The café, perched above the 798 art district, was empty, giving the sunlight a golden opportunity to shadow wooden tables. The setting seemed apt as across the table from me sat Chen Qingqing, a leading light, in more ways than one, of Chinese contemporary art.
With a major exhibition, “Fantasy Museum” showing at the Yuan Art Museum, her first in three years, Qingqing is relishing the chance to show her work, which focuses on wooden drawer installations, fiber hemp grass garments and light boxes, to a new audience.
The artist collected more than 100 pieces of used furniture to make the drawer series. “The drawers are taken from ordinary lives yet each contain our most personal candid memories. When we clean out the drawers, we clean up our personal history, our internal storage”.
“As children we are taught to be afraid, we are told don’t do this or that. We place incredible pressure on our youth.” One of the drawers features a doll balancing twenty books on her head.
Chen started making the fiber garments when she worked in Vienna decades ago. The artist often treats heavy things lightly such as portraying history in floating bright forms of Ming Dynasty clothing.
There is an undeniable delight in viewing the delicate interlocking of fibers with occasionalplant leaves and flower buds interspersed, building a gentle structure, transforming the grass fibers into a form of organic history.
The light boxes are showing on a lower level in a labyrinth of dark rooms.
This is where Chen reveals what happens when the internal becomes twisted and contorted, it needs to unravel and play out different dramas, to unfold and become manageable once more.
Once these readymade objects enter the space of the light box a narrative begins and a language is born. A disemboweled television set frames the work “Clone Love” showing a little foot stretching out from the knobs making the TV sets a mysterious vessel for rebirth.
ChenQingqing’s work can be found in the China National Museum, NewYork New Museum, National Musuem of Natural History Paris and numerous private collections worldwide.
Chen will be exhibiting work in September with the project ‘Intimate Transgressions’ showing at the WhiteBox Art Centre, New York. This show will tour Beijing in October and Shanghai in November 2015.
Museum of Fantasy -The Yuan Art Museum, 112 Lizexiyuan North Guangshun Street Wangjing, Chaoyang District, Beijing from June 12th to July 14th 2015.
Produced by Gu Yan and curated by Gu Yan and Liang Kegang
If you wish to read more about the artist Chen Qingqing and curator articles and essays here is a link to a beautiful E – book on her work.
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