Untitled by Chen Jiang-Hong

Chen Jiang-Hong (Chinese, b. 1963), Untitled, n.d., Acrylic on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Beverly O’Grady SMC ‘63, widow of Mr. Robert O’Grady ND ‘63, in honor of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, 2013.030.


Who made it?

Chen Jiang-­Hong is a painter known for his large abstract canvases. He was born in 1963 near Beijing, China, during the Cultural Revolution and now lives and works in Paris, France. Chen uses his artworks to explore both contemporary themes and historical Chinese culture and folklore.
Of his work he says, “It is important for me to bring the culture to which I am attached to life, to allow it to cross boundaries, and to allow others to be a part of it. I try to tell stories in such a way that they become universal.”
Although he explores abstraction in his paintings, Chen utilizes traditional Chinese painting techniques and materials to create his works. He uses ink and paint, along with a variety of brushes to create different drips, pools, and washes in his paintings.  

What’s going on in this work?

Chen often limits his palette of colors in his paintings. In this piece, he used only blue, black, and a rust brown though there seem to be many more colors present. By adding white or black paint or more water to these three initial colors, he is able to create variations of all of them. The white areas are actually exposed sections of the canvas which Chen uses like another color. 
Chen’s paintings often look blurred or out of focus which gives them a sense of movement and energy. This painting seems to swirl, swish, and splat before our eyes. When looking closely at the work, it’s possible to see Chen’s brushstrokes and the order in which he applied the colors to the canvas. We can almost see him creating the work before our eyes.

Take a closer look.

Click on the full image of Untitled above to see a larger version of the work. Look closely at the painting and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family at home, with a friend through a virtual conversation, or with us in a response to this email.  
  • How would you describe the mood of this painting? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • How do you think Chen painted this work? Can you tell how he moved/used his brush? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Chen did not give this painting a title. What would you title it and why?
  • What if you could only use three colors to make a work of art? What colors would you choose and what would you create using them?

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About the Article:

Engage with the Snite Museum of Art by exploring their collection through background information and reflection questions. For more information on the collections, please visit the Snite Museum of Art website.

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March 30, 2020

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