Boston-based artist shines in the city that never sleeps

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Heidy S. Chuang was walking in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City when a sudden rain shower transformed the dry and dusty streets into a shining, cobbled path, exposing the brilliant colors of the stones. The lovely effect was a sharp contrast to the week before, when Jerusalem had been rocked by rioting and terrorist attacks. “The rain felt like a gift,” Chuang said in an interview with the NewBostonPost last month.

Heidy S. Chuang

Heidy S. Chuang

Much like the rain that brought out the beauty of the suffering city, Chuang’s paintings of Jerusalem offer a new perspective of the ancient metropolis, which has been the site of so many modern struggles.

Chuang, a Taiwanese-American artist, produced the series of en plein air paintings during two trips to Israel, one in the fall of 2014 and the other a year later.

“Sometimes I didn’t know what I would paint that day, but I’d go out. I would always see something that struck me and I just painted it,” Chuang said.

The process of selecting what to paint is very personal for Chuang. “I search for a place that is meaningful externally, but it also has to match what is going on in my interior landscape. When I find a match, I recognize it and paint it.”

Israel and Jerusalem are scenic, historic places, with ties to three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In recent years, however, violence and tension have eclipsed the ancient splendor of the Holy Land. Chuang draws out the beauty of the landscape by using watercolors that employ Taiwanese calligraphy techniques, and through acrylic paintings that capture the grandeur and scale of the city.

“The beautiful parts of Israel don’t get reported on like the violent parts, and I wanted to be part of the conversation,” Chuang said.

Her light-drenched paintings feature famous landmarks, such as the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Painted in luminous, calligraphic lines, the landscapes evoke both a sense of place and a moment in time.

At Chuang’s most recent show at Ditra Fine Art Gallery in New York City, 15 paintings were done on site in Jerusalem, and seven more were done from memory.

Chuang’s previous show at Ditra Fine Art Gallery featured a collection of works painted in Switzerland. The artist explained her propensity to paint while she is on the road: “When you’re traveling, longing and desire are more compressed. You’re much more present because you don’t have memories to lean on; everything is fresh, everything is new.”

Stefan Prock, a longtime supporter of emerging artists, helped connect Chuang with Ditra Fine Art Gallery.

"David's Citadel" by Heidy S. Chuang

“David’s Citadel” by Heidy S. Chuang

“One day, I was at my favorite marketplace on Columbus Avenue, and I saw Heidy painting. I wanted to see more of her work, and she showed me on the spot,” Prock said in an interview with the NewBostonPost last month. “I was instantly taken by her beautiful art, and I told her I had a friend who had a gallery who might be interested in her work. Very quickly the deal was made.”

No stranger to the art world, Prock had his own gallery in the East Village in the 80’s, and has also curated shows in France.

“Her paintings are light-infused, insouciant, as we say in French, which means they’re carefree, there’s a directness and spontaneity to them,” he said.

“And the subject matter, you know, is not so light,” Prock added, “there’s a lot of history and surrounding drama (in Israel), but her paintings have the same, rare, unspoiled view that you find in Le Petit Prince.”

Prock said he found the vibrant colors and joie de vivre of her paintings similar to those of French painter, André Derain.

“The way she handles light is very different, it’s how some of the impressionistic artists did it. She goes back to the great tradition of painters who followed the light, who made a direct connection with nature and the environment. There’s a direct relationship with the subject matter,” Prock explained.

Chuang’s show at Ditra Fine Art Gallery ended January 1st, but her paintings are still available on her website. The artist’s work has also graced the walls of the Art Bar in Boston, among other notable places. Chuang’s latest project brings her back to New York City, where she has a commission for a painting on Wall Street.

Contact Lizzie Short at [email protected].