Supernormal:Works of Chen Wenling

2018.08.19-2018.09.14 1F Powerlong Building, No.1399 Xinzhen Road

Chen Wenling: An Exceptional Discharge of Mentality


Curator Gu Zhenqing


Being exceptional is a way of thinking, which serves as a receipt for artists to push the boundaries of conventions and stand out in a singular language of form. Conventions, to Chen Wenling, suggest the fixed stereotypes, past inclinations, tendencies in addition to the rules and principles inhered in the paradigm of art history. However, the rules and regulations are double-edged, the set of rules not only functions as a means to pry into the existing artistic heritage and investigate into the currently applicable rules of art, but serves as a sort of confinement that blocks off the rather complicated background and profound logics of the modern visual movements and consolidate the paradigm of history of contemporary art in addition to its symbolic prototype. Not being hampered and shackled by the conventions, Chen Wenling thinks highly of the innate freedom. Assembling a way of electricity discharge, his way of thinking turns out to be non-linear, radiant, vibrant and reassembled, bypassed, and integrated at the same time. Chen Wenling’s indulgence towards free will and critique of worldly society just allow his thought to further develop and envision. The developing and envisioning of his thought has been explicitly observed in his works in an unrestrained manner, exhaustively touching upon the barriers between narration and form, signifier and signified and forming a context going beyond semiotic pedigree as well as a sort of individualized production of knowledge. Chen Wenling’s wide range of vivid, symbolic images, manifestly, turns out to be a visual, textual linage of logocentrism where symbols are closely related and interactive like a type of reciprocal causation; moreover, all of them may resort to mundanity, exaggeration, struggle against themselves as a result of lateral thinking and reverse thinking, meanwhile, they may resort to transcendence, parnassianism, and theodicy of the universe as a means of parallel thinking and multiple thinking. 

   Chen Wenling was born in Anxi of Fujian province where the close relation between the folk customs relating to sculptures and the worship of Mazu and shamanism in the coastal areas has formulated a cultural heritage that profoundly lies in the depth of his knowledge structure and humanistic cultivation. Such a cultural heritage originates from a detailed cognition and in-depth perception of the nature of human beings’ existence. The cultural consciousness motivated by his spontaneous perception and experience of life gives rise to his identity of himself and the locality, thus, the artist could fearlessly confront the psychological and humanistic crises of different times, locales and people. An un unmodifiable conflict appears, as the problems and crises denoted in the modern social order and consumerist pop culture, in a way, incorporate into the original impulse and powerfulness of life showcased in the images of figures and animals depicted by Chen Wenling. Such a fascinating force enables the artist to equip his allegorical narration and sarcasm with a style of magic realism. In the collection of Chen Wenling’s integrated works, he brings together the ready-made sculptures or iconic subjects from pop culture in a supernormal way and reassemble, integrate them as a whole. Either the figures depicting struggles of human beings in realistic life or the collective manifestation of materialism in the consumer society is transformed into dynamic visual element through the integrative language of form. After being transformed, pairs or groups of unattached symbolic images denote utterly diverse denotations through the “shift of signifier” in linguistic form as seen in Chen Wenling’s magically integrated structures. Such a sculptural installation manifests an expressiveness that unites the concurrence of the new and the old, angels and evils, commencing and collapsing as well. 

From the previous works of Chen Wenling such as Red BoyHappy LifeExotic Landscapeto the recent Graces of My Heartseries, all of Chen Wenling’s mischievous characters and symbolic objects of all kinds feature a visually magic recognizability. The knowledge base, metaphors and symbolism of these images could trace back to the ideas of “Original Home” and humanistic traditions of Chinese civilization which highly advocated “Man is integral with nature” and animism. Relying on a sort of supernormal” advancement and transformation of the symbolic images in his own works, the artist centers on his in-depth observation and examination of the surviving conditions of human beings today, meanwhile, highlights his boundless imaginations and anxieties about the evolvement of human beings in the future. Chen Wenling’s own experience and self-knowledge not only formed and renewed the symbolic scheme re-established by himself, it also extended his extraordinarily unspeakable dialogue with the external world.