T’ANG HAYWEN was born in 1927 on Xiamen island, China, from an educated family. His early intellectual development and, later, his work, would definitely be shaped by his family background.
From frequent journeys to Taiwan with his dad he grew a passion for traveling and his grandfather’s teaching of calligraphy and Tao philosophy would very much influence his future life and career.
At the age of 21 he left for Paris to study medicine and fulfil his father’s wishes. But T ’ang followed another dream: to become a painter. He then spent much of his time in museums, observing and learning from Western masters.
In the sixties, without real formal training he developed his own style, neither figurative nor abstract. He wanted to feel free from any artistic or materialistic constrains. He painted from nature, trying to render the beauty and energy that springs out of the surrounding world. Inspired by his Taoist spiritual legacy and Chinese traditions he came back to ink painting.
In the seventies and eighties T ‘ang travelled worldwide, invited in many exhibitions, meeting famous artists and personalities, feeling at ease in all the places he visited. But T ‘ang didn’t seek fame. For him painting and traveling were a way of life, meeting new people an endless source of joy.
Always in search of new experiences and more spirituality he joined the Catholic church and in 1988 offered me to organize an exhibition at our Foyer Jean Paul II. There, we got the visit of many of his friends like Dina Verny, Gilles Chazal, the curator of Petit Palais and Dominique Ponnau, the Director of l’Ecole du Louvre.
That same year I introduced him to a famous XIXth century Polish poet: Cyprian Norwid.
Norwid had been admired by Henry Bergson, André Gide, Joseph Brodzki and Jean Paul II. He deeply influenced the development of Polish culture. Norwid’s thought was also rooted in Western and Eastern spirituality. For him, harmony could spring out from contraries and his work was seen as a bridge between the two cultures.
Sharing these views T ‘Ang felt attracted to Poland where we finally travelled in August 1990.There, I introduced him to Polish artists, like Zofia and Henryk Szulc, art historians and Tadeusz Chrzanowski, a famous art history professor at Lublin Catholic University.
In Lublin, T ‘Ang was invited to stay at Rena Targonska’s, a well-known scenographer.
He settled in a room with a balcony from which, early in the morning, he would observe life and start painting. For a European observer like me getting the opportunity to follow T ‘Ang in his creative process was a fascinating experience. In impulsive strokes he seemed to catch, on the white surface of paper, elusive feelings, thoughts or questions. The way his hand moved over the white paper was an echo of the way he had lived, following “The way of Tao”, never imposing himself on events, remaining spontaneous and thus achieving universal harmony.
Poland was T ’ang’s final journey. He died one year later in Paris.
The paintings he realized there were the last traces he left behind him. They are now part of Leszek Kanczugowski’s collection.