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Wisteria (horizontal)

Born in Canton, China in 1946, Roger Chung started painting when he was six years old. He went to Hong Kong when he was twelve to study traditional Chinese painting under Zhou Gongli, who himself was a student of the two Chinese masters, Wu Changshi, often considered the first modern Chinese painter, and Qi Baishi, revered for the expressive, childlike quality of his brushstrokes. Looking to broaden his training as an artist, Chung moved to New York at the age of seventeen. He attended the National Academy of Fine Arts and the Pratt Institute, where he received a MFA with a specialization in watercolor painting. During his late twenties, Chung exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions in Hong Kong and New York, at venues including the China Institute, the Chinese Cultural Center and the Pacem in Terris Gallery.

Plum and Rock Amaranths Rock Plum Wisteria (vertical)

Chung adheres to the literati ideal in Chinese painting in which the artist's character, integrity and morality are revealed through a painting. In this tradition, the artwork is valued more for the way it conveys the scholarly pursuits of an individual, than for the way paint is manipulated to create detailed or realistic images. Chung strives towards these literati ideals in his painting, calligraphy, and seal carving by reading and studying Chinese poetry, history and culture. On the other hand, he differs from the literati tradition in his use of vibrant colors and his more naturalistic depictions of animals and plants.

During his training in New York, Chung practiced Western techniques of depicting light, shadow and color. Inspired by Cezanne's watercolors, Chung loads his brush with different colored pigments, capturing the nuances of light on branches, leaves and flower petals. From his courses at Pratt, he learned to draw and paint from live models and in plain air. Initially, as a traditional Chinese painter, Chung focused on learning the styles of masters artists, but later supplemented this training by observing and painting from real life. As such, his paintings of bamboo differ from more traditional representations where depth is suggested by painting leaves in the foreground darker than those in the background. As one who grows and studies bamboo plants at home, Chung varies the shades of leaves in accordance with reality so that those that receive direct sunlight are lighter than those that fall in the shadows. He most often paints traditional motifs, plum blossoms, orchids, chrysanthemums, and bamboo in expressive, powerful and abstract brushstrokes reminiscent of Van Gough.

Rose (vertical) Rose (horizontal)

Chung sees his artistic development in three stages. As a child and young adult, he was immersed in painting, studying masters, taking art courses and exhibiting his work. After moving to New York, the need to fund his education led him to take a job as a financial advisor. He set aside his painting in order to excel in a career on Wall Street and to raise a family. His desire to resume painting was spurred by 9/11. Working near the World Trade Center and having friends who were killed in the attacks, Chung reconsidered his priorities in life, placing a much greater emphasis on enjoyment and spiritual fulfillment. In one of his recent calligraphic works, he writes in large characters, "Enjoy life, worry later." Even though much of Chung's recent work focuses on celebrating life, his use of symbolism suggests that life continues to be a pursuit of spiritual growth and, as yet, unrealized scholarly ideals.

Chung does not feel a strong division between his training in the East and in the West. Instead, he appropriates elements from both traditions, combining the symbolic associations and scholarly aspirations of classical literati painting with the Western techniques of color and light to create works that not only convey his own spirituality, but also elicit pure sensual enjoyment and aesthetic pleasure.

© 2005 Copyright for China 2000 Fine Art

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