Paul Chiang Solo Exhibition 2023

2023.12.03 - 2024.03.10 KMFA Galleries 104-105

Lise Tsai-Shan TSUI / Curator
“If space and bodily senses are the foundation of Paul Chiang’s new works, what dialogue will they initiate with his classic pieces created over the years? Is there a word or a term that can more comprehensively describe his art?” These are the questions that I ask myself when contemplating on Paul Chiang Solo Exhibition 2023.
Paris inspired Chiang to create Notre Dame de Paris; Taipei is his source of inspiration for Hundred Year Temple; and because of Taitung, he opened the windows and painted Pisilian. For thirty years, Chiang led a quiet life in New York. During this period, there had never been a ray of natural light in his studio. However, his works are filled with the inner light. As a matter of fact, spiritual sublimation has always been a crucial element in Chiang’s art. Whether the windows are sealed up or open wide, in his different series of works, we can always perceive the light created with the colors in his life. According to the artist, “since I don’t know when, when I get up to paint every day, though I might not always achieve the desired spiritual elevation, I would at least ask myself to keep the colors pure and beautiful.”
Consequently, as I read through the artist’s oeuvre, the word “Zhàn” (湛, meaning “deep and clear”) suddenly appeared in my mind. To me, the palette of Chiang’s work is both crystal clear yet vibrantly and rich. The Emperor Wu of the Southern Liang dynasty once said, “high and steep are the mountains; deep and clear is the water.” (巖巖山高,湛湛水深) The “profoundness” and “clarity” conveyed by the word “Zhàn” merge perfectly in Chiang’s painting—even though the two qualities seem complete opposite, they can somehow be ingeniously integrated. Day after day, Chiang makes art like a spiritual practitioner. Since Notre Dame de Paris, what the artist has aimed to express is the refined purity manifested by the word “Zhàn.” Having been a thalassophile, he seems to have transformed the essence of “Zhàn” into the poetic foundation of his work. What is more intriguing is that when the Chinese character radical “氵” (meaning “water”) is removed from “湛,” the remaining component of the word “甚” (meaning “even” or “extreme”) seems to further point to the spirituality embodied by his works—it indicates an “ultimate” state, which associates the depth and clarity of Chiang’s art with the state of blooming. Thereby, in the eyes of the spectator, Chiang’s art not merely visualizes glistening, clear light but also the profoundness of spiritual cultivation, unfurling a three-dimensional, boundless landscape that also harbors life and hope.
“Light is the introduction, and sound of the ocean is the prelude.” In Gallery 104, Sound of Ocean 21-00 awakens the inner consciousness through its “soundless resonation,” which leads to the rising wishes depicted in Hundred Year Temple and unveils the ultimate in the word “Zhàn.” On the other hand, Meditation on Eternity, Ronchamp 23-00, and Silver Lake are individual delineations of the sublimating consciousness and the calming mind, expanding the purity that respectively lies at the core of “Zhàn” and denotes the serenity beneath the “deep and clear water.” Continuing the context of oceanic sound as the prelude, Gallery 105 extends the musical theme to connects all the works therein. Afternoon of the Faun 23-00 uses green and blue to form the foundation. The curves of the corrugated boards, at first glance, appear to be the manifestation of the mountains and the sea engaging in a duet. In terms of artistic conception, this work serves as a response to Debussy’s enduring piece, “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” as well as the artist’s everyday life. Intricately linked with this work is Debussy on view on the second floor, which is an iconic work of Chiang’s in terms of his successful translation of music into painting. On Wings of Song draws inspiration from the homonymous German lied comprising Heinrich Heine’s poem and the music composed by Felix Mendelssohn and performed by Vladmir Horowitz. The soft, tender bubbles inspired by the music are splendid in color and dance in the air like the singing voice in a dreamlike manner. Pisilian is composed of a mesmerizing, bright yet transparent palette, converting inner light into colorful expression and unveils the blooming life from this variegated world. Fantasie in Blue on view on the staircase is created with empty cans of paint to highlight the life of residuals. With blue as the basic note, the work looks like a fraction of the ocean, and corresponds to Sound of Ocean 21-00 in the next gallery room, painting together a soundless soundscape.
Regarding light, Chiang once said, “the paintings in the Meditation Space series are like my diary entries.” Each small-scale piece resembles a glimpse into the transient moment in his creative life. The light emanating from within originates from a clear, pure spirit. The works created after opening the windows, which are filled with glistens, precisely reflect the artist inner world, of which its translucence enables the prismatic refraction of what is freely perceived by his eyes—it is an unfettering sense of immersing oneself in the boundless world. It is also because of this that we are able to consistently perceive the spiritual sublimation, the beauty of the mundane world, and the artist’s profound and pure presence in his works.