Long Museum (West Bund) presents the large solo exhibition of Chen Yujun entitled “Sheng Zhang” from 31 January to 9 May 2021. It focuses on Chen’s recent socially engaged practice, which includes the cross-boundary experiments completed in collaboration with creators in other sectors, the repeated attempts to construct his native place as the local field, while highlighting the artist’s latest ink-collage series. The mere aim is to give a comprehensive introduction of his evolving language for the plane constitution.
Responding to the chaotic changes around the globe of the past year, Chen Yujun set the starting point of the “growing” exhibition in a giant mansion that is site-specifically produced. By creating a contradicting atmosphere where the old and the new merge, the rise and fall alter, he metaphorizes the present social-cultural situations. On the one hand, the terraced and sinking space of the gallery under the rendering in the golden tone much resembles a huge and delicate container that bears the extravagance and waste, shining with radiances. On the other hand, the walls of the gallery are painted with distressed detailing of decadences, which seems as having been used over the years, and any material remains may collapse like dust in an instant. However, it is with such spatiotemporal factors that the artist breeds new artistic lives. His artist fellows develop a special landscape together, causing a continuous flow of dynamics in the exhibition. They re-examine the established social-cultural limits, investigate the intrinsic rules of the metabolic view of the global history when people lose the identification with the collective self, thus opening up a conceptual channel for multiple dialogues, multiple intergrowths, and multiple convergences.
Chen Yujun, Map of Asia No.171013, Collage on paper mounted on silk, 244.5x126.5cm, 2017. Courtesy Long Museum and the Chen Yujun studio.Installation Rendering. Courtesy the Chen Yujun studio.
Next comes the 22-meter-long re-sculpted scene Mulan River that originates from the body of water existing in Chen Yujun’s hometown Putian, Fujian. It is indeed the most significant concept in the artist’s works. The artist and his older brother Chen Yufan initiated the scheme in title of Mulan River in 2007 to transform the long-standing experience of “migrating” or “exiling”, and the related stories of the personal, the familial and the clannish into a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). It extends the geopolitical reach of the place beyond its real borders. Engaging various forms and mediums, they have been rather accomplished in conveying the imagined and fictionized idea of “sailing south” by highly performed and ritualized actions. In 2020, Chen Yujun decided to revisit Mulan River. He has returned to the traditional humanism and once again cultivated the cohesiveness and expressiveness of the local value, while reflecting on the human ecosystem in the post-global era from both the introvert and extrovert perspectives. Together with his team, the artist resided in the vernacular architecture and building complex to collect the elements in different community activities and habits, trying to shape an intermediate narrative that travels between sensory memories. In fact, part of the river has been reformed into a water park, and many households of hybrid exotic styles have been demolished. Therefore, the installation of Mulan River in the exhibition illustrated how the mother water is incarnated in the artist’s mind as a “prototype” or “primitive image” that helps constitute his aesthetic psychological structure.
Installation Rendering. Courtesy the Chen Yujun studio.
More importantly, when making the realistic depictions and symbolic representations of Mulan River, Chen Yujun has developed a set of techniques that superimposes the concrete and abstract, bridging the two divergent qualities into a unified whole. Such a feature is obviously executed in his collages, in which he applies photographs, prints, newspapers as the beginning and later incorporates painting and installation work to process a mixed content.The accumulation of scattered surfaced materials turns into a strong motive force to affect the social-cultural balance.
The new ink-collage series with the same title as the exhibition “Sheng Zhang” is composed of Chen’s own ink painting on paper. The previous paintings in black and white or colors imitating the same natural scenery are torn down into fragmented pieces, all of which are then juxtaposed, interweaved, progressed, being regenerated just as the metabolism proceeds. The crisscrossed and variegated textures of the collages deeply embodies the artist’s spirit of revolt. He deliberately breaks or dissolves the gap between the mainstream creation and the mass creation in the contemporary art system, providing a fertile ground for “growth”.
Detail of “Sheng Zhang” Series. Courtesy the Chen Yujun studio.
About the artist
Chen Yujun (b. 1976, Putian, Fujian) graduated from the Integrated Art Department at China Academy of Art in 1999. From 1999 to 2014, he has taught at the Integrated Art and the Oil Painting Departments at China Academy. He is currently living and working in Shanghai.
In the past decade, Chen’s work focuses on the conflicts between the inner-self and the external influences. He attempts to examine how individuals from contemporary Asian countries face their own fragmented and shifting identities under the influence of multiculturalism and its evolving position. By integrating images and symbols, emotions and concepts, he explores the various spatial aspects of notions such as “local imagination” to contemplate the ambiguity of the post-globalized landscape.
Chen Yujun makes excellent use of multiple mediums including painting, collage and installation. He believes that the existing materials from everyday life may all become the intermediary for artistic practice, while the mundane elements eliminate strangeness and distanceness. The artist also builds his painting and collage into installations, inviting the audience to examine the scale of the work by themselves and its liquid boundary.
Recent solo exhibitions include “Each Single Self” (Arario Gallery, Seoul, 2020), “Chen Yujun” (Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2019), “Reflection from the Golden Dome” (Rén Space, Shanghai, 2018), “The River Never Remembers” (Arario Gallery & BANK, Shanghai, 2017), “The Second Door” (James Cohen Gallery, Shanghai, 2015), “Space Graphy No.1” (AYE Gallery, Beijing, 2014), “Transitional Room” (Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing, 2012), “The Empty Room” (Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing, 2010), etc. Joint solo exhibitinos with Chen Yufan include “Mulan River – Voyage” (A+ Contemporary, Taipei, 2018), “Mulan River – Cuò” (Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Petach Tikva, 2017), “White” (Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong, 2016), “Mulan River – Unsettled” (Zhong Gallery, Berlin, 2012), “Mulan River” (Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing, 2011), etc.
Chen Yujun has been on show at Long Museum (Shanghai, 2020/2014), Beijing Minsheng Art Museum (Beijing, 2019/2017/2015), Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts (Taipei, 2018), OCT Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai (Shanghai, 2017), Today Art Museum (Beijing, 2016), Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art (Guangzhou, 2015), Si Shang Art Museum (Beijing, 2015), Guan Shanyue Art Museum (Shenzhen, 2013), Groninger Museum (Groninger, 2013), Galeri Nasional Indonesia (Jakarta, 2013), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing, 2013), Veneto Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts (Venice, 2012), Times Art Museum (Beijing, 2010), etc. He has also participated the 2nd Anren Biennale (2019), the 8th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2014), the 2nd Chengdu Biennale (2005), etc.
Public collections include Arario Museum (Seoul), Brooklyn Museum (New York), DSL Collection (Paris), He Xiangning Art Museum (Shenzhen), Long Museum (Shanghai), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), M+ Sigg Collection (Hong Kong), White Rabbit Collection / White Rabbit Gallery (Sydney), Yuz Museum (Shanghai), etc.
About the exhibition
Planner: Pan Tao, Xiao Bin
Academic Director: Xu Jian, Lu Mingjun, Cui Cancan, Xia Kejun, Sun Tian
Duration: 31 January, 2021 – 9 May, 2021
Venue: Snails Gallery, Long Museum (West Bund), 3398 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China
Courtesy of the artist and Long Museum (West Bund), for further information please visit www.thelongmuseum.org.