A Thousand Plateaus Art Space

Chen Liangjie: Society as Still Life

Chen Liangjie: Society as Still Life

the horizon of international by chen liangjie

Chen Liangjie

The Horizon of International, 2011

childhood in north korea no.2 by chen liangjie

Chen Liangjie

Childhood in North Korea No.2, 2011

above by chen liangjie

Chen Liangjie

Above, 2012

Saturday, October 26, 2013Sunday, December 15, 2013


Chengdu, Sichuan China

Locus & Social as Still Life
Wang Chuan & Chen Liangjie Joint Solo Exhibition

In gold autumn season, A Thousand Plateaus Art Space is pleased to present Wang Chuan & Chen Liangjie Joint Solo Exhibition.

Chen Liangjie
Society as Still Life

October 26 - December 15, 2013
Opening: 3:00 - 6:00pm, October 26, 2013 (Saturday)

Chen Liangjie (b.1971, Chengdu) was graduated from China Academy of Art, Department of Oil Painting. Like many artists born in 1970s, Chen Liangjie’s creations keep paying attention to society; however, unlike many artists of the same generation, in his works, there is no attitude toward reality.

“For a very long time in Chen Liangjie’s works, he has tried to distance himself from the audience. He paints remote and open scene, while compresses the inner space, so that the space turns into flat, and one can only tell the distance according to the size in the picture... they always mentally consider them (characters in the picture) as ambiguous mini models, unrelated to us, like another existence. Once the people normally ignored by us are put into a scene without any context of daily life, “they” always present an abstraction of absence. The sense of distance between the works and audience come from two levels: visual perception and social psychology. In his recent works, it still exists, although in another way.”

In the presented works of “Social as Still Life”, “Chen Liangjie begins to choose media images. The so-called media images are always “meaningful”. No matter to a terrorist attack, a huge accident or a piece of gossip social news, photographs and images are always been used in proving the authenticity of something. However, photographs are always ambiguous and even quirkish…When Chen Liangjie transfers those images from the news website to the canvas, he is actually restoring the opaqueness of the images’ inherent meaning…However, for the visual requirement of paintings, a photograph looks always empty, therefore, many “photographic paintings” use thick pigment and heavy brushwork. Different from them, Chen Liangjie makes pigment thinner and clear, making the brushwork vague and uncertain, it seems that he doesn’t recreate a painting with a photograph, but to reconstruct a photograph on canvas in the way of painting, and transfer the authenticity of photographs into the authenticity of paintings…. If there was some lyrical expression of life experience in Chen Liangjie’s early works, he has almost removed both the emotion elements of painting and the social meaning of photographs. Emotion has been restored into feelings, images have been restored into vision, while among those levels of restoration, painting has gained the nonconvertible authenticity.” (quoted from Bao Dong’s comments “The Authenticity of Painting ”)

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The Authenticity of Painting — Chen Liangjie’s recent works
By Bao Dong

For a very long time in Chen Liangjie’s works, he has been trying to distance himself from the audience. He paints remote and open scenes and compresses the inner space, to make the space turns almost into flat, and the distance can only be told according to the sizes in the picture. As he has taken out both the contrast of field depth and the continuity of spatial depth, the audience intellectually know it is the distance makes the people in the picture seem tiny; however, mentally, they always consider them as ambiguous mini models, which are unrelated to us, like another existence. Once the people normally ignored by us are put into a scene without any context of daily life, “they” always present an abstraction of absence. This kind of distance between the works and audience come from two levels: visual perception and social psychology. In his recent works, although in another way, it still exists.

He begins to choose media images. The so-called media images are always “meaningful”. No matter to a terrorist attack, a huge accident or a piece of gossip social news, photographs and images are always been used as proofs. However, photographs are always ambiguous and even quirkish, so Benjamin didn’t think photograph could become a political art, or a kind of art spreading the meaning of ideology, without a title. Without titles or context, the authenticity of images will bring obstacles to the the meaning interpretation. When Chen Liangjie transfers those images from the news website to the canvas, he is actually restoring the opaqueness of the inherent meaning of the images.

Like advertising campaign, many people use media images for attention, while Chen Liangjie pays more attention to the ones with less attention. Therefore, he hasn’t chosen those successful press photographies. Most of the time, he picks more secondary images than standard reporting photographies. As Chen Liangjie notices, for a photograph, the further from the aesthetics in journalism, the closer to the reality; the further from the sense-making, the more exact its visual existence is. So photographs chosen by him are always from those unprofessional reporters, with no intensity in meaning or aesthetics. They were released casually on website, and were rapidly replaced by those more provocative images. Because that paintings are based on visual existence.

However, for visual requirement, photographs usually look too empty to support the image, therefore, many “photographic paintings” use thick pigment and heavy brushwork. Different from them, Chen Liangjie makes pigment thinner and clear, making the brushwork vague and uncertain, it seems that he doesn’t recreate a painting with a photograph, but to reconstruct a photograph on canvas in the way of painting, and transfer the authenticity of photographs into the authenticity of paintings. With the plain tone, even texture, the avoidance of body modeling and intended style managing, the traits of photographs are carefully translated to the painting, to make Chen’s work become a kind of phenomenological observation. If in Chen Liangjie’s early works there was some lyrical expression of life experience, he has almost removed both the emotion elements of painting and the social meaning of photographs now. Emotion has been restored into feelings, images have been restored into vision, while among those levels of restoration, painting has gained the nonconvertible authenticity of its own.

