Chen Wei: Noon Insomnia: Chen Wei
Ota Fine Arts Singapore is delighted to present "Chen Wei: Noon Insomnia", a survey of 12 representative works by the Chinese artist, selected from the beginnings of his career to his latest series. The solo exhibition marks Chen Wei's debut with the gallery.
Part of an emerging generation of Chinese artists born in the 1980's who have become less concerned with political criticism or history as their predecessors, than they are with youth culture, intellectual freedom and identity, Chen Wei has developed an idiosyncratic aesthetic through the language of photography.
Interestingly, the artist responds to the conditions of China's frantically developing, urbanised landscape by choosing a slower and more meticulous route with his media. His works are usually sketched and assembled with hand-made, miniature models first, and then photographed in his studio in Beijing, becoming more about the discrete elements that unite their composition, than about immediate or straightforward documentation. The various series developed since 2006 contain haunting visual poems, cinematically composed and rich with intricate detail.
While working on set at a television station and assisting other video artists before beginning his own practice, Chen Wei cultivated a heightened sensibility for directing and staging an image, rather than simply capturing it. By taking his childhood memories, chance encounters, paradoxical situations or philosophical dilemmas and fantasies as starting points for his creative process, Chen has evolved his work into poignant allegories on modern life in China.
An early work that lends the exhibition its puzzling title, Noon Insomnia, demonstrates the artist's contemplation of the Kafkaesque paradox of embarking on a journey that leads to nowhere. Slumped in a sinking boat, it seems that the man pictured is resigned to his inertia with no hope of crossing to the other side. At the same time, the title references Chen Wei's own childhood in a village in the 80's, where he would sneak outdoors while the factory workers and other children went home for an afternoon nap. Reflecting on this suspended time of restlessness, he acknowledges the uneasy change in labour during the following decade and questions its direction.
Following the artist's footsteps from a landscape akin to his rural hometown in Zhejiang Province to the big capital, another early work is Countless Unpredictable Stand. A rare self-portrait of Chen holding onto a duck, poised on a high-rise rooftop, the work is about a longing to escape (geographical relocation from village to the city, or also metaphysical, spiritual) and enact a fantasy of flying, despite its obvious futility (a duck cannot fly). With a view of a dense urban horizon, the yearnings and fears the artist expresses are admittedly universal amongst youth dwarfed by such sprawling cities.
Rain umbrella is one of Chen's signature works which depict isolated, absurdly oriented objects. While playing with objects found in his studio, he noticed an unusual, surreal combination. Long needles puncture an abandoned umbrella, and a tool used to prevent people from getting wet is rendered totally useless. However, Chen unveils an unexpected beauty in an object which has lost its original function.
In all of his works, the artist dazzles the viewer's imagination with his staging of mysterious narratives, his attention to intricate detail, and his compositions' melancholy beauty. Chen Wei's photography reveals a deep capacity for discovering rich meaning in the subtle, for overturning and rendering exquisite the everyday, and for finding the poetic within the urban. Ota Fine Arts is proud to represent his work as part of a new frontier in Chinese contemporary art.
About the Artist
Born in Zhejiang Province, China, in 1980. Chen developed his practice in Hangzhou and later moved to Beijing, where he now lives and works. His photography, installation and research projects have been recognised in solo exhibitions around the world, including Chen Wei: In the Waves at Chi K11 Art Museum, Shanghai (2015); Chen Wei: The Stars in the Night Sky are Innumerable at Australia China Art Foundation, Sydney (2014); and Tight Rope at Yokohama Creative City Center (YCC), Yokohama, Japan (2011). He has also participated in numerous international group exhibitions, such as China 8, Works in Progress, Photography in China 2015, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (2015); Performance and Imagination: Chinese Photography 1911-2014, Stavanger Art Museum, Stavanger, Norway (2014); 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, USA (2013); and ON | OFF: China's Young Artists in Concept and Practice, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2013). Chen's work is included in the collections of as Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Yuz Museum, K11 Art Foundation and the Rubell Family Collection and many others.