Briefly describe the work do you do.
The themes of my works are the relationship between language and its environment, the role that language has played in contemporary art, and the positive and negative effects that contemporary art has brought with the changing times. I try to express a period of experience, a segment of history, and a type of hope, by combining and commingling the beauty of traditional painting with the volatile aesthetic of Abstract Expressionism and its offshoots. Inspired by select modern Eastern and Western arts and artists and representing my own personal cultural confrontations, I draw upon the dualities of my two cultures and languages. My works are an attempt to communicate newfound perceptions gained through my creative process.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
My mother was a classically trained pianist and wanted me to follow her example when I was ten.
One day she took me to private lesson, and I saw a few young peoples were practicing pencil drawing from cast statue. Drawing which I have been to that inspired me, fascinated me & changed me profoundly from that day; I think I am the artist instead of the pianist. I spent all my time to practice my pencil drawing at kitchen since then.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born and raised in Shanghai. By the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping initiated a more open-door policy, but I still had a deep desire to experience America and Western culture. Immigrating to Boston to study art in graduate school, I discovered a more complex society than I had imagined. Longing for a democratic system, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of consumption both promoted and practiced. The great chasm between Communist China and capitalist America was quite a shock and heightened my awareness of self. Belonging to both worlds and to neither, I recognized the social construction of cultural codes and their impact on identity.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
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 chaos, or ran, I stand hopefully poised between ambivalent remembrance and undetermined tomorrow.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
That’s absolutely what I think and what I do my daily life.
Be a cultural ambassador, an important international artist and recorded by the art history.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol. They were truly inspiring and courage us to breaking the boundaries and thinking outside the canvas.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I like to read artist biography, and go to museums and local galleries when I am not making art. I also like to walk, and a long walk. Having a long conversation with my mother about music, poem and history culture we live in…
About John Chang
John Chang’s work expresses the duality of his Chinese and American experience by juxtaposing traditional and unconventional symbols and images through the application of mixed media. Deconstructed Chinese Calligraphy layered over segments of world history and references to modern pop-culture depict his personal transformation.
Born and raised in Shanghai, China. John Chang is an artist based in Southern California. John’s works have been widely exhibited, including, Alexander Brest Museum at Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL. Julina Togonon Fine Art, San Francisco, CA. Fresh Paint Art Gallery, Culver City, CA. S Cube Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA. Chang’s work has been featured in various publications such as Pasadena Star News, KTLA, and Art In America, Art Ltd. John Chang is a recipient Spring 2011 Working Art Grant from WAO.
John Chang holds an MFA in Visual Art from The Art Institute of Boston. He also earned a BA in Decorative Arts and Design from Shanghai Light Industry College. He also studied with the well know Chinese artist Xu Bing.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.