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The Landscape of Chen Liangjie
By Xu Sheng

Chen Liangjie’s recent works are always wandering between hiding and revealing. At this point, it’s some like his early works. In “Only Landscape Can Be Seen” (2010), the picture is quartered. At the left top, a man is running in the desert. He seems wearing a white shirt, black sweatpants and a hair style of literary youth of 1980s. He is running attentively and bowing his head, revealing no emotion. Around him, there seems a field in the North. The sky is heavy; everything seems misted over, every emotion, as well as the symbolic meaning of the landscape and character, is depressed. They are all nubilous. In the other three parts, the picture was covered gray, which is even deeper than the sky, too deep to see anything. All the information is in the first part, although there is nothing except for what we can see. The title “Only Landscape Can Be Seen” (2010) is implying some answer, some secret in the picture, which is, however, invisible.

In Chen Liangjie’s recent works, secrets turn open. At the beginning, the scene of the picture was frankly presenting its own characteristics, only, these characteristics are divorced from the story, and just of their own. They are luggage, patches on the wall, turbid water, or singing children…They are presentations of the scenes, and with the lowest narrativity. Instead, the artist pays all attention to the characteristics. Those characteristics, as the most basic presentation of painting, bring them a kind of pure visual attraction, and making them frank.

However, these characteristics show a strange feeling, to remind the audience something hidden. Sometimes some truths seem to exist in the details and sometimes they seem excluded from the composition, one angular deflection can reveal all. The colors and shapes in the painting present the incontrovertible objective characteristics while deliberately avoid those strange truths. Thus these visible characteristics change into some kind of silence, cheating and even threat, to make people find their eyes imprisoned.

And then, the story of the scene becomes the only possibility of breaking the imprisonment. They can only be known through description. Most of the time, they are related to some social events, for example, the turbid water is in fact a heavy blood; or they are related to some well-known backgrounds, for example, the singing children are from North Korea. In fact there’s no need to list those backgrounds here, because Chinese readers can easily understand them just according to few keywords, and find the picture characteristics is almost revealing the whole story. The keyword is an unimpressive knife which can cut the whole mist.

But the point of these works is not to lead the audience to a guessing game, cause once the answer is found, we will come back to the picture. Everything in the picture changes into a scene or a stage, on which nothing is performing. They are scenes before the key events happen, or parts of the happening events, or remains after the events. The only performance in the picture happens between the audience and the events. After the audiences get some of the answers, they will search for the others in the same way. The drama exists right in the process of viewing: all the viewers enter the same background which is well-known and well-remembered by everyone who understands today’s reality, deeply. A common and silent memory spreads in the space composed of different works.

Therefore, the color and brushwork of the painting itself begins to bear another viewing, which points to the memory and to the inner world. From this moment, every characteristic of the objects in the picture will be repeatedly searched by the eye of memory. In the drama of vision and memory, the viewing focus is pulled back to the characteristics of the painting itself, which is the only juncture between memory and the picture. In the picture, there is no self-narrative, all the narrative exists in the viewers’ memory. For this reason, if Chen Liangjie’s works is a stage, everything in the picture is a part of the stage, which are invisible stories happening only in the viewers’ memory. Scene is something happening, it’s a story with roles and backgrounds; while stage is something still, nothing will happen to itself. Then in fact, Chen Liangjie’s works are more like stages that show themselves only. Or rather, excluding the viewing process, the stage-like pictures are more like landscape. They present themselves, viewers wonder inside, but have no shelter before they find the key clue.

Beyond all question, Chen Liangjie’s works can be included in “social theme”. Chinese artists who were born in 1970s or earlier always follow social reality. It’s undoubtedly related to their life experience. However, with the development of China’s contemporary art, “sociality” has already become a formulary of creation, or even a formulary of promotion and so-called theoretical construction. In such a situation, no doubt it’s unwise to stand still, but it’s no more than a new label if one just hurriedly changes his creative idea and sets up a new characteristic.

Chen Liangjie’s exploration is different, he continues his habitual attention to social theme, but he doesn’t consider social attitude or position as his ulterior motive any more. He doesn’t provide any attitude to reality, but changes descriptions of reality into the depiction of scenes. During this process, sociality becomes the materials, instead of the final direction, of the painting. Both the understanding and interpretation of events and reality have been collected at the moment of unmasking; and in fact the tension in vision and memory before and after the moment is more important. It comes from the viewers’ survey to the picture and their review of memory.

The new survey brings the painting focus back to the depiction, as well as the connection between vision and the inner world. As mentioned before, the work “Only Landscape Can Be Seen” (2010) is an experiment on depiction and narration mode with a constructional picture; With the new works presented in this exhibition, he begins to choose a visual way to make works face reality in a way of “reproduction”. Aiming at the viewers’ immediate memory and experience, he chooses reproduction to transfer the constructional vision into the unstructured pictures. This brings Chen Liangjie’s new works endless space, and helps him take a new look at his paintings and its relationship with the trend of China’s contemporary painting. At this moment, Chen Liangjie faces the tension between the reality and the self again, like all the artists do. But this time, the correspondence between self and reality is beyond sociology, and enters a more original identity of an artist, as well as the rethinking of painting. In such thoughts, Chen Liangjie’s landscape belongs only to himself, it’s deep in reality.