he attended Nisshin Elementary School (now Rixin Elementary School) in Taipei City, where he was inspired by his art teacher to learn painting. In the middle of his senior year, he began to study painting with Lee Shih-Chiao, the first Western-style painter in Taiwan, through whom he was first exposed to oil painting. It was during that time that he decided to pursue art seriously. He developed a fondness for the works of artists like Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh, and later, of the music of Gustav Mahler and the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti. In 1960, Chiang was admitted to the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University, but was forced to take a year off from his studies when he was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis. He took up the study of the cello, as well as frequently listening to Claude Debussy’s piano piece "Clair de Lune." Over time, classical music became an indispensable food for his soul and his creative work, having a profound influence on him as he drew inspiration from the music of Mahler, Bach, Debussy, and others.

In 1964, he was selected to participate in the São Paulo Art Biennial, and the following year he held his first solo exhibition in Taiwan. However, due to flooding caused by a typhoon, virtually all of his works from his university years have been lost. In 1968, when he was studying in Paris, he was faced with a turbulent period of social unrest that swept through France and decided to leave for New York. Between 1975 and 1994, he held two solo exhibitions in New York and returned to Paris for a short period of time to present two important series, "Notre Dame de Paris" and "Death in Distance." Since 1995, he has been a frequent traveler between New York and Taipei, and he founded his first creative space in Taiwan on Jinzhou Street in Taipei. In 1997, he held his first solo exhibition after returning to Taiwan. When it comes to his own works, Chiang is most satisfied with the "Notre Dame de Paris" series, followed by the "Hundred Year Temple" series, which he created after returning to Taiwan.

Paul Chiang's early works mainly use gray and black tones and emphasize the layering and texture of the paints. Works from this period are also known as his "blocked window works." Since his return to Taiwan, he has completed iconic series such as "Hundred Year Temple" and "Silver Lake." In 2008, he moved to Taitung, where the bright natural light and the seaside aroused a different side of his creative imagination, prompting him to explore and find the most appropriate ways to respond to color, creating the colorful series "Pisilian," "On the Wings of Song," and "Jinzun." His painting style has shifted from somber, minimalist, even monochromatic compositions to ones that express contemplation and observation of nature and the experience of life through the use of color and brushwork.

In addition, Chiang's paintings consciously break the frame to extend into infinite space, an ideal that has further evolved into three-dimensional creations. In 2007, he held a solo exhibition, "A Journey into Dimension and Space," in which he presented his first abstract steel sculptures. In addition to his artistic work, he also participates in a variety of other activities, including interacting with and mentoring local children. Chiang believes that he should leave behind not only paintings, but also a spiritual legacy for future generations. This is what he considers his true value as an artist. In 2020, Chiang was invited by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to hold a retrospective exhibition of more than 200 pieces spanning from the 1960s to the present, including unpublished works on paper and small oil paintings. Through this, his entire spectacular life story was laid out before the eyes of the world. In recent years, his latest goal has been to integrate art, architecture, and landscape art to create an art park for Taitung, a place where artists, composers, and literati alike can come to create their works.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Chiang)