In her introduction to Chao Chung-hsiang, the second catalogue the gallery produced for the artist, Alice King noted “to Chao, painting was not merely a pictorial representation but a continuous thought process related to one’s spiritual well-being and outlook on life. He worked tirelessly to ensure that contemporary Chinese painting would become part of the mainstream and not a mere tributary of Western art.”
Like Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-chun and Wu Guanzhong, Chao studied under the renowned artist Lin Fengmian at the National Institute of Art, Hangzhou (currently the China Academy of Art) before graduating in 1939. In 1948, he immigrated to Taiwan, and in 1956 won a fellowship to study in Spain. He toured Paris and Europe, before settling in New York in 1958, where he remained for most his life. There he discovered for himself American Abstract Expressionist art, which inspired him to work conscientiously to achieve a synthesis of East and West. The main subjects of Chao's work are flowers and fish, birds, the cosmos and abstraction. From the 1970s, Yin-Yang symbols and hexagrams derived from the ancient Chinese divination text I-Ching began appearing in his paintings, referencing Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. In his paintings, blocks of dazzling fluorescent colour sporadically float upon expressive images rendered in rich ink washes. After more than thirty years in New York City, he moved to Hong Kong in 1989, then to Chengdu, and finally to Taiwan. He passed away in 1991, at the age of eighty-one.
In 1972, Chao won the New York Creative Artists Public Service Program Award. From 1997-99 his works were exhibited in the important travelling group exhibition Asian Traditions/Modern Expressions, organised by the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University. His work was also included in the exhibition China: 5,000 Years held at the Guggenheim Museum in 1998.
Alisan Fine Arts began representing Chao in 1985 and has organised four major solo exhibitions for him since 1992, including two travelling shows, in 1999 at the Zhejiang West Lake Art Museum; Hong Kong Arts Centre; Alisan Fine Arts; Club 21 Gallery in Singapore, in 2004 at National Museum of History, Taipei; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum; Galerie Adler, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre. Chao’s works have been frequently exhibited at internationally renowned museums, including at the Guggenheim Museum, Zhu Qizhan Art Museum, and Hong Kong Museum of Art. Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery organised a solo exhibition for him in 2014. Alisan Fine Arts manages the artist’s estate.
His works have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Columbia University, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; Zhejiang Westlake Art Museum, Hangzhou; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong; and M+, Hong Kong.