Portrait Master

Art Style

Testimonials by York Hsiao

Testimonials by Zhiwei Tu

Above photo:
Ivy singing Karaoke at the 40th Anniversary party of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.
~ 1994 Guangzhou, China

Art Style

Portrait Paintings that draw out Artistic Novelty

by York Hsiao
Tawan Gallery Association Chairman and Taipei Capital Art Center President

For a long time, I studied painting after work at Ms. Ai-Wai Chaung’s studio until she emigrated to Canada. What attracted me most was her creative breakthrough in painting. Later, I went to one of her exhibitions and was extremely touched by her elegant works. It made me feel that I was seeing her in person, especially with her portrait paintings. These portraits are so vivid that they breathed with life and drawn out artistic novelty.

I am honored to have the opportunity to tender my opinions on her portrait paintings: Western paintings emphasize on three dimensional spaciousness, color, sense of lighting, beauty of shapes and style; whereas Chinese paintings focus more on resemblance in spiritual essence as well as outlook, and charming appeals. Although oil painting originates from the West, as a Chinese oil painter, Ms Chaung integrated the merits of traditional Chinese paintings with that of oil paintings to make her portfolios a unity of form and spiritual essence, thus bestowing immortality to her portrait paintings.

Ms Chaung once said that when she paints, she takes hold of not just the impressionistic outlook, but also the spiritual presence of her target subjects in order to attain the unity of form and spiritual essence. As such, she always paints with a respectful mind to observe and to understand her target subjects, including knowing their careers and hobbies. Through conversation, she learns about the individual character of each target subject, and thus discovers his or her inner world so that the portrait will be able to reflect their beauty from within. During the painting session, Ms Chaung would not ask her target subjects to sit still. Instead, they could talk, laugh, and relax casually. In this way, it can forestall the target subjects from being stiff and reserved, thus masking their genuine character and personality. Based on this understanding of the person whose portrait is being drawn, Ms Chaung let her impressionistic feelings towards the target subject be expressed through various visual elements such as composition, posture, facial expression, milieu, coloring, brush strokes, as well as forms.

Portrait painting is the kind of art work that, through the very personal artistic articulation of the painter, the outer appearance and the personality of the target subjects can then be enriched. This indeed is the reason why a good painting will not be replaced by modern photographic techniques.

Ms Chaung had been invited to paint portraits for Mr. Hsieh Tung-Min (the sixth Vice President of the R.OC) , and Mr. Hau Pei-Tsun (former Premier of the Republic of China and a four-star general in the R.OC.Army). She painted their faces with more straight lines to make the two look younger and more energetic. A sense of determination was illustrated by emphasizing the corners of their mouths as well as the lines on the nose. Their eyes illumined with erudite and wisdom. Who ever has seen these portraits would congratulate Ms Chaung for her skills and interpretation. In Taiwan, the few celebrities she had also painted included Mr.Tin- wu Wang,( President of World Journal) Mr. Yong-Qing Wang, President of the Taisuo Group, and his wife; Mr. Fang-Gu Peng(chief of staff of the Taiwan Veterans sHospitall) and his wife. Each of them was extremely satisfied with their portraits and exalted with phrases like “that is, this is me!” Mr. Ton-Man Shi once said that “my portrait drew by Ms. Ai-Wai Chaung is the most favorite painting in my whole life.”

According to my observation, few painters are able to paint the myriad things under the sky. During her stay in Taiwan, Ms. Chaung left her foot-prints almost every corner throughout the Island. Carried with her the paint kit and toolbox, she often hiked by herself and did landscape painting around Mount Ali. In addition to her portrait paintings being very popular in Taiwan, those landscape and still-life paintings of hers that are replenished with compassion are also amiably appreciated by collectors. I am looking forward to seeing and appreciating more of Ms. Chaung’s new artworks in the years to come.