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The Dreamscape of Chen Haiyan | Roses and the Four-Legged Snake

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During our current exhibition Undersong: Secrets, Dreams, Truths, and Power, INK studio will present through our WeChat posts The Dreamscape of Chen Haiyan series, providing audio recordings of Chen Haiyan’s own narration of her dream stories behind each of her works.

Fantastic Beasts and their Secret Powers

Another consistently recurrent motif in Chen Haiyan’s dreams is that of fantastic beasts—creatures that are unusual and special, with perhaps supernatural or magical qualities, and even sometimes extraordinary powers. With their appearance comes Chen Haiyan’s sense of curiosity, admiration, respect, sometimes fear, and often sheer wonder.

Roses and the Four-Legged Snake 玫瑰花与四脚蛇

1998, Copper plate print 铜版画, 100 x 50 cm

Dream: July 24th, 1998.

Roses and the Four-Legged Snake

I was carrying a square paper box with open covers. In it was a four-legged snake. I was transferring the snake to an uninhabited place. There was a tree with some withered plants on it. I put the snake on the shady side of the tree trunk. It can get some sunlight here. Long Long's KFC jar was on the tree as well. I saw on other trees some dry yellow roses. I wanted to pick them but eventually gave up the idea. Some people were on the Truth Beach, moving all the green grass and transporting it to another city.

About “Undersong”

Curated by Dr. Maya Kóvskaya, Undersong: Secrets, Dreams, Truths, and Power is a two-person solo exhibition of artworks by Chen Haiyan and Tao Aimin, which explore the power that is constituted by ordinary women when they share their intimate stories, secrets, truths, and dreams. 

The show features works from across nearly four decades of Chen Haiyan’s acclaimed printmaking and ink painting practice, and works from almost two decades of Tao Aimin’s multidisciplinary work. Placing these oft-submerged secrets, dreams, and truths of the lives of ordinary women at the center of their works, their long-standing art practices show the quiet, yet formidable power brought into being through the celebration of the quotidian and the sharing of women’s dreams and intimate stories.

About the Artist

Born in 1955 in Liaoning, Chen Haiyan graduated in 1984 from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou studying woodblock printmaking. Uniting traditional Chinese elite aesthetics with a rough vernacular quality, style and medium, Chen Haiyan renders her subject matter — dream images from her unconscious — with an unparalleled sense of emotional directness. She has held solo and group exhibitions in important museums, galleries and institutions worldwide, including the Pacific Asia Museum in Southern California (1987), Marlborough Fine Art in the UK (1987), the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (1992), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (1993), R?ume der Hessstra?e, Munich (1996), the Portland Museum of Art, Oregon (1996), the British Museum, London (1996), the Art Institute of Vancouver, Canada (1998). Over the last decade, Chen Haiyan has begun to attract deeper attention in her native China with exhibitions at the Shanghai Art Museum (2004), the National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2010), China National Academy of Art, Hangzhou (2011), and the Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou (2011). Most recently she has had a major solo exhibition at INK Studio, Beijing (2013), Fujian Museum of Art (2016), and Pera Museum, Istanbul (2019).


Chen Haiyan is currently a senior professor in the Print Department of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. She is featured in the documentary film, The Enduring Passion for Ink, and her work is the subject of the scholarly monograph Carving the Unconscious, edited by Dr. Britta Erickson and distributed in the United States by D.A.P. Her works can be found amongst others in the collections of the British Museum, the Museum of Sydney, the Portland Museum of Art, the Pacific Asia Museum in Southern California, the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Tianjin Art Museum, the Lingnan Fine Arts Museum in Dongguan, the Guangdong Museum of Art and the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

About INK Studio

INK Studio is an art gallery based in Beijing. Its mission is to present Chinese experimental ink as a distinctive contribution to contemporary transnational art-making in a closely-curated exhibition program supported by in-depth critical analysis, scholarly exchange, bilingual publishing, and multimedia production. Representing more than 13 artists, including Bingyi, He Yunchang, Li Jin, Li Huasheng, Wang Dongling, Yang Jiechang, and Zheng Chongbin, the gallery exhibits works of diverse media, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, installation, performance, photography, and video. Since its inception in 2012, INK Studio has regularly appeared at art fairs such as the Armory Show (New York), Art Basel Hong Kong, and West Bund Art & Design (Shanghai) and placed works into major public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and M+, Hong Kong.

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