John Chang: 2021 NOT REAL ART Grant Winner

John Chang: 2021 NOT REAL ART Grant Winner

Today’s guest on the Not Real Art Podcast is John Chang, one of our six 2021 Not Real Art Grant winners. John is a Chinese-American multidisciplinary artist from Shanghai who considers himself a spiritual escapist. His work is rich and deep, layering language and image to construct and reconstruct meaning, memory, and intention.

In this episode, John shares his process of searching for new meanings in a new world, one where it has become increasingly important for artists to embrace digital mediums and utilize the power of art to facilitate empathy.

“As artists, I think we should get together as one person to express, communicate to [our communities], to let people know we all love each other. We can talk to understand each other.” — John Chang [0:15:04]

Projecting Possibilities featuring John Chang at Helms Design Center in Culver City

In the wake of COVID-19 and waves of racially motivated violence against Black and Asian people of color in the US, John emphasizes the importance of communication and creating work that is open to interpretation, as well as how he reconstructs memory and meaning through collage using found materials such as newspapers. He also speaks candidly about the challenges he has faced since emigrating to the US, from cultural and physical homelessness to xenophobia, and he shares the core message he hopes viewers take away from his work: his story and how it relates to their own.

To learn more about John Chang, how he makes and unmakes meaning, experience, and history, and his attempts to communicate the newfound perceptions he gains through his creative process, tune in today!

“I collect [stories], calligraphy, and writings in my daily diary [and collage them] into my paintings. You can read those stories back to your paintings. It is your memories. How the painting is made is your art journey as you ponder your life. At this moment, it is tough, but at the same time, it is also [inspires] you to do work that tells your story, the story people may not pick up from your paintings, but they may take something – a message [or] a part of history.” — John Chang [0:46:10]

Projecting Possibilities featuring John Chang’s work at Helms Design Center in Culver City

Key Points From This Episode:

  • An introduction to John Chang and his practice, including his commercial career.
  • Why John believes that it is important for artists to embrace digital tools like Photoshop.
  • Why formally trained or “traditional” artists are sometimes resistant to digital mediums.
  • The learning curve that comes with embracing digital tools and committing to the craft.
  • How much time John spends creating work on his computer versus in his studio.
  • Find out how his practice has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Hear about the work John created to address racially motivated violence in the US.
  • John emphasizes the power of art for communication, expression, and understanding.
  • The value of allowing viewers to create their own interpretations of your work.
  • John shares his process of constructing and reconstructing meaning through collage.
  • Learn about John’s background, how he discovered art as a child, and the difficulty he encountered when he emigrated to the US.
  • What he means when he describes himself as “culturally homeless” or a “spiritual escapist.”
  • How learning and memorizing Chinese characters has informed his work.
  • John shares his experience of returning to China as a contemporary artist and the recent explosion of contemporary art galleries there.
  • Sourdough and John discuss the current political situation in Hong Kong.
  • Hear how John’s creative output has been impacted by the pandemic.
  • His experience of xenophobia in the US, both during and after Trump’s time in office.
  • One core message John hopes viewers take from his current body of work: his story.
  • Learn more about his artistic process and how his artworks reveal themselves to him.
  • How technology both positively and negatively impacts human connection.

“You have to embrace the new [tools]. The tools shape you and push you [into] the new digital age. It’s a new task, the task of searching for new meanings in a new world.” — John Chang [0:06:18]

Artwork by John Chang

“You don’t belong to [either culture]. At the same time, for me, I don’t relate to each [culture]. At the same time, I connect to both. I have everything. That’s why I always call myself culturally homeless.” — John Chang [0:27:42]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Artwork by John Chang

“My core message is my story. My story, maybe people cannot pick up, [but] people may see something. That something may relate to their story.” — John Chang [0:47:27]

Scott "Sourdough" Power

Scott “Sourdough” Power is the the creator and executive producer of NotRealArt.com. He is also the co-founder of Crewest Studio a digital media company in Los Angeles dedicated to creative culture and the $2T creative economy.