By Lv Peng
Bergson had a notion: “Beauty is in duration.” He regarded all living beings as in duration, and duration manifests the nature of being itself. When duration evolves into a new realm, it becomes a stronger manifestation of life. And the highest duration, Bergson named it “beauty”. Artist Chen Wenling’s art creation path matches with Bergson’s notion of duration.
Chen Wenling is an inevitable artist in modern Chinese art history after 1978. Sculpture as one category of modern art provides another perspective to social issues. The social evolution in Chinese society over the past four decades, especially the transformation in bottom society, has deeply influenced the artistic creation of Chen. His personal experience in this rapidly changing society, the consumerism and insatiable material desire brought by exponential wealth increase from economic development, and the clashes and blends of civilizations from globalization, with Chinese folk cultures and traditions, are the main ingredients of his creation, as well as the basis for “duration”. In terms of the art language, his art and creation can be categorized into three stages: personal experience, human desire, and community illusion. The three stages are in succession but also supplement each other. And together, they constitute the “duration” of artist’s art and life experience.
Personal experience: During this stage, there is an evident link between his personal life and art creation. Being attacked by a group of criminals by the seaside is the origin and inspiration of his “Red Man” series. This series as a metaphor for the bottom society restructuring period during social evolution, and for the struggle and fight of bottom society individuals, became the first “duration” in his art life.
Human desire: During this stage, the artist’s life experience extends to a higher level. His attention is no longer limited to personal experience but more steered towards the society. He witnessed the increase of social wealth, while at the same time the loss of cultural and artistic nourishment, and consequently the ever-growing desire of human. Ornately dressed pig, elephant of strange shapes, coarse and gaudy bull – the artist dissolves the elegant art with the most vulgar and tacky characters, replacing civilization with primitive pleasure. This could as well be regarded as a realistic “social spectacle” the artist conveys to today’s audience.
Community illusion: With growing age and experience, or maybe due to special personal life trajectory, in recent years, the artist attention has been shifted from individual life to universal meaning and the destiny of human as a community. In his “Universe” and “Community” series, at the spotlight of his artistic creation are life in a bigger sense, and the interaction of civilizations. Globalization has largely facilitated trade and communication, but the difference between value systems and barriers between civilizations have always existed, with even occurrence of violent conflicts. These conflicts and barriers underlie the seemingly glorious and promising modern society. Civilization has this innate wish to extend, and merge of human civilizations into a community is inevitable in this age of globalization. However, this path of merge is accompanied by conflicts and dispute, and “community” remains but a bright illusion, such is the concern and apprehension of the artist. And it is for this exact reason, that the artist and his reflection on life are coming closer to the highest stage of “duration”.
There is no clear-cut approach in the categorization of artists and their works, since art languages are spontaneous and innovative. Those exaggerated but interesting figures demonstrate the liberation of artist’s thought and creation arisen from the evolution in social mindset. The artist applies this freedom to convert the mediocre or even indecent figures into vivid and story-telling contemporary fable, which itself also extends, and elevates together with the artist’s understanding of art and life. The fable or “duration” appears unreal and dramatic, but actually exists in daily reality. The audience as well as the artist, may be unsettled by the fable, or may choose to face it upfront – such is the meaning of Chen Wenling’s art to contemporary Chinese sculpture history, and also how artists present the human fable of “duration” to today’s audience.
About the exhibition
Organizators: China Minsheng Bank / Beijing Minsheng Art Museum
Co-organizator: Beijing Minsheng Foundation for Arts and Culture
Sponsor: Parkview Green Art Lilang(China)Co.Ltd
Support: Beijing Landsky Environmental Technology Co.,Ltd GUOCHUANG GLOBAL(BEIJING) LOGISTICS CO., LTD
Producer: Zhou Xujun
Curator: Lv Peng
Assistant Curator: Wang Yan, Su Yang, Li Guohua
Opening: Dec.29 (Sunday), 2019 15:30
Duration: Dec.29, 2019—Feb.28, 2020
Venue: Beijing Minsheng Art Museum
Courtesy of the artist and Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, for further information please visit www.msam.cn.