HomePage Artists

(1962 – 2016), China

Chen Shaoxiong Biography

Chen Shaoxiong is known for his combination of traditional Chinese ink painting techniques with contemporary technology and subject matter. With a formal background in printmaking, he further worked in a variety of media including photography, performance and installation. Chen is also remembered for his role as a founding member of two seminal art collectives, the Big Tail Elephant Working Group and Xijing Men.

Read More

The Big Tail Elephant Working Group, which Chen established with artists Lin Yilin, Liang Juhui and Xu Tan in the 1990s, was based in Guangzhou and became known for their public performances and interventions in response to the rapid urbanisation of the Pearl River Delta region in southern China. While the group did not make collaborative works, the artists consistently exchanged ideas and exhibited together. Active between 1991 and 1998, the group challenged the state-run art system by exhibiting in alternative spaces such as private homes, local bars and basements. The group held six shows between 1991 and 1997; in 1998 they had a retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, which was both their first exhibition in a Western art institute and their last as a collective.

Chen's early works from the Big Tail Elephant period are titled after the duration for which they existed or were designed to exist. For Five Hours, a performance in 1993, Chen planned to remain still from 9:30 pm to 2:30 am at an entrance to a bar. The police, however, halted the performance after only two and a half hours. In an interview with Pauline J Yao in the catalogue Chen Shaoxiong, published by Blue Kingfisher, the artist explained that his use of units of time in titles served to 'take the concept of "reality" out of temporality'.

Founded in 2006, Xijing Men was a collective of three East Asian artists: Chen Shaoxiong (China), Gimhongsok (South Korea) and Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan). Given that the members spoke different languages, they communicated through drawings and written Chinese characters shared by all three countries. Employing absurdity, humour, sarcasm and satire, the three artists collaborated on projects that explored Xijing or 'Western Capital', a fictitious city they had fabricated to mirror the world they live in. In Xijing Olympics (2008), for example, the artists cast themselves as athletes and their family and friends as audience and staged an Olympics-style game of their own design. Using watermelons in lieu of soccer balls and loaves of bread for guns, the performance satirised state pomp and ceremony in relation to the Olympics, then taking place in Beijing, China.

Tirelessly exploring new media and technology, Chen began working with video in 1994 and combining video and ink painting in 2005. Works such as Ink City (2005), Ink History (2010) and Ink Media (2011–13) typically have their roots in the images found in mass and social media, which the artist recaptured in ink and pieced together into videos. For Ink City, Chen based his ink paintings on photographs and images of city scenes. Incorporating about 300 ink paintings, the three-minute video presents memories of urbanisation and development. Ink History, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on the history of China from 1909 to 2009. Chen chose iconic images that were familiar not only to Chinese people but also to the rest of the world, such as the picture of Mao Zedong with Stalin. In Ink Media he returned to the images of unrest, using moments of protest movements around the globe in the last three decades. By collapsing protests that occurred in different times and places, Chen sought to delineate the idea of protest as a shared means of political expression and of the human body as 'a medium for anti-war protest'.

Chen's interest in shared experiences and memories is also apparent in 'Collective Memory' (2006–16), a project that has had various iterations. Replicating the images of public cultural institutions such as the Louvre and the British Museum, Chen explored their contradictory status as both elite-oriented sites and visual markers of ultimately public spaces. For the iteration in 2016, the artist invited ordinary people to replace the pixels of the photographs with their fingerprints, creating a portrait of shared environments.

Chen graduated from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1984. As a solo artist, he exhibited widely in major cities around the world including Shanghai, New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Seoul. He also participated in several international exhibitions, including the Gwangju Biennale (2012, 2008, 2002), Lyon Biennale (2009), Guangzhou Triennial (2005), Venice Biennale (2003) and Shanghai Biennale (2002). Shortly before his death in 2016, Chen worked with long-time colleague and curator Hou Hanru to organise the retrospective exhibition Chen Shaoxiong: Prepared at Power Station of Art, Shanghai.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018

Chen Shaoxiong Featured Artworks

Collective Memory – Nanjing Presidential Palace by Chen Shaoxiong contemporary artwork
Chen ShaoxiongCollective Memory – Nanjing Presidential Palace, 2014Chinese ink on canvas
135 x 228 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery

Chen Shaoxiong Represented By

Tang Contemporary Art contemporary art gallery in Beijing, China Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok

Chen Shaoxiong In Ocula Magazine

Gallery Weekend Beijing 2019 Ocula Feature Gallery Weekend Beijing 2019 By Tessa Moldan, Beijing

Beyond the fanfare of a gallery weekend, there remains the perennial question: to what end does such an event serve a city? During this year's Gallery Weekend Beijing (22–29 March 2019), this question was raised during a snippet of the inaugural Beijing Art Summit (22–24 March 2019) on a chilly Saturday morning, staged at Ullens Center for...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Chen Shaoxiong In Related Press

View All (7)
Sydney Biennale modestly comes of age with moments of curatorial brilliance Related Press Sydney Biennale modestly comes of age with moments of curatorial brilliance 16 March 2018, The Conversation

If a 21 st birthday "coming of age" observance can be applied to cultural events, 2018 marks the launch into adulthood of the Biennale of Sydney. In some ways Sydney's biennale was a precocious child, turning its back during infancy on mainstream Eurocentric art in favour of exploring its local geographic region, early on including...

Fade out copy.
Read More
M+ Screenings: City Limits at Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong Related Press M+ Screenings: City Limits at Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong 2 August 2017, Art Radar

Featuring 15 videos and films, M+ Screenings: City Limits will be held at Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong, from 4 to 6 August 2017. The programme is organised in conjunction with the exhibition Canton Express at M+ Pavilion in the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong. Located on Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, M+ is Hong...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Preview: 9 highlights from Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 Related Press Preview: 9 highlights from Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 22 March 2017, Art Radar Journal

This year Art Basel Hong Kong features strong representation from galleries with bases in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Out of the new galleries participating this year, ten are from Asia: A+ Contemporary, Bank, C-Space, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, imura art gallery, Jhaveri...

Fade out copy.
Read More
A ‘Big Tail Elephant’: China’s Chen Shaoxiong (1962–2016) – artist profile Related Press A ‘Big Tail Elephant’: China’s Chen Shaoxiong (1962–2016) – artist profile 22 December 2016, Art Radar Journal

Chen Shaoxiong was born in Guangdong province, China, in 1962 and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts there in 1984. Chen was a founding member of two seminal collectives emerging in Guangzhou just after the collective 'boom' of the 1980s Chinese avant-garde, which saw over 80 artist groups emerging on the contemporary art scene particularly...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Be among the first to know when new artworks and exhibitions by Chen Shaoxiong are added to Ocula.
Sign Up