To gain a better understanding of this artist, I would refer the audience to his debut exhibition Matisse’s Skirt. The relationship between each work was more like an echo rather than a repetition. The lustful swan in the 2013 work Leda Leda and the Swan appears also in the painting Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven, but this time as a swan who makes it into heaven after death.
The work titles in the exhibition go beyond simply being just a name, they also function to sublimate and extend the work’s meaning, and are as important as the lines or color on the canvas itself. A 2016 work, Figurative Portrait of Abstract Artist depicts the artist Sean Scully in a dressing gown while working - he looks like both a king and prisoner. It is a painting both satirical and ironic, from its title to the painting of the scene. Faced with a composition that is a mixture of things and produced using methods of appropriation, we could do well to borrow a state of viewing one uses to enjoy the carefree ‘Mo Lei Tau’ style of comedy in 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 art history or the art world, looking at a painting by Wu Chen can be absorbing as it is interesting. He tampers, appropriates and mixes together works and artists found within the annals of art history. The art world is becoming more like an underworld of gangsters. When talking about art, the words of an artist are like ciphers understood only by their inner circle. If however, you happen to be not so conversant with art history, this shouldn’t put you off and turn you away either. A misreading has always been one other way of reading and often leads to the creation of something that can be much more unexpected.
The skill found within a painting ought to be matched with expressions of ‘good painting’ and ‘bad painting’, which is relative to its content. It is precisely here, which can be regarded as the pinnacle of a mergence where form and content come together well. Wu Chen has a habit of using acrylic in order to maintain the coarseness of the brush stroke. He does this so he can modify as well as embellish while he paints. You simply cannot wait on a joke as otherwise you can end up offending it.
‘Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven’ is the title of this exhibition. This does not mean that you can draw a conclusion that therefore good people must go to hell. The font used for the exhibition title is taken from a calligraphy style used by Mao Zedong – the first character for ‘bad’ and the last character for the word heaven have become illegible. But there is really need to worry either - you can just read the sentence that ‘man reaches the sky’.
Liu Ye 2017.2.9