Chia was born in Florence, where he studied at the Academy from 1967 to 1969. He experimented with Conceptual and Performance Art in the early 1970s, before returning to painting in 1975 and adopting his characteristic style. Chia's paintings normally feature large muscular figures, who are almost always young men and are arguably alter egos of the artist. Chia is one of the leading figures of the Italian 'transavanguardia', which included Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Mimmo Paladino amongst others. The artists rejected the cool intellectualism and political engagement of the 1970s, producing large-scale figurative painting.