Largely recognized as one of the most important Chinese artists of the last two decades, Chen Zhen‘s (b.1955, Shanghai – 2000) work derives from his personal experience of migrating and working across different continents and cultures. Chen Zhen drew inspiration from his own life experience, travelling between his native city of Shanghai and Paris, responding to and engaging with contemporary social issues across different cultures.
The new exhibition will focus on Chen Zhen‘s travels in and out of Shanghai during the 1990s, reflecting on the rapid changes of social reality within the city at this time. Chen Zhen frequently returned to Shanghai during this period and developed a series of new works responding to the changing social landscape as Shanghai established itself as a new global city. Large scale installations on display, such as Le Bureau de change and Daily Incantations reveal this interest in Shanghai’s urban and socio-economic developments and provide a commentary on the changing daily life Chen Zhen witnessed.
Throughout the exhibition, Chen Zhen’s keen interest in human conditions is presented, from his reflections on his own personal health, seen in the delicate alabaster and crystal sculptures of Zen Garden and Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (Coq), against the backdrop of an ever-changing economic, political and social landscape. Using a range of new and recycled materials, many of the installations include everyday objects that could be found on the streets but have been transformed into performative and site-specific assemblages. Alongside more traditional objects such as Chinese chamber pots and coins, Chen Zhen also worked with new technologies and digital media, marrying cultural heritages with contemporary innovations in order to create a synergy reflective of the contemporary world.
- Le bureau de change, 1996 - 2004. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska. Courtesy of Galleria Continua
- Purification Room, 2000- 2015. Photo by: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy of Galleria Continua
- Zen Garden , 2000. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska. Courtesy of Galleria Continua