By John Chang
Recollecting by gone days is one of my most frequent pursuits. The purely private and indescribable state has become an important part of my spiritual life. As time passes, the power of recollection has become so strong that I’ve had no choice but to find a way to express such memories.
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Calligraphy expresses the shared space of the personal and the political. Chinese students must devote many years to memorizing several thousand characters. Each character must be written flawlessly and must be both neat and pleasing to the eye, and such rote exercises condition one to submit to authority. In the public square and all walls everywhere, big calligraphic characters were a constant reminder of a collective voice, and so people discounted the empty rhetoric of the official media. Yet in classical Chinese, the script, or shu, is so sacred that it is believed to be capable of affecting change in the natural order of things. By invoking calligraphic forms, I am commenting on the distortion of language, but I am also reclaiming the energy of the written word. Tapping into my ancestral roots, I also use pigments for their symbolic power. For example, black and white are the colors of most ink painting but also represent yin and yang; red and yellow represent happiness, wealth, and health. I consider myself a “spiritual escapist.”
I am especially interested in making and unmaking meaning with the combination of word and image — particularly in this age of digital communication. Incorporating contemporary events and pop culture, I collect daily newspapers in English and Chinese, cut specific text, graphics and articles, and put them in categories. I also gather postproduction material from local ad agencies. Influenced by artists like MARCEL DUCHAMP and ANDY WARHOL, my calligraphic strokes commingle with expressive brushwork and drips, and the freedom of such abstract artists allows me to explore Chinese characters in a personal, reinvigorated way — connecting to and balancing vital energy. The cross-cultural exchange mediated in my creative process continues to unfold and push beyond duality. In merging the beauty of traditional painting technique, modernist performance-like gestures, as well as typography and imagery, I am forging an art that both creates and expresses my self. Embracing the empty, or ran, I stand hopefully poised between ambivalent remembrance and undetermined tomorrow.
- John Chang
All works 6”X6”, mixed media on wood panel
John Chang lives in Pasadena, California U.S. More can be found at www.johnychang.net
All Images ©John Chang 2015.