Chen Fei, Shanxi-born Beijing Film Academy graduate, has been a devoted fan of the silverscreen since young age; which significantly influenced Chen’s oeuvre, from the subjects to the compositions of his paintings. And this new exhibition at Galerie Perrotin features seven paintings mainly produced in 2013 as a reflection of his first taste of independent adulthood.
Chen attributes his personal preference of portraying the vulgar to his upbringing. Describing the education he received as traditional and barbaric, he believes it is this inappropriate taste that differentiates him from other artists. Proposing that not fitting within the conventional notion of “beauty” does not equate to the bad. Chen’s black humor is displayed through his paintings that are intended to stir emotions and sensory sensations, by challenging this very concept of good and bad taste, both aesthetically and morally where subjects swing between decency and the lack of it. As observed in the tattooed bodies, a penis that is about to be castrated and the anatomized human parts, notions of sex, desire and violence are prevalent in Chen’s pieces. He playfully undermines the value of art, life and death by an almost squeamish processing of the pictures. The seemingly carefree, at times idealized backgrounds impassively hypnotize us in their game-liked atmosphere, which on the contrary serve to heighten the cruelty represented. This dialogue not only challenges the accepted art historical canon of beauty but also reflects the nonconformist attitude held by many artists of the Post-80’s generation from China.
Despite his seemingly frivolous images, Chen in fact holds a very conscientious approach when he paints. He is an artist that belongs to the ‘school of exhaustive labour’, who meticulously paints his canvases in exquisite detail. His technique can be traced back to Chinese traditional Gong-bi paintings, characterised by extreme precision. Lean closer to Chen’s works and you will discover a tenacity in his visual rhetoric, in which not a single stroke is out of place: the labyrinth of veins and muscle fibres, the suffocating sea of plantation and the delicate delineation of human hair. Forgoing his everyday life in his slightly masochistic dedication to painting, working day after day, night after night, he finds the feeling of success even sweeter after a bitter struggle. The complicated and even mechanic execution of lines and colours are obsessively clean, sharp and restrained. Together with his use of the super-flat technique, Chen has achieved the perfect balance between composition and his methodological application of colours. All these give rise to an alienating effect that distances the viewer, yet by this very act compels them to accept passively the existence of the hyperrealist scenes that are depicted.
Flesh and Me
8 January – 15 March 2014
Galerie Perrotin, 50 Connaught Road Central, 17th Floor, Hong Kong