EX: 1/30/2012
  >> Search exhibitions
>> Confirm subscribe
Tina Keng Gallery TAIPEI
2018.12.15 Sat - 2019.01.20 Sun
Opening Exhibition
台北市114內湖區瑞光路548巷15號1樓 1F, No.15, Ln. 548, Ruiguang Rd., Neihu Dist., Taipei 114, Taiwan
Opening Hours
Tuesday - Sunday (closed Mondays) 11 AM - 7 PM
Tina KENG 耿桂英

>> Go to website

>> See map

George Chann
Abstraction Contextualized
Tina Keng Gallery, Taipei
[Press Release]

Han characters are the only logogram still widely in use today. The character system has expanded from a total of 9,353 words when Xu Shen compiled Shuowen Jiezi in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25 – 189) to approximately more than 100,000 words today. Navigating through the torrent of history, Han character system has evolved to integrate abstract meanings that were originated from cultural experiences, by bearing testament to the traces of life. Between the correlations of signifiers and the signified, Han characters become a form of interpretation and representation of history, conveying the collective consciousness of the Chinese culture.

Tina Keng Gallery is pleased to present the solo exhibition Abstraction Contextualized, exploring the oeuvre of pioneering master George Chann and his abstract expressionist works. The exhibition will lead the viewers on a journey to deconstruct the principle of writings, en route through cultural signs and the practice of “Xung Gu” with the studies of historical semantics. The charismatic era post War War II amid abstract expressionist movement had given birth to masters such as George Chann and his peer Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, whose works effortlessly blend the cultural essence of the East with the abstractionist spirit of the West.

Chann received a Western modern art training and received wide recognition in the Californian art world with his early focus on social realism. As World War II came to its end, Chann returned to China and befriended ink art maestros Huang Jun-Bi and Zhao Shao-Ang, to further his studies in ink art techniques and delve deeper into the essence of aesthetic theory. Chann developed a unique style of oil painting, which “discards the form to capture the spirit” to perfectly combine the theories of ink art philosophy and the concept behind flows of works, with post-impressionist beliefs. He further mixed the brushstrokes of calligraphy and ink art with the techniques and forms of the West, giving the landscape and still life on his canvases an utterly different look and feel.

Since then, Chann’s works became more focused on the aura and atmosphere beyond the landscape. These changes gave his works an intense oriental foundation, on top of a gradually abstract visual representation. Swinging between the figurative and the abstract, the composition of Chann’s works essentially lost the traces of form, witnessing a transformation into a practice that prioritizes spirits and aura.

From 1950s, Chann ascended in the art world as an avant-garde figure of Chinese abstract expressionist movement. He chose the Han character system as his core materials and worked with the collage technique to reframe the calligraphy rubbings he collected, by building these rubbings into the base of his canvases. With post-production by means of ink and brushworks, Chann later formulated his series of “calligraphy copybooks” which originated from an exuberance of cultural experience.

Time travelled to 1960s. Vibrant and vivid colors and various mediums started to enter Chann’s canvas. Chann adapted a painting technique to reproduce the effect seen on the copies of stone inscriptions and scripture relics, as he recreated the weathered effects of the characters incised on stone slates or old coppers worn out by age or eroded away in green rusts. Exceeding the realm of law and transcending the bound of form, Chann’s practice translates and interprets the system of writing as aesthetic symbols that documented history and culture. This technique infused a texture of time and enabled the abstract presentation of the Han characters as metaphors of a traditional cultural legacy. To that end, this has set the milestone as Chann’s signature in Eastern abstract expressionism.

Yang Xiong, philosopher and linguist from the Han dynasty, proposed: “Words are the voices of the mind; writings are the images of the mind.” Chann leveraged the character system that became the storage for perception and experience, as an interface for contemporary aesthetics to interact with culture and society. In Chann’s mind, although the presentations of abstract expressionism in the East and the West seemed to fall under diverging sides of a spectrum, the two in fact are connected through the same manifestations –albeit with various representations of flow and structure, brushworks and lines, tonality and color – both with visible and invisible characters and symbols used to construct the metaphysical space of the abstract through perceived imageries.

What the intrinsic philosophical and aesthetic concept of “flow and aura” was able to capture in Eastern calligraphy and painting, through a traditional practice of copying, has further complemented a mellowness that the Western abstractionist counterpart lacked. Filled with an intense web of characters and signs that gently unveiled the cultural journey inscribed in his brushworks, Chann’s works anchor in a visual depiction of spirits and meaning, which resemble a process that examines the elegantly classical yet contemporary Chinese civilization. Through the lens of Georg Chann’s historical semantics and abstract painting, his works take us back in time, by looking into the deserted relics of the Chinese culture.

About George Chann (1913 – 1995)

Chann went to the United States of America when he was 12 and had earned a degree in Master of Fine Arts from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He was widely exhibited, including at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, San Diego Museum of Art, Pasadena Fine Arts Museum in Southern California, Shanghai Art Museum, Guangdong Museum of Art, and beyond. In 1951, his works were shown at the James Vigeveno Gallery in a group exhibition, titled Small Paintings by French and American Masters, alongside artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Marc Chagall.

Chann started his creative career with a focus on humanitarian social realism. He later adopted abstract paintings since 1950. Through the power of calligraphy and traditional writings, Chann established a milestone of Eastern abstract expressionism. His matured technique that has mastered the sense of color further distilled the characters, signs and writings on his canvas into abstract and free-form lines and structures, interspersing across the vibrant composition like musical notes and melody.


Logogram, also known as logograph, is the character system that signifies words or morphemes. In the logographic system, the unit of a word corresponds to a “morpheme”, namely the meaning of a word cannot be further divided into smaller units or it will lose its practical function to represent meaning. This often time has a strict correlation to “phrases” in a language. The appearance of logogram is an indication that homo sapiens had exited their primitive age in terms of the history of writing and entered the era of classics. Throughout history there are only three forms of logographic systems that were fully developed into maturity and represented high levels of civilization: cuneiform in the Mesopotamia, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and the Han characters of the Chinese. Han characters is the only logogram that are still widely in use.