Thank you. I was born in Shanghai, where I completed my degrees and continue to live and work. I started to learn Chinese ink paintings since I was very young, and later turned to the study and practice of western painting after I went to middle school. My major in the Academy of Fine Arts of Shanghai Normal University was traditional western oil painting. After graduation, I continued my own artistic practice. There was one year in which I stopped producing my own works, and instead, I travelled to many small counties within China and painted murals for local museums with friends. Then I came back to making my own creations again, and met my representative gallery Don Gallery through a mutual friend. We have been working together ever since. The collaboration with Perrotin began with an occasional encounter, followed by a studio visit, and they started to follow my works. Until this year, they decided to organize a solo exhibition at the Hong Kong space.
The exhibition title is in Latin, which means “without hope, without fear” in English. It was Caravaggio’s motto. This eloquent phrase came up to me when I was thinking about the title for the show. I admire Caravaggio a lot. I think the best way to understand the title is to connect every work in the show to it. I blended my understanding and extended interpretation of the phrase in my works.
Just as I said, Caravaggio’s work and life influenced me. During the years in exile after he accidentally killed a provocateur, he continuously created stunning paintings, with fear and anxiety of being arrested. I feel inspired by such talented people.
I found a napkin made of special texture at a hotel restaurant in Ireland. I took it back to Shanghai as a sample and found the felt I use for my current practice in the fabric market. Compared to traditional linen, its fluffy texture on the surface is more subtle in terms of the realization of details. Perhaps it provides a different angle for the audience to view from. Graphite is one of the oldest materials in painting media history. I chose it because I have been using it since the very beginning when I started drawing, and I am very familiar with its characteristics.
I always believe that the origin of our feelings, desires and interpretations of fate can be traced back to Greek mythology. Those are the characteristics that everyone inherits and eventually passes on, of course including myself. Therefore, I wish I can have my own language to delineate those eternal motifs. It is very difficult for me to define how these latest collection of works fit into my practice as a whole, as my artistic career has just begun to take off, isn’t it? I will continue the series of “Study in Figures” and present various emotions and feelings through paintings.
There are always figuritive images and baffling emotions intertwined during the production process. I use printed/digital images that I had collected time by time for the draft and make other relevant preparations, then I narrow down and decide the basic elements such as composition, and start to paint, which takes a much longer period. The size of each painting depends on the emotion contained in the work. For instance, the scale of “Study in Figures” focuses on the visual influence of fierce wrestling on the audience, otherwise the strength and tension that I want to express will weaken. The choice of size may be deliberate or accidental, for instance, the door and windows of my studio sometimes also limit the dimensions.
In a sense, painting is a simple thing. I am not really concerned about the challenges that Chinese artists are facing at present. If I had the time to think about it, I would rather spend that time painting more pieces.
I’ve become more short-sighted recently. I think perhaps it is better to view my future in a myopic way, focusing on what I want to paint, steadfastly one work after another – this is my plan for the future. I hope I can make conversations with Caravaggio through my compositions, if it could be achieved someday.
Chen Rong, a painter of the Southern Song Dynasty. He depicted dragons throughout his life. There is no reason to not admire a person who portrayed dragons in the way he did.
'NEC SPE, NEC METU' runs through 19 August 2017 at Perrotin, Hong Kong. For more information on the exhibition, click here.
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