Ota Fine Arts | Chen Wei "Memory and Form"

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© Chen Wei  Photography: Jiang Pengyi

Chen Wei (b. 1980) currently lives and works in Beijing. Although he uses photography and installation as his main mediums of expression, he has been challenging existing artistic language by creating images that do not resemble photos. Every work by Chen contains textures and compositions of Western still-life paintings, and simultaneously captures poetic moments of tranquillity in cinematic scenes. In Ota Fine Arts Shanghai's exhibition "When many pass one way…", Chen Wei presents his photography work "Sprial Party". Through this exhibition, we had a conversation with Chen about his creative process, life and music.


Chen Wei & Ota Fine Arts 

O:Ota Fine Arts
Chen:Chen Wei

O: We are exhibiting the work "Spiral Party" in this group exhibition. I am usually curious about where the stairs lead to and why it stops suddenly? The spiral staircase and its surrounding environment could be a dangerous and unknown place, but full of possibilities.

Chen: I have always been fond of spiral forms, including spiral staircases and have also seen many partially complete vertical stairs and empty buildings. They are no longer functional, leaving behind only memories and forms. I care less about how they are interrupted by external forces, whether they are being demolished or built but more about the experience of living together. Fear may be an experience that you read in this context, it does not have much of an emotional resonance for me. Rather, I want to figure out my relationship with it, hence I had to create it.


You mentioned the words "stop suddenly", and not knowing where it leads, I believe that everyone tends to have this feeling occasionally, and it is probably quite strong.

Chen Wei, Spiral Party, 2018, Archival Inkjet Print, 150 x 187.5 cm

© Chen Wei, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

O: When did you feel this way? Did you feel it more this year?
Chen: I do not think I felt it more this year. Instead, the forced stagnation, as a result of Covid19, has promoted further thinking, calming down and the peeling off of emotional baggage that allows one to see something.
O: Your work “Smashing Court” is being exhibited in the group exhibition “On Sabbatical” at the West Bund Museum. Its structure reminds me of a shelf where potted plants are often displayed. The objects(balls) look like they may fall off, hit the ground filled with shattered glass and deflate. It’s an interesting composition, can you tell me a little more about your ideas around this work?
Chen: I created “Smashing Court" with a similar thought to “Spiral Party”, in search of clues. However, the difference is that I love basketball very much and there are more emotional connections with the sport. The basketball court is no longer working as it should be, or another way of looking at it, is that it has lost its original function, I would say this is definitely a loss for me. However, if we were to leave emotions aside and re-look at it again, capturing the court on a stage within a two-dimensional frame allows for the display of remaining gestures (expressions), including one’s imaginations that could come about from viewing the work. Nonetheless, all of this goes back to the relationship between this type of elongated ‘interrupted’ scene, and us.

Chen Wei, Smashing Court, 2019-2020, Archival Inkjet Print, 187.5 x 150 cm
© Chen Wei, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

O: The non-working basketball court should be considered a loss for you, so why did you choose to re-build the scene and to‘eternalize’ the image and loss with the language of photography? Do I sense some irony?
Chen: It’s not really meant to be ironic, I am not too good at it. When one function is absent, another function comes along, and now we can really start to talk about the subject matter.

O: Can you tell us more about the use of light in “Spiral Party” and “Smashing Court”?
Chen: In terms of color, the two works are different. The background of “Spiral Party” is situated at night, the design of the lighting was guided by how a night setting can be created. On the contrary, we return to a performative stage in the basketball court, hence there is more freedom in the use of light.

O: In your production process, are you particular about the time of day? For example, your works captures a night setting perfectly, do you prefer working at night in order to get the sense/feeling?
Chen: There is no day and night in my studio, it’s almost like a sweatshop.
O: Shall we discuss your work environment? Do you listen to music when you are creating artworks? What genre of music do you listen to?
Chen: When I am working, I tend to listen to music that is familiar and relaxing. When I am not working, I will listen to new records or more serious music.

O: This is a kind of contrast, people usually listen to serious music at work and relaxing ones at other times.

Chen: I am very tired when I work, really tired. If you really want to listen to music, the best way is to not have anything to do, and to lie down and listen. Any type of music, both relaxing and serious, will be great.


O: I was very much amused by Trio's "Da Da Da", which is a great way to relax. Shall we conclude our conversation with a few words from you? As an artist in these times, do you have anything to share with us?

Chen: Artists are usually quite adept at good at dealing with time, when there is nothing much to do, of course in the end there are still many things to be done. HMM…, that’s it.


Chen Wei, The Pillar of Broken, 2015, Archival Inkjet Print, 150 x 187.5 cm

© Chen Wei, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

Chen Wei, Light of Folding Bed, 2009, Archival Inkjet Print140 x 182 cm

© Chen Wei, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

Click to view

Chen Wei, Where are you going tonight (sg), 2019, Steel, LED Light board, Size variable
© Chen Wei, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

About the Artist

Chen Wei (b. 1980) currently lives and works in Beijing. Selected solo exhibitions include “Where Are You Going Tonight”, chi K11 art space, Guangzhou (2018), “The Club”, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2017), “Chen Wei: In the Waves”, chi K11 art museum, Shanghai (2015). Chen also participated in numerous group exhibitions such as “Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future”, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2019), “Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960-today”, Vitra Design Museum, Germany (2018) and “The Genius of the Crowd”, Jendela Visual Arts Space, Singapore (2017). His works are in public collections including Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, China, Yuz Museum, China, K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong, M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA.

Related Readings

"On Sabbatical" West Bund Museum, Shanghai

Artists: Chen Fei, Chen Wei, Cheng Ran, Ding Yi, Hao Liang, Huang YuXing, Jia Aili

Duration: 2020.7.25  9.6

Venue: Gallery 0, West Bund Museum, Shanghai

Current exhibition: “When many pass one way…”

Artists: Akira the Hustler, Chen Wei, Jong YuGyong and ¥ouada
Duration: 2020.6.20 — 8.22

Venue: Ota Fine Arts Shanghai

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