Santa Fe, NM -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/18/2012 -- The works are white canvases covered in dense thickets of black paint. They pop with the practiced gestalt of skilled abstract compositions, but then their meshed detail opens to the eyes. Do those swoops and splatters form a string of symbols? Perhaps it's Chinese calligraphy? The more you try to sort it out, the more tangled it gets.
This is the chaotic world of John Chang, a Chinese artist who lives in LA and counts contemporary art legend Xu Bing as his mentor. Like Xu, Chang plays with language, words and text to comment on the ways these things express and control consciousness. His works, along with paintings by Steven DaLuz and Debbie Stevens, will be featured at Mill Fine Art through October 24.
Chang grew up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, where he was exposed to torrents of propaganda that he didn't fully understand.
“Once you grow up, you think, 'Oh, that's a bad thing. How can I find a positive way to use that language? To see that those languages are so beautiful and abstract?” Chang says. “I rearrange, I break down, I recompose it.”
Frustrated with the Chinese art education system, the artist moved to California in 2001 and later worked on his Master of Fine Arts at the Massachusetts College of Art under Xu. His first few years in the United States were perhaps the most difficult—and formative—of his life.
“When I'm here, people say, 'You're a Chinese artist,'” he says. “When you're back to China, they say, 'Oh, you're American-Chinese.' I'm always between.” It's an experience that's reflected in Chang's mixed media “Chaos” series, where painted calligraphy and scraps of English-language newspapers meet in a futile battle of black ink.
Chang has since come to terms with his double identity through his studies in Eastern philosophy. He draws inspiration from Taoist philosopher Chuang-tze, who taught the principle of wu hua. It says that in this world, which we're desperate to infuse with a confining social order (or luan), chaos can be something positive and beautiful.
“I have both, Western and Eastern.” says Chang. “I'm glad about it now... I've learned a lot.” Perhaps this is how the world can come to terms with its own fracture as well.
About Mill Fine Art
Mill Fine Art's show featuring John Chang, Steven DaLuz and Debbie Stevens is open now through October 24. Please contact Verne Stanford at 505-982-9212 or
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.