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Art Reimagined by Fashion: Paintings by Paul Chiang Steps onto the Runway

​Sitting in front of his Jinzun studio with fashion designer Justin Chou, artist Paul Chiang said, “Without the sun we cannot see the ocean blue, but in about an hour just before it sets you’ll see that under the grey hues is the blue.” Each day when the sun sets several colours reflect upon the ocean surface. Taitung inspires Chiang greatly and has given him a second life as an artist. Chiang hopes to share his place of inspiration with other artists knowing that it will be a place that rouses creative beginnings.

October 2021 was when Chou launched his spring-summer 2022 collection. The collection was inspired by Chiang’s paintings and the artistry Chiang had passed on to him in their time together. “He did a great job,” said Chiang, “it was like seeing several of my works on the runway at one time at the Taipei Fashion Week.

In the field of fashion, Chou is considered a unique creative who often seeks to collaborate with other artists. His SuperlinXX collection featured at the New York Fashion Week was inspired by the ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks displayed at the National Palace Museum where he worked with several of Taiwan’s notable craftspeople to help the collection come to life. His spring-summer 2018 collection, also featured at the New York Fashion Week, was inspired by the many works of Sanyu collected at the National Museum of History. Chou has also collaborated with contemporary artist Tsong Pu and calligraphist Tong Yang-tze. In each of his collaboration, he brings to the fashion world a new sense of wonder.

“Like many, I was stunned by Chiang’s works at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.” – Justin Chou

After visiting the Paul Chiang: A Retrospective exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Chou purchased the catalogue straight after and considered proposing a collaboration with Chiang. “I have always enjoyed challenging myself, and when I saw the vibrancy and emotions detailed in Chiang’s works, I had a strong desire to create a collection inspired by his works.” said Chou.

The “Photograph Yourself into the Painting” activity at the Paul Chiang: A Retrospective’s exhibition was an idea Chou found parallel to his artistic thinking. It engaged visitors to take photos of themselves into Chiang’s paintings inviting them to match the colours and patterns of their clothing with Chiang’s work(s). Chiang’s works inspired Chou’s collection featured at the 2021 Taipei Fashion Week. With hopes to encourage more young artists to explore cross-arts collaboration, in their collaboration, Chiang gave Chou the rights to create using his works without charge.

“The show was a blend of all the techniques used in the installation arts I created in the past.” – Justin Chou

Among the 15 pieces in the collection, the piece inspired by the Mountain Ranges of Taiwan series was one that took much effort. The series was painted with numerous lines. “The lines are like sculptures detailing fog, mist and lighting in-between the mountains.” said Chiang.

“Within these mountains is fog, and within the fog is rain. I used jacquard to present these layers.” said Chou. For the piece inspired by the Mountain Ranges of Taiwan, Chou collaborated with longtime partner Junmay Label & Textile. Together they tried different techniques to present the lines onto fabric. The textile company who has worked with several renowned international clothing brands have over 40 years of experience. In the past, they’ve collaborated with Chou innovating various types of textile crafts. This time they merged few crafts to present the mountain ranges using digital printing, 3D jacquard, and embroidered floating yarn. For Mountain Ranges of Taiwan, Chou reimagined the piece into a cloak. When taking a closer look at the details of the yarn, it is like seeing drizzles of rain in the mountains.

When Chou was working on the Sanyu collection, among the collection was a pair of jeans that was made out of old tattered cloths taken from a printing workshop. He patched the cloths together to look like splashes of ink – he adopted the same method to the Jinzun, Spring.

Jinzun, Spring was reimagined into a trench coat. “When I learned that Jinzun, Spring was created by tissues that Chiang used to wipe paint off of his brushes, I felt I saw myself in the painting.” For the reimagination of Chiang’s Jinzun, Spring, Chou and his team meticulously studied each colour depicted in the painting. Chou used yellow ugan yarn as its base and added blue and red tones which created a commanding look. “I gently painted the colours onto ugan yarn – a silk yarn and shaped them into flower-like bulbs as Chiang had done in the painting.”

​In the Jinzun, Transfigured Night inspired piece, Chou used white twist ties on black cloth to reinterpret the wires of the instillation art piece. Chiang said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the collection. They did a remarkable job especially in the colour work. Each of my paintings usually contain several tones of the same colour – the models on the runway were like a piling of my works, and when they stand together, there’s a certain richness to the colour combination. For Jinzun, Transfigured Night, they were able to reimagine the installation into fashion.”

At Chou’s studio lies a worn out Paul Chiang: A Retrospective catalogue which had been a key reference for the collection. In the collection, Chiang’s works were not the only elements expressed onto fabric – Chou also took the time to get to know Chiang’s creative process to embody it into each piece. When cutting fabric, he emphasized on cutting larger pieces to integrate as much of Chiang’s works into his works. Chou also put much thought into the accessories; he said, “Having lived in Paris and New York for decades, in several of Chiang’s old photos you’ll find him wearing a gentleman’s hat. It inspired me to design wide hats and long scarves to match each piece in the collection.” This was Chou’s way of incorporating Chiang as a world traveler into his works.

“I welcome artists to reimagine my lifetime works.” – Paul Chiang

Chiang’s cross-arts collaborations vary from music, fashion design to whisky with his works reimagined uniquely in each – spiritually, with elegance, and vibrancy. In 2016, classical pianist Lu Chia-Hui composed Butterfly Orchid which was inspired by Chiang’s works. Lu paired the piece with an animation production of Chiang’s works created by her team. Butterfly Orchid went on to receive two awards at the New York Film Awards and one honourable mention at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Lu was invited to perform at the opening ceremonies of ART TAIPEI in 2020 and C-LAB Sound Festival in 2021 where her team reproduced the animation for each event. In 2021, the music video of Butterfly Orchid was showed at the Ars Electronica Festival – a film festival in Austria bringing the collaboration to the international stage.

Award-winning whisky brand Kavalan featured Chiang’s works in its limited edition collection. The collection was a collaboration between Chiang and artists Jason Chi and Yu-Tse Liu who is also founder of Drewz Studio. Works selected include Pisilian – Morning Stars over the Coast, On Wings of Song, Meditation on Eternity as well as Jinzun, Summer which portray the themes of ocean, air, sunlight, and land – key elements in whisky making.

Sharing has become important theme in Chiang’s recent creative process. He enjoys sharing about the impact Taitung has had on him particularly to young artists. He shares his lifetime works with other artists in hopes to give them inspiration.

“It would be wonderful if all artists had the opportunity to visit Taitung.” – Paul Chiang

The land where Chiang’s Jinzun studio resides is currently under construction building the Paul Chiang Art Center. The center will be home to Chiang’s lifetime works. Chiang’s vision is to invite people of the arts to experience the energy and space of where much of his inspiration now comes from and perhaps inspire creative beginnings.

“Regardless of whether in fashion design, 2D design, architecture, or film, I look forward to working with artists of all fields. There are many talented young artists in Taiwan. To have an opportunity to work with others is a beautiful thing.” said Chiang.


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