Fong Chung-Ray was born in Henan, China. In 1948, during the conflict between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party after World War II, Fong’s parents decided to send away, out of five sons, two of their youngest. This was supposed to be only for a few days until the unrest was over. But it was not until 1979 that Fong was able to return home. While Fong was in Hunan during the summer of 1949, the unrest escalated, and a group from Henan decided to join the Nationalist military for the retreat to Taiwan. Fong was the youngest in the group, a few months away from meeting the military’s minimum requirement of 15 years old. The group decided to report Fong’s birth earlier by one year, to 1933; this enabled the group to stay together.
In 1952, while still in the military, Fong enrolled in the Department of Fine Arts at Fu Hsing Kang College (Political Warfare Cadres Academy). He graduated in 1954 as a lieutenant art officer. In 1966, Fong completed his studies in the Department of Applied Arts, also at Fu Hsing Kang College.
Fong founded the Four Seas Painting Society in 1958 with three other naval officers. With his oil on canvas abstract paintings, Fong participated in the 5th Biennial de Sao Paulo Exhibition in Brazil in 1959, and in 1960, won the Silver Medal in the 1st Hong Kong International Salon of Paintings.
In 1961, Liu Guosong invited Fong to join the Fifth Moon Painting Society. Sharing Liu’s belief that ink and paper were the proper way to represent Chinese culture, Fong abandoned oil on canvas and worked with ink on paper for a decade.
During the 1960s, Fong’s paintings were on exhibit internationally. The exhibits included the Third Premiere Biennale de Paris, France in 1963; the First International Peace Art Exhibition, Florence, Italy in 1965; and an exhibit the Kyoto Municipal Art Museum, Japan in 1969.
In 1970, Fong received the John D. Rockefeller III Foundation Fellowship Grant, as well as a scholarship from the East-West Center of Hawaii. These provided Fong with the time to study and the means to visit museums in the US and Europe from September 1970 to June 1971.
While Fong was in the US, acrylic paint became widely available. After experimenting, Fong replaced traditional ink with acrylic, diluted by water to ink viscosity, to paint on paper.
Fong’s family immigrated to the US in 1975, the year Fong started painting on canvas. He had come to believe that Chinese paintings should not be limited by one type of medium.
During the 1970s, Fong participated in many exhibitions. These include the following as examples: New Direction in Chinese Painting: 11 Contemporary Chinese Artists, Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas in 1972; and the Inaugural Exhibition, Heinz Galleries, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh in 1975.
Although Fong experimented with collage in 1976, it was not until the late 1980s that Fong embraced such methods fully. From around 1990, Fong started to incorporate Chinese characters written on pieces of paper into his collage paintings. By the mid-1990s the crackle effect began, and that effect eventually became a hallmark of Fong’s later works. In around 2010, Fong started to stencil Chinese characters into dried layers of acrylic color, like those found on bronze vases, to further complement the crackle effect.
From the 1980s to the present, Fong has continued to take part in many exhibitions. These include the following: Six Artists from Taiwan, National Art Museum, Beijing, China in 1984; Tong-Fang Art Association and Fifth Moon Group 35th Anniversary Exhibition, Taiwan in 1991; A Tradition Redefined, Arthur M. Sackler Museum in 2007; and in 2017, Beyond the Brush, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, and The Weight of Lightness, M+ Museum, Hong Kong.
Fong is based in San Francisco Bay Area.