"My paintings are not only pictures; they are also music and poetry that is bewitching, sweet dreams that are being dreamed."
Born in Zhejiang Province, China, Jiang discovered his love of art through painting and drawing during his early childhood.
After winning admission to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Jiang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964, just before the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.
On completion of his studies Jiang volunteered to visit the lush and tropical Yunnan province on the Vietnamese border. This visit to such an exotic landscape was to prove a lifelong influence on Jiang's work.
The Chinese government also recognised Jiang's talent and forced him to produce propaganda posters and sculptures as part of the Cultural Revolution, including the iconic red faced poster of Chairman Mao. At night though, Jiang was inspired by the natural beauty of the Yunnan province and he developed a style of his own. He was particularly focused on bringing colour to his art and, using the influence of Chinese mythology and Buddhism, he created pieces with great symbolic meaning. He and two other artists, He Neng and Liu Shaohui, secretly founded the "Yunnan School" where the use of bold colour and imagery was embedded in the teachings.
Jiang's career was able to thrive, even under the harsh realities of the Cultural Revolution. In 1979 he was commissioned by the Chinese government to paint a mural representing the Yunnan province for the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Jiang also illustrated children's books and cartoons. Ultimately though, Jiang's work fell out of favour with the communist government.
During 1982 a National Geographic reporter writing an article on life in China saw Jiang's paintings. A selection was smuggled out of China, folded up in a National Geographic magazine, and brought back to the U.S. were they received high praise.
Jiang permanently emigrated to the U.S. in 1984 where his work has been shown in many public exhibitions including those at the Portland Museum in Virginia and the New England Centre of Contemporary Art.
~ Symbolism in Jiang's Art ~
Birds: Birds represent the comings and goings of people. They also represent anticipation, freedom and flight.
Calla Lilies: The Calla Lily represents gentleness and purity.
Cherry Blossoms: White blossoms symbolise newness and infinite beginnings.
Colour Circles: The colour circles floating throughout Jiang's work symbolise the notes of music.
Cranes: The crane is an oen of good luck, peace, prosperity, nobility and long life.
Dragons: The dragon is the Son of Heaven - maintainer of harmony on earth and controller of weather and water. The dragon as an emblem is used exclusively by the Emperor.
Elephants: Elephants symbolise good luck and fortune.
Female Figures: Female figures represent fertility. They are Mother Earth, givers of life.
Flutes: The lute is an instrument of love. As the flute's song is heard, a lover will respond with his own song.
Horses: The horse symbolises sped, strength, power and endurance. It is also a sign of good business.
Pandas: Pandas symbolise innocence, simplicity and honesty.
Panthers: The black panther is a positive symbol. It symbolises power and grandeur, and is the reverent guardian of life.
The Phoenix: The Phoenix is the most famous and revered bird in Chinese lore. It is a symbol of strength and of power and is used by the Empress and an emblem.
Stones: Stones and rocks are the witness to eternity.
Tigers: The tiger is a symbol of strength and power. In older times the tiger was the symbol of the local chieftain.
Water: Water is the representation of time, and like time, can never flow against itself.
Young Maidens: The young maiden is the universal symbol of goodness, beauty and purity.
Want to learn more about Jiang Tie Feng?
When East Meets West