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b. 1955, China

Shen Chen Biography

Since the 1980s, Shen Chen has been recognised as a pioneer of Chinese abstract painting and experimental ink painting. He is known for adapting materials and processes found in traditional ink painting into large-scale tonal arrangements.

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Early Years

Born in 1955 in Shanghai, Shen Chen studied at the Shanghai Art College and the Shanghai Theatre Academy, where he earned a BFA in 1982. While a student, Shen Chen organised Wild Rose (1978), the first experimental exhibition at the Shanghai Academy of Theatre. After graduation, he moved to Beijing.

In 1988, Chen travelled to the United States on a fellowship at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Later that year, he moved to New York to study at the Studio School of Painting and Sculpture before earning an MFA at Boston University until 1991. Chen has lived and worked in New York since 1991.

Shen Chen's Artworks

Shen Chen's acrylic paintings combine traditional Chinese painting brushstrokes with contemporary techniques. Aggregated on the canvas, the mark-making resulting in lush tones and expansive, meditative layers. Central to Chen's practice is the desire to break away from traditional conceptions of ink as material and work beyond its limitations.

Early Chinese Abstraction

Chen's practice developed in tandem with The Shanghai Experimental Art Movement1 in the 1980s, which preceded the 85 New Wave Movement that marked the transition from early abstractionism to contemporary art making in China.

Tonal Paintings

Chen's tonal paintings are a study of brushstroke, colour, and tone located at the intersection of materials and ideas. Painted using different Chinese brushes, resulting in subtle but nuanced arrangements, Chen's paintings appear contemporary, while remaining reserved and elusive.

Process

To replicate the deliberate brushstrokes in Chinese ink paintings and calligraphy, Chen