• A Trailblazer in Abstract Art

  • HSIAO Chin, who has a profound influence on the modern art movement in Taiwan, mentioned in an interview with famed poet Dr. Wai-lim Yip—"...Tommy CHEN of Ton Fon Art Group was the first Chinese abstract painter...he started abstract painting in 1953, actually two years earlier than ZAO Wou-ki..."
    Quoted from "A Dialogue with Contemporary Artists" by Dr. Wai-lim Yip; published by San Min Book Co. in 1996

  • Art talk - Emily CHAO, Kaiwei WANG, Leon CHEN

  • As far as l am concerned, paintings are but the "adventure of the soul", it is to express the self and its relation with the universe. To interpret the world of the "soul" by way of language, sign, color or line, is almost impossible, for the significance of a work of art is the record of the activities of the soul or consciousness, which is essentially abstract. In presenting the process of the images of the "self", I try to avoid any interference and endeavor to achieve the state of "definition without definition". That is to say, whatever is being presented, ugly or beautiful, it itself an independent and complete "itself", I am but using my language to transform my feeling into artistic form. -- said Tommy CHEN

  • Abstract art in Taiwan became a full-fledged movement with the launch of Ton Fan Art Group in 1956 and their...

    Abstract art in Taiwan became a full-fledged movement with the launch of Ton Fan Art Group in 1956 and their inaugural exhibition in November 1957. Chen and seven other co-founders of the society, who were all Li's students, were nicknamed "The Eight Highwaymen of the East" (bada xiangma) by the literary pages of the United Daily News, signifying support from the cultural heavyweights and illustrating the pioneering nature of their work. Chen's foyer into abstract art in this early period is represented by works in Surrealist and Analytical Cubist styles. The Mysterious Flutist from 1956 directly references Picasso's iconic series of work in Analytical Cubist style of the 1910s, from the orientation of the musicians, the geometric reconfiguration of multiple bodies and instruments, to a subject matter and title associated with music. (as the image shows) Chen transforms a dramatic scene from a work of his preferred composer, Mozart's The Magic Flute, into an abstract painting. However, he employs rounder shapes and more fluid lines than Picasso in his deconstructed figures, with more recognizable bodies and architectural elements. Chen's "personalized," Cubist-inspired style, especially the curved lines, reveals a rooted calligraphic training in steering the brush. The result of which seems appropriate as they construct a melodic scene. While his early abstraction is still dependent on representation, it shows a young painter's self-awareness of his own cultural traditions and cautious attitude in not blindly copying an established foreign style by inserting his subjectivity into the experiment.

    • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 2072007, 2007
      陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 2072007, 2007
    • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 1152009, 2009
      陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 1152009, 2009
  • The paintings in the late 1970s, after Chen's return to painting, show a stunning maturity and ease in handling the material without much inhibition. The artist seemed to have come to comfortable terms with his cultural background and his objective in painting, which is self-enjoyment. This relaxation comes through in the colors of his paintings and works on paper and the fluid arrangement of his strokes. Compare to his early work, his palette since the 1980s have become brighter, warmer, and sweeter, which not only is the result of using the lighter and more transparent acrylic as opposed to heavy and dense oil, but of carrying a lighter mood and openness in dealing with the pictorial frame.

  • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 662009-2, 2009

    陳道明 Tommy CHEN

    662009-2, 2009

    Click image above to view more details.

  • Art talk - Emily CHAO, Kaiwei WANG, Leon CHEN

  • Landscape paintings and images of mountains and water (shanshui) are meant to represent the movement of the cosmos, which in Chinese Daoist philosophy consists of both space (yu) and time (zhou). Time, thus, is one of the most vital and overarching, yet understated ement in art form. The first law of Chinese painting, as Chen very well knew, is to "engender movement through spiritual resonance" (qiyun shengdong). In the act of painting, artists engage in a dialogue with the natural world and strive to maintain a balance of their qi with that of the cosmos. That struggle for balance translates into the placement and relationship between all elements within the picture frame.

  • Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY. Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY. Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY. Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY. Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY. Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY.

    Details of CHEN's works and installation views of the exhibition at ESLITE GALLERY.

    • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 1822015-2, 2015
      陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 1822015-2, 2015
    • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 大地山海之戀 A Love Affair with the Earth, Mountains and Seas, 2016
      陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 大地山海之戀 A Love Affair with the Earth, Mountains and Seas, 2016
  • In describing his painting process, Chen exclaims: "every inch of time is to be contested" (fenmiao bi zheng). The legacy-driven historicism in his early work has evolved into a literal engagement-and competition-with time, showing his prioritizing the painting process. In other words, Chen injects each moment an interiority that allows the viewers to directly peek into the painter's mind at work. His relationship with the material is dynamic, not passive, as he tries to maintain control while letting the material perform its nature, including accidents. Each moment of time, thus, is an embodiment of movement, both in the painter's mind and hands. The results are completely non-representational "records" of the artist's intimate dialogue with the nature of his material.

  • 陳道明 Tommy CHEN, 201631, 2016

    陳道明 Tommy CHEN

    201631, 2016

    Click image above to view more details.

  • The minute changes in color and material quality associated with time is the thread that connects Chen's life and artistic career. One could easily notice a strong musicality in his recent work, with lines and shapes that are never restrained or static. This fluidity can perhaps be contributed to his fondness of blasting classical music when painting. In order to be completely absorbed into his inner dialogue with his work, he listens to music by Mozart in his studio. The "East" and “West" conversation makes a harmonious combination: Mozart's youthful, Classical style melody supports the painter's exploration with his material, transmitting the elements in qiyun shengdong sonically. Chen's fondness of Mozart is evident because the work of the composer exhibits technical virtuosity as well as the capability of transferring emotional depth. The element of time is reinforced through the atmosphere within Chen's physical space of creation, as the flow of music does not hesitate, just as his trust in his instinct and his material. Chen's life-long wrestle with time evidently happens every moment and everywhere, keeping him on the edge and bringing endless intrigue as he moves forward.

  • Above text from the article: 2012 "A Time Wrestler: Tommy Chen's Abstract Painting", Lesley MA

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  • A photo record of "Ton Fan Art Group".

  • Tommy CHEN

    1931 - 2017

    Tommy CHEN was born in Jinan, Shangdong Province, China, in 1931. Amidst the turbulence of the era, CHEN came to Taiwan and built his family here, later classified as one of the Chinese diasporic painters after the Chinese Civil War. At 18, CHEN enrolled into the department of art at National Taipei Teachers College and became the classmate of HSIAO Chin and LI Yuan-Chia. Afterwards, he learned under LI Chun-Shan, who had recognized his bold use of colors then. CHEN was acknowledged by HSIAO Chin as the first Chinese painter of abstract art, even earlier than ZAO Wu-Ki. At the end of 1955, CHEN, together with friends including HSIA Yan, LI Yuan-Chia, HO-Kan, HSIAO Chin, co-founded “Ton Fan Art Group,” and the eight founders were dubbed “The Eight Highwaymen of the East.”

     

    Influenced by Cubism at earlier stages, CHEN adopted geometric and architectural compositions. Around 1955, he introduced the formal elements of oracle bone characters into his paintings, attempting to capture the fluxes of consciousness through his abstract strokes. He also experimented with the combined effects of paints and varying materials, so as to equip his paintings with the uneven texture of antiques. During the 1980s, he turned to acrylic and watercolor paints, and thus his paintings appeared brighter and warmer, his strokes more dynamic. Like a scientific researcher, CHEN has been eager to explore the variations of materials, formations, and colors. He shapes microscopic worlds through the piling of paints; the concrete matters and abstract momentum come to clash on the canvas, generating many atlas-like tableaus vibrating with musical rhythms. As he remarked, “Make a change, or left behind.” His works reflect the destructive and constructive urges of an epochal artist, not just because he has loosened the yokes of formal languages, but also because he has widened the parameters of material expressions. Overall, his creation displays cosmic magnificence and oriental brilliance. Transcending the constraints of language, his works crystallize and transform the images of life into many a lyric scenes.

     

    In 1959 and 1965, CHEN participated in “Sao Paulo Art Biennial” for twice. In 1962, he was awarded the silver medal in the 2nd International Art Saloon of Hong Kong. His first solo exhibition took place at ESLITE GALLERY in 2012.

  • Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021). Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021).

    Tommy CHEN – A Trailblazer in Abstract Art. Exhibition view (2021).

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