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Solo exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist Chen Fei opens at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
CHEN Fei 陳飛, Renaissance in the Bush 草叢裡的文藝復興. Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 80 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

HONG KONG.- Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, is presenting Flesh and Me, a solo exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist Chen Fei, currently living and working in Beijing. Chen was born in the Hongtong County of Shanxi Province, China in 1983 and graduated in 2005 from the Fine Arts Department of the Beijing Film Academy.

The new exhibition is comprised of seven paintings mainly executed in 2013, and is a record of Chen’s major transition in life, including his first taste of independent adult living in 30 years. Flesh and Me is a continuation as well as an end to his last solo exhibition, Stranger (2011), in terms of themes and visual language. As with his earlier works the pieces are never about grand social discourses, but recollections with his heroine and exaggerated visualizations of his wild imaginations. Among the seven pieces, “Step Father’’ marks the beginning of a new series, highlighting the definitive style of Chen’s work in the coming two years.

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 labor’, who meticulously paints his canvases in exquisite detail. His technique can be traced back to Chinese traditional Gong-bi paintings, characterized 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 fibers, 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 colors 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 colors. 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.

Chen Fei was born in 1983 Hongtong, Shanxi, China. He lives and works in Beijing.

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