2005 TAF Humanities Achievement Award
Dr. James Tsing-fang Chen
Dr. Chen was born on June 2nd, 1936 at Kweizen in Tainan County, Taiwan. Since his childhood, Dr, Chen had always been attracted to images and letters. He was promoted directly from Tainan First Middle School to National Taiwan University. At 14 years old, upon seeing the art of Vincent van Gogh for the first time, he was moved to tears and set his will upon going to Paris and becoming an artist-painter. So he began practicing art in his teens and became chairman of the 'Tine Art Association" of Taiwan University, while organizing the "Liberty Art Group" for exhibition.
In 1963, Dr. Chen obtained a scholarship from the French government and went to study in France. he earned a Master degree in "French Contemporary Literature" and a Doctoral degree on the "History of Modern Art" at La Sorbonne (University of Paris) while spending seven years at FEcole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Cultural study and artistic creation kept Dr. Chen in balance. Knowing that to secure a position in the international art world, one has to develop one's own art style/school, Dr. Chen studied and experimented very hard. Finally, in 1969, he established his cultural theory termed as "Five-dimensional World Culture" which gave birth to his artistic expression called "Neo-Iconography." Such a new art style/school constantly inspired me to paint many series of paintings, such as "The Spirit of Liberty," "Post - Van Gogh,?"East-West," "Venus,?"Card players,?“Napoleon,?"Princess Diana," "Jade Mountain,?"9/11?etc.
"Neo-Iconography" is a daring new form of artistic creation. It unites East and West, past and present, by organizing and combining familiar icons in unfamiliar ways, defying time, space, and cultural barriers, resulting in stunning eclectic compositions, with new meanings and messages. "Neo-I" stands as an important aspect of Post-Modernism, and has been featured in over 200 textbooks and art books in 33 countries, including a University-level textbook of world art history: Arts and Ideas by Professor W. Fleming. Thus far, Dr. Chen has conducted more than 100 solo exhibitions in Europe, Asia and America. Dr. Chen has produced approximately 3,000 artworks (1,000 of which in his Neo-I style), countless of which have been collected widely both privately and publicly. Dr. Chen has also published 19 books concerning his art and philosophy, including the recently published 21st Century, Taiwan! Thus, art critics have distinguished me as an "Avant-garde of Post-Modern Culture" and "one of the 20 most influential artists in the world today" (Professor Thomas McEvilley, renowned art critic).
Out of his love for Taiwan, Dr. Chen participated in the democratization movement of Taiwanese abroad and helped to found the "World Federation of Taiwanese Associations" and became its Secretary-General for 6 years. By doing so, his name got on the blacklist of the KMT regime in Taiwan, and he could not return to his homeland for 21 years. He moved from France to the USA in 1975 and only returned to Taiwan in 1984 after more than two decades of separation from his family. Since then, Dr. Chen fly back and forth between New York and Taipei constantly. In Taiwan, he conducted several nationwide art tours, including the recent 3-year exhibition of his "Sacred Jade Mountain, Love and Peace" campaign, dedicated to the spiritual renewal of the Taiwanese people. In addition, Dr. Chen am frequently invited to attend international conferences and exhibit his art, which gives me great opportunities to conduct cultural diplomacy for Taiwan.
Dr. Chen used to advance both theoretical research and artistic creation, namely thinking and acting together. In 1996, together with his wife Lucia, we opened a non-profit organization in SoHo, Manhattan called the T.F. Chen Cultural Center to promote a "Global New Renaissance in Love" and East-West Cultural Exchange. In 1998,1 was invited to lecture and exhibit at the prestigious "State of the World Forum" and became a member of "Our Common Enterprise" in the Cultural Section, to initiate cultural and art programs in the wwld. In 2001, Dr. Chen was honored as the first artist-painter to receive a UN "Global Tolerance Award" (through "Friends of the UN") and was designated a "Cultural Ambassador for Tolerance and Peace" to partner up with the Friends of the UN in conducting a World Art Campaign for the purpose of "Building a Culture of Tolerance and Harmony through the Arts."
Dr. Chen’s entire life and artistic creation has been dedicated towards advancing a global culture of peace, tolerance and harmony -- a new Renaissance centered in Love. This urgent challenge has always sourced his life and inspiration, and will continue to do so as long as he lives.