Artist News | Yahon Chang: Ode to Life

A monumental painting performance
In his paintings the Taiwanese artist Yahon Chang brings (b. 1948) together traditional Chinese ink-wash painting and Western forms of artistic expression to produce a synthesis of East and West. Typically standing on large sheets of linen cloth or xuan paper and wielding a brush almost as long as he is tall, Chang creates works imbued with performative energy and characterized by large, sweeping brushstrokes. Drawing on Chinese literati and Zen (Chan) Buddhist traditions, the artist understands painting as an activity that connects body and mind. His entire body functions as an axis for these expressive paintings and is influenced by his training in calligraphy. 


Through highly regarded projects at Performa 19 in New York (2019), Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2019), Outset’s artist-in-residence in London (2019), Manifesta 12 in Palermo (2018), Museum of Contemporary Art (MACRO) in Rome (2016) and the official collateral program of 56th Venice Biennale (2015), Yahon Chang (b. 1948) has also become widely recognized as an international performance artist outside of Taiwan. 


To explore this distinctive aspect of his artistic practice, INKstudio with Yahon Chang Studio organized a monumental “painting as performance,” Ode to Life, in the newly opened Center for Art and Technology at the Taipei National University of Arts on March 17th as part of Taipei Dangdai’s education and VIP programme.


In this hour-long performance, Yahon Chang reconfigured painting as both performance and writing and in doing so challenged the distinction between the performing and visual arts and between visual and linguistic signification. The artist wielded the brush in the concerto of violinist Edith Chen-Yin Lin and pianist Kevin Fan Yu as if dancing on a massive 20 x 10 meters linen canvas across the theatre space. Through live projection on screens, attendees of the event were able to obtain a bird’s-eye view of the performance while observing the artist’s movements closely.


Comment from Sir Antony Gormley, OBE:
“It is wonderful to think of all the dances of finger, hand, wrist, arm, torso, spine, hips, thighs, knees, calves, and every part of the feet that each of these brushes evokes—they are like the needle end of a cardiogram at different scales, capable of capturing the finest vibration of energy, the subtlest tremor of sense. Through them the body is both extended and grounded—capable of being both transmitter and receiver of all that being-in-the-world affords, both conscious and intuitive!” 
May 21, 2022