Michael Chow (b.1939, Shanghai, China), also known by his signature name ‘M’, is an abstract painter who creates bold mixed-media canvas collages. M’s practice is rooted in his personal, yet complex relationship with China and underpinned by a cross-cultural dialogue between East and West. In particular, he is influenced by traditional Chinese landscape painting as well as American and European approaches to abstraction. Uprooted from Shanghai to London aged 13, M lost his sense of identity and connection to Chinese culture; he notes that since then, ‘Everything I have done or accomplished has been an attempt to reconnect with my culture.’ (Louise Lui for Glass Magazine, 2014). Following his studies at London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art (1956) and the Hammersmith School Building and Architecture (1957), M had a number of successful exhibitions in London between 1957–1965. He subsequently dedicated his professional life to celebrating Chinese culture, notably through his world-renowned restaurant chain, MR CHOW, which first opened in London on Valentine's Day 1968.
After a 50-year hiatus and under the encouragement of friends Jeffrey Deitch and Julian Schnabel, M returned to painting. In his creative process of deep, personal exploration, M explains that his use of collage serves to ‘put things together that shouldn’t be together, as that’s my life’. The physicality of M’s creative process lends his work both sculptural and performative qualities. Hammering paint across paper, burning plastic and smashing eggs onto canvas, supplementing them with gold and silver leaf his paintings become grand gestures and moments of theatre. Drama and spontaneity are key elements of M’s work, something he owes to his father, the grandmaster of Beijing Opera and Chinese icon, Zhou Xinfang.
M’s first exhibition in London was the Royal Society of British Artist’s ‘Young Contemporaries’ in 1957. This was followed in 1958 with a string of group and solo shows in Mayfair, London at New Vision Centre Gallery, Leicester Galleries and Redfern Gallery. The 1960s built on this success with a solo exhibition at Lincoln Gallery, London (1962) and a ‘trio show’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1964), as well as M’s first European exhibition at Galleria D’arte Moderna, Palermo, Sicily (1965). After his return to painting, M had the solo exhibition, Recipe for a Painter, at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong in 2014, and has since enjoyed exhibitions at museums in Asia, Europe and the United States, including the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing (2015), The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2016) and Ludwig Museum, Deutschherrenhaus Koblenz (2016). Read more