Carving out a name for herself

Updated: Feb 28, 2022 By Xu Haoyu China Daily Print
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Instead of painting on canvas, Chen Yan uses a knife to carve on silver bromide, an emulsion used in photography and film, presenting a new form of artistic expression.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The series of work was created after Chen went on a field trip with friends, studying historical sites along Hangzhou West Lake and visiting the three inscriptions left behind by Su.

This group of works not only uses lines to sketch the hills and mountains, but also directly rub the texture of the wood and stones into the silver film on the rocky cliffs of the mountains and the overturned gnarled wood, to express Su's tolerance and optimism with this combination.

His life experience was more than traveling around the nation, he saw more than the views in front of him. Chen imagined walking on the same path breaking through time and space, feeling the world as Su did.

"In fact, it's more of introspective observation and reflection," Chen says, "it's one of Su, also one day of our life." In the atrium of the gallery, audiences could see another group of Chen's works, Seven Days, dangling from the ceiling, while the warm sunlight in early winter streams down through windows.

The work consists of seven pieces of 3-meter-long film that can be viewed from both sides. It's inspired by her personal life experience during the pandemic.

The series Seven Days was created in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak disrupted the rhythm and order of people's life and revealed the fragility of human beings. In the era of intelligence and globalization, the pandemic reminded people how unpredictable our life could be.

The work extracts elements from the natural landscape of West Lake, using mountains, trees, rocks and ancient pagodas as images, and a seven-day cycle as a closed loop, to show that one should always be in awe of nature and of life.

"The COVID-19 pandemic seems to change the order of the whole world suddenly. It makes me grow a deeper understanding of such uncontrollable factors. I can only present the content by scraping off the darkness on the silver film, the sense of uncertainty is overwhelming. Just like looking for light in the dark, I shall find a point in the cave," says Chen.

Xu Jiang, vice-president of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, who's also the director of the academic board of the China Academy of Art, thinks that Chen uses the subconscious line as if she were chopping in the peak.

"When Chen looks into the light, she sees the shadow. She walks in silence, lets nature guides her," Xu says.

A blogger from Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media platform, who named her account Art NFT, comments, "I've seen many artists working on the canvas with tools, but Chen is the first who smashes the canvas on the rocks."

She thinks this change in creative thinking is comparable to French painter Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) who presented an urinal, Argentine-Italian painter Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) who cut the canvas, and Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan who stuck a banana on the wall.

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