The Storytelling of Chen Wenling
July 30 - September 21, 2021
SUNZEN ART GALLERY
MON - FRI 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
SAT 11 AM - 6:00 PM
Surrounded by stainless steel - the substance that symbolizes the great success of the Industrial Revolution - a skinny boy stands out with a dazzling red color and a simple, innocent smile. He climbs on rocks, juggles with balls on his head, does handstands... These simple games are full of fun in the eyes’ of a child, making him forget about the hunger and cold that permeated every slit of his life. This thin boy is the epitome of Chen Wenling's childhood. Despite the poverty and lack of material goods, the Red Boy is always curious and optimistic about the difficult life. Chen discusses materialism, expanding desires and environmental issues led by rapid development with metaphors and symbolic images. Through the appropriation of Chinese folktales and allegories, he creates an attentive and alluring narrative that conveys the philosophy of symbiosis. He employs figures, such as pig, bull and mushroom, as the objectification of greediness, desires for wealth and longevity. The skinny boy then becomes the representation of our inner child, simple, happy and fearless, guarding our aspirations for peace, symbiosis and harmony.
In late 2001, Wenling Chen unveiled his ‘Red Memories’ exhibition in Pearl Bay, Xiamen, as a part of the ‘Red Boy’ series. The exhibition was an explosive success in the art world, and ‘Red Memories’ became one of China’s most symbolic sculptural works almost overnight. A number of pieces were acquired by major institutions, and have been showcasing to audiences around the world.
The “Red Boy” can be read as Wenling’s “role-playing of different characters”. With dates of creation spanning more than 20 years, these works can be seen collectively as a sort of autobiography by Wenling. The frail, scrawny silhouettes of the Little Red Men nevertheless exude an unstoppably positive spirit, as if to say that despite hunger and hardship, every last one of them harboured thoughts of a world filled with joy and wonder. Through these hopeful and even childlike emotions, Wenling etched into his work China’s century of simultaneous material impoverishment and spiritual richness. In this way, these Little Red Men have earned themselves a perennial place among collectors and art historians, forever to remain a unique landmark in the annals of Chinese art history.
Curated by Viahsta Yuan
Advisory Committee: Vancouver Biennale, Michael Suh
Online Panel Talk: Public Art in Chen Wenling's Artistic Practice
born in 1969, Fujian Province, China. Chen is recognized as one of the most significant artists in the history of Chinese contemporary art. He has held over 115 exhibitions nationally and internationally, and presented at the Venice Biennale and Chicago’s Millennium Park. His works are collected by major museums and art institutions around the world. To name a few, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, Denver Art Museum and White Rabbit Gallery.