Jun Chen's latest exhibition is a celebration of landscape and seasonal renewal, manifesting in powerful, subliminal messaging.
New Spring is Chen’s first exhibition at Nanda\Hobbs since joining the gallery in early 2018. At its core, New Spring intends to engage and captivate the viewer with dynamic swaths of oil paint that dance over the canvas. There is an immediate compositional reference to the idea of the 'beautiful'—a key genre in the grand tradition of landscape painting. The practice of imaging the landscape extends far beyond the romantic traditions of Claude Lorrain and the energetic brushstrokes of Claude Monet. Image makers from history in all cultures have investigated, made and celebrated the natural world. Indeed, Chen owes much to his Chinese cultural heritage for the sensitivity of his mark making.
As with all paintings that are representative in subject matter, the first hurdle for the artist is to achieve a likeness. I would argue that this is a learned skill. The second task is to elevate the work to a more esoteric level, where, we as viewers feel what the artist feels. This is a harder, more poetic and intuitive task—to make a link that extends beyond the 'real' and into the other part of our cortex that feels the vision as created by the artist. It is this that is remarkable—the moment where a line tells a story, where colour impacts our mood, and where we fall in love with the extended sense of primavera. These are images that allude to the central and dynamic life force that is acknowledged throughout art history.
Regeneration in nature, with its cyclical and all-pervasive influence on our psyche, is in many respects the very essence and the key to the human condition. Ultimately, nature provides a metaphor for our eternal search for order in the world—in life and our desire for beauty. Chen, through his viscous painterly articulation, weaves the oil paint as though it were a fine tread in a monastic tapestry. Instead of the loom, this tapestry in paint is carved with the pallet knife, rendering the surface fresh and as alive as the buds that are imaged in the composition.
Jun Chen's training in China's Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts—where he mastered traditional ink painting in the 1980s—has provided a foundation from which he developed his oil painting oeuvre, ultimately launching his celebrated Australian career. Chen is a multiple finalist in the coveted Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes. His portrait of the late Sydney art dealer; Ray Hughes, was highly commended by the judges in the 2017 Archibald Prize. The National Portrait Gallery recently commissioned a portrait by Chen of former dancer, Li Cunxin for its exhibition titled 20/20, celebrating the gallery’s 20th anniversary. The exhibition is on show at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra until 10 February 2019, after which the work will remain in the gallery’s public collection.