Wu Chen: Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven
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Curator: Liu Ye
Magician Space is pleased to present its second solo exhibition with artist Wu Chen.
To better understand this artist, I would refer the audience back to his debut exhibition “Matisse’s Skirt”. The relationship between each work was more of an echo than defined by repetition. For example, the lustful swan featured in the 2013 work Leda Leda and the Swan makes another appearance in the painting Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven, but this time as a swan that makes it to heaven after death.
The titles of the paintings within the exhibition go beyond simply being just mere names. They also function to sublimate and extend the work’s meaning, becoming as important as the lines or color on the canvas itself. A 2016 work, Figurative Portrait of Abstract Artist depicts Sean Scully in a dressing gown while working – he looks both like a king or prisoner. The painting is both satirical and ironic, from its title down to the painting of the scene. Faced with a composition produced using a mixture of different methods of appropriation, it is perhaps best to view these paintings similarly to how one enjoys a ‘Mo Lei Tau’ style comedy from a Stephen Chow film. A nude Santa Claus in a brothel, Bin Laden holding a swan in his arms, and a baby-face Mondrian…
If you are familiar with either art history or the art world, looking at Wu Chen’s paintings can be absorbing as they are interesting. He tampers, appropriates and mixes together work and artists found deep within the annals of art history. As the art world becomes more like an underworld of gangsters, the words of an artist are increasingly like coded messages comprehensible only to an inner circle. If you do not happen to be as conversant with art history, this shouldn’t put you off either nor should you turn away. A misreading always has been one other way of reading and often leads to the creation of something unexpected.
The skill found within a painting ought to be matched with expressions of ‘good painting’ and ‘bad painting’ that are relative to the content. It is precisely here, where one can regard this point as the pinnacle where form and content unify together well. Wu Chen has a habit of using acrylic to control the coarseness of his brush stroke. He does this to alter, but also embellish as he paints – you cannot simply wait on the joke as you might end up offending it.
“Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven” is also the title of this exhibition. This does not necessarily draw the conclusion that good people therefore must go to hell. The font used for the exhibition title derives from a calligraphy style used by Mao Zedong – the first character for ‘bad’ and the last character of the Chinese word for ‘heaven’ have been rendered illegible. But there is no real need to worry regardless – you can simply look at the sentence and read that ‘man reaches the sky’.