Constance Chang (Chang Shangpu,1918- ), is “one of very few women artists of her generation to have gained a significant reputation as a painter. Her art and life provide a valuable narrative for modern Chinese paintings as it developed outside the mainland in the second half of the 20th century.” (Foreword by former Asian Art Museum Director, Emily Sano in Chang’s 2004 Exhibition catalog at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco).
Chang was born into a scholar-gentry Nanking family yet had a career acting in movies in Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s. Moving to Hong Kong in 1948, she took up art, studying classical painting with the traditionalist Huang Pan-jo, and the modernist Lu Shouk'un. She evolved a style of bold, calligraphic strokes (sometimes with unorthodox painting implements) in ink enlivened with small touches of color that allowed her to improvise freely within the Chinese tradition. She moved to San Francisco in 1974.
Chang's work began with experimentation and her responding to the modern art movements which were taking place. The western world began to influence her art with the rise of Picasso's collage work. Being inspired by the idea of "eight broken"(bapo), she began to learn new techniques for making her paintings. In her painting entitled "Chrysanthemum", Chang used cotton balls to create the texture of foliage and the rim of a dish in order to outline petals. This exploration led Chang to become less concerned with the design of her painting and more excited about spontaneity.
In Asia, Chang had solo exhibitions at the Shanghai Museum, Beijing National Gallery, National Gallery, Taipei Hongkong Museum of Art and
and art venues in Hongkong and Tokyu Gallery. In Europe, she has exhibited in London, Paris, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt. In the U.S. she had solo exhibitions at the University Art Museum at Berkeley and at the Asian Art Museum. She lives in San Francisco.
Li, He & Li, Chu-tsing "The Elegant Lotus: The Art and Life of Chang Shangpu (Constance Chang)", 2004, Asian Art Museum-Chong Lee Center of Asian Art.