Paul Chiang, at the age of 82, reflects on over half a century of artistic life. Having spent more than 30 years in Paris and New York, he honed his style into an abstract minimalist form. In 1998, Chiang returned to Taiwan, successfully merging Western techniques with elements of his homeland, creating a profound spiritual world and marking the establishment of the "Paul Chiang style." Nearly a decade later, he found a small piece of land by the Jinzun coast in Taitung as his studio. The sea view, natural environment, vibrant sunshine, and light opened a completely new chapter in his creative journey.
In December 2023, the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts presents "Paul Chiang Solo Exhibition." Collaborating with the curator Lise Tsai-Shan Tsui, Chiang has selected classic series created in the past 40 years since 1980. The new pieces this year eloquently express Chiang's gradually calming passion for creation in Taitung, exhibiting a softer and warmer touch.
"For the viewers, Paul Chiang's art is not just glittering and transparent light; it is more about the profound spiritual essence. While extending into the vastness of three-dimensional space, it is also enveloped in life and hope." - Lise Tsai-Shan Tsui, Curator at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.
In the mid to late 1990s, after being away from Taiwan for 30 years, Chiang returned to face this land that was both familiar and unfamiliar. Many people and things intensely stimulated his perception. Among them, the atmosphere shaped by candlelight, incense, and architecture inside temples stirred his long-standing yearning for sacred spaces. This inspiration led to the creation of the monumental work "Hundred Year Temple" series.
Fast forward 25 years to today, the new piece "Hundred Year Temple 23-00" differs from its predecessors with a lighter texture. Chiang, using numerous paper crumples stacked together, presents a piece with gray and white tones, a colorful and intricate composition when visually blended. Copper-made candle holders with installed light bulbs create numerous points of light. Chiang says, "'Hundred Year Temple 23-00' is very important to me. It is a synthesis of the experiences of the past few decades and the direction of the future. My desired art, including my personality, is all within it." Examining each crumple reveals a spatial quality resembling architecture, while from a distance, it unifies into grayscale. Freelance writer Chin-hsun Wu, who wrote "From Paris’ Left Bank to Taitung’s Pisilian: The Story of Artist Paul Chiang" (original title “從巴黎左岸到台東比西里岸：藝術家江賢二的故事”) describes it as, "Slowly settling in time, like the ash of charcoal, sublimating into a warm and gentle, almost philosophical gray." Chiang also reveals that his wife, Claire Fan, loves this kind of gray, much like her personality—elegant but not ostentatious. He wishes to present this piece to his wife.
Another paper-based artwork showcased at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts is "Ronchamp - Homage to Le Corbusier 23-00" In this piece, Chiang intricately weaves strips of paper with different textures, resembling an artist's brush saturated with rich oil colors. Through colors like light blue, pink, and yellow-green, he presents an effect reminiscent of the twilight hours. Chiang, maintaining an interest in sculpture and three-dimensional space, greatly appreciates the minimalism and simplicity in the works of architect Le Corbusier. He once stated that Le Corbusier's works, viewed with a modern perspective, may seem somewhat simple and raw, but the more you look, the more beautiful they become. Notre-Dame du Haut features a winding roof like a crab shell and exterior walls with mud plaster. When sunlight passes through the colored glass on the side of the chapel, it creates various changes in atmosphere within the space, shaping an environment for dialogue with the divine—a moment of light that becomes eternal beauty.
Transforming the light, not yet bright, into brightness
In Jinzun, Taitung, before the sky is awakened by the dawn, Chiang makes himself a cup of espresso and listens to Bach's "Goldberg Variations" on the piano. This is usually his ritual to start the day. Chiang loves classical music, stating that his use of color is inspired by classical music. Among them, he appreciates the music of the Impressionist composer Debussy, expressing a desire since his youth to represent his feelings about Debussy's music through painting.
One of the key visual works for this solo exhibition is titled "Afternoon of the Faun 23-00," inspired by Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun." In this piece, Chiang uses common Taiwanese plastic surfboards as the base. Countless color dots in golden, pink, sky blue, and green collide on the semi-transparent corrugated panels, creating a composition resembling the blue-green hues of a sky on the verge of brightening, much like the first glimmer of starlight. This marks the first time Chiang has created a complete work using corrugated panels, following his interdisciplinary collaboration "Invisible Muse" with architect Michael Lin Yu-Han and fashion designer Justin Chou in 2022.
As viewers walk along the subtle curves of the artwork, they can witness the vibrant semi-transparent color dots on the corrugated panels. From a distance, the piece appears dreamlike and profound, as if one can hear a myriad of changing melodies and catch a glimpse of the soliloquy of Faun, the god of shepherds and nature.
Several new works exhibited this time, whether in terms of media, colors, or a more abstract expression, are the pieces that I had in my mind for a long time when I was young—works I wanted to create and attempted but couldn't. With changes in the environment, the passage of time, and the opportunity to encounter different materials, these works naturally came into being." In these new works, Chiang seems to have transformed his vibrant and ardent love for Taitung into a kind of restrained, clear, and serene affection, much like the sea.
Chiang once mentioned the impact of visiting The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, USA, "For an artist, only the works grown on that piece of land are truly moving. Perhaps, the myriad colors of Taitung have, through the refining power of time, fused into Chiang's soul, narrating the beauty of Taitung in such a unique way."
Paris, New York: In Search of Pure Light
In 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, in 2022, at the Taitung Art Museum, and in the 2023 solo exhibition at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, there is a separate space filled with 70 to 80 small paintings created by Chiang over the years. This space is affectionately known as the “Meditation Space.” Chiang describes these works as his diary. Dim lighting combined with the subdued candlelight and crosses in the paintings, the arrangement of the artworks varying in each exhibition space, yet when viewers step into it, they can feel the slow passage of time, tranquility, and hope coexisting.
When Chiang was creating in Paris and New York, he covered the windows of his studio one by one with cardboard and curtains. Using dark and melancholic brushstrokes, he aimed to distill the light from deep within. Chiang called this “painting with windows sealed.” He said, “Emptiness, sadness, loss, and search occupied most of my youth's state of mind and were also what the works of that period aimed to express.”
For Chiang, even though his paintings often feature religious symbols like crosses and candles, the significance lies not in their religious doctrines but in their essence as art, which deeply fascinates him. “I often think that only pure light can comfort human frailty. I hope the spirituality in my works transcends the tangible framework of the images and brings people sublimation and enlightenment.”
Back when he was creating in Long Island, New York, Chiang harbored the idea of opening his studio to the public, sharing, “I want to give everyone the opportunity to be inspired by the beauty of nature, just as I have been. I believe this is something I can do as an artist—a small contribution to society.” Now, with the construction of the “Paul Chiang Art Center” in Jinzun, Taitung, his dream is set to come true in the fall of 2024. Chiang, within the construction site, resembles an adventurer exploring the boundaries of his creativity. We witness corrugated panels, oil drums, paper balls, formwork, wire, and cement blocks appearing in his works, all sourced from inspirations found within the construction site of the art center. The exhibition also showcases the completed model of the art center. Chiang expresses, “When the art center is finished, I believe it will be the most complete work of my lifetime.”
The “Paul Chiang Solo Exhibition 2023” at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts presents beloved classics from Chiang and highlights his depiction of Taitung, emphasizing his inexhaustible creativity. It showcases an artist's boundless passion for life and art.
Paul Chiang Solo Exhibition 2023
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
Tuesday to Sunday 9:30-17:30 (Closed on Mondays and Lunar New Year's Eve)
* For event registration, please visit the official website of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.
Date: 2023/12/9 (Saturday) 14:00-15:30
Topic: Getting to Know Paul Chiang—From Brewing to Blossoming
Speaker: Stanley Yen, Chair of The Alliance Cultural Foundation
▍Expert Guided Tour
Date: 2023/12/24 (Sunday) 15:00-16:30
Topic: "Paul Chiang 2023 Solo Exhibition" Expert Guided Tour
Speaker: Writer Chin-hsun Wu
▍Fashion Cross-Disciplinary Exhibition | JUST IN XX ✖ Paul Chiang
Date: 2024/1/14 (Sunday) 14:00-16:00
Topic: Masterpieces on the Runway · After the Dance of the Faun
Speaker: JUST IN XX Founder Justin Chou
Date: 2024/2/24 (Saturday) 14:00-16:00
Topic: Between Presence and Absence, Expressing Freely: Classical Music and Paul Chiang's Artistic Creation
Speaker: Music critic and writer Yuan Pu Chiao
▍Online Submission Activity
Topic: Matching with Paul Chiang: Photo Open Call
For details, please follow the official website, FB, IG, LINE
Discover the Classic and Innovative Sides of Paul Chiang
Paul Chiang's art not only resonates with the audience but also inspires creators across different fields. At the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, three cross-disciplinary collaborations provide a rare opportunity to appreciate the original works and derivative creations inspired by the originals:
Golden Horse Awards 60th Anniversary featuring “Pisilian 11-41”
Kaohsiung Weiwuying Metropolitan Park “Into Paul Chiang—5G Immersive Light Show & Orchestra Trilogy” (10/14; 11/18-19; 2023/12/13-2024/2/29)
Ambi Space One “RE: Paul Chiang” Meditation Algorithm: Immersive in the Life and the Works of Paul Chiang (2023/12/22-2024/3/3)