My name is Michael Chow. In the west they call me sometimes Mr Chow, because my restaurant's name is Mr Chow. When I was young, I didn't spend much time with my father. And since I left from China to England, I never saw him again. I never wrote to him. His death came, I didn't know. You know he was on stage for over 60 years. He was famous when he was seven years old. And thank God, I changed medium. He's on the theater and I can never be as great an actor as him. So I transformed my creative force into painting. From 1957 to 1967 for ten years I painted intensely. When I arrived at England when I was very young, they really looked down on the Chinese. So I quit for 50 years. But during the 50 years, I started my restaurant. I'm only allowed to use cuisine as a theater as a language to express the greatness of China.
Fifty seven years ago, I asked my friend who became very famous. His name is Peter Blake. I said to him "Look! Do a painting for me, antithesis of racism." That means anti-racism. So he made a painting and made a portrait of me. He painted me yellow, a very racist painting. And since then, for 50 years, I've been asking various friends of mine to paint portraits of me and expressing in their own medium, own style. All the people who are asked, they all become stars, all become the giants, like Jean-Michael Basquiat, like Andy Warhol, like Dan Flavin, like Keith Haring. And by the way, 47 years ago, portraiture was out. Nobody do portraiture because there was photography.
And after 50 years of radical sabbatical, I feel that the opportunity is correct right now. But I really never left it during my lifetime. I've always been an artist even in the restaurant field. I did 16 movies as an actor. I did architecture. I am an expressionist. I do abstract paintings. My life is like a collage. My style of painting is collage.
My painting is half-sculpture, half painting, go through a process, complex process, almost like a recipe. I use various materials, such as contradictory material. I discover silver, pure metal silver, precious metal, and I using staples to put the silver onto the (canvas) I use like 4,000 staples for a large rough painting. Besides that, I use various other materials, like trash, like eggs, all kinds of things. My job is though chaos, I control harmony. This is like Yin Yang, if you will.
My style is having conversation with past historical artist. So this one behind me is called Beyond White Poles. It's kind of a conversation with Jackson Pollock. He did Blue Poles. I named it after him. But there, of course, has no resemblance to his painting. I mostly painted horizontally, not vertically. And painting horizontally has advantages.
Because not many artist have been painting horizontally. Therefore, my application of the paint to the surface is kind of unique. 1781 was the slave ship on the way back to London. 106 slaves were sick, and the slave ship owner chained them together and drowned them in the sea. Why they did that? Because slaves were worth more money when they're dead. You can collect insurance money. Turner, one of the greatest artists, inspired by the story, and painted a very famous painting. Turner's painting was quite violent. Also, there's a lot of blood in the sea and everything. So I painted that painting in memory of that.
I was inspired by the Ming Dynasty Four Season. So I painted these four paintings. These paintings are very much nature connected, just like Chinese painting. Chinese always, man is humble before nature. That's why man, in Chinese paintings, are very small, and nature is very large. In western paintings it's the opposite. Western painting, since Renaissance Age at least, the men want to control nature. That's why man is always very mighty, very big. I was trained in Europe. And also I inherited my father Zhou Xinfang's Qi school of philosophy and thinking as a expressionist. So this year, especially, China the country, celebrating in Shanghai, his 120th birthday. I happened to come back to painting. And now I'm so lucky to be here, in my hometown, in Shanghai, presenting this show. So I reunited with him, and finally I'm fulfilling my void.