Artist Teng-Yuan Chang on Having an Artist Career

How to Develop Your Career as a Visual Artist

Chang Teng-Yuan's "Crossover," acrylic on canvas, 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Taipei-based artist CHANG Teng-Yuan creates paintings and animation projection installations that show the absurdity of life. He recently spent four months at New York’s ISCP, an artist-in-residency program, which was sponsored by the International Talents Exchange Program of the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan.

Fine Art invited Chang Teng-Yuan 張騰遠 to discuss how he became an artist and to advise young artists on how to create their own prosperous art careers.

(Please note that it is Asian custom to put the family/last name before the given/first name.)

Q: How does one establish a career as an artist?

A:  Actually, I think I still have long ways to go in my artist career, such as to experiment with my ideas in the studio more regularly and continuously, to be more active in engaging in artist residency projects and art awards, to further establish networks with people in different fields, and the most importantly, to feel everything in life wholeheartedly and keep recording it because I believe it will be the source of inspiration someday in the future.

Q: What's the best strategy(is) for a young artist? Get an MFA?

A: I think it is to join all kinds of competitions and exhibitions. Truly, an MFA degree is not necessary but it can surely provide you some resources. In my opinion, the best strategy is to make one’s works and concepts ready and then strive for any opportunities to be seen in any occasions.

Q: Should an artist move to a specific country or city? Does locality matter?

A: As what I have answered the last question, an artist works for an opportunity to be seen. In fact, as for me, no matter whether I am in a resourceful big city or the suburbs, there are always accesses to share works with a bunch of people.

Through the Internet, one can have connections with people all over the world.

Therefore, I don’t think there is one specific answer to this question. It is more favorable to me that one artist chooses his or her place to work on arts and live according to one’s own personality.

Q: How does an artist get the attention of a curator?

A: For me, it is probably best to join all kinds of openings actively or share my works in a friendly manner. Besides, I would say the most important thing is to get a personal portfolio and website ready all the time so that there are topics when meeting curators.

Q: How does an artist develop a portfolio? What are the integral elements?

A: The key point of a portfolio is it can completely show your strengths on works and leave a deep impression on viewers. That’s why I care so much about whether my portfolio can be read clearly which is also the indispensable element.

Q: How does an artist get in an important group exhibition?

A: Getting in front of the gallery owner or the curator in person and recommending one's own works courageously is the most direct way to present oneself. They might have some opinions about your works, too.

Q: Is it wise to submit work to juried exhibitions?

A: I don’t think all works are suitable for competition. Therefore, I may advise artists to have pre-judgment on their own series of works to find the adequate works in terms of efficiency.

Q: Is gallery representation vital to an artist's career?

A: It depends on the personality of an artist. In my experience, I really need a gallery to deal with all kinds of administrative affairs, contacts, and arrangement for my exhibitions. For me, it is appropriate to get into a topic of the agency after both have built up nice relationships. Regarding the items of the cooperation agreement, both should be clear about the responsibilities and obligations for each side. This will make the cooperation a lot more pleasant and smooth.

How Artists Can Apply to an Artist Residency

Q: What should artists do to maximize their chances to be accepted into an artist residency?

First, an artist must do research on the location of the artist residency project. One should choose a suitable place according to the types of his or her creation, and tailor a proposal of artist residency project for the place to increase the chance to be selected.

Q: Are residencies important for an artist’s career?

It’s significant. Artist residencies can bring various life experiences to one’s artist career and in the meanwhile broaden one’s horizon.

I also think it is necessary for an artist to create and live abroad for a while, because when one lives in a foreign country, everything is likely to become an inspiration or providing new realizations.   

Artist residencies are helpful in the way that you can get together with artists and curators from all around the world and have lots of chances to communicate with them. Moreover, what benefits me the most is living and working in a foreign place, because things from unfamiliar places are always fresh and interesting and bring me new ideas and inspirations that I didn’t have before. Therefore, I think the experience of an artist residency is necessary to an artist.

Q: What do artists need to know about artist residencies?

Meet all kinds of people actively without a premise. Do not presume what to gain throughout the residency. These will make the residency go well and make you happier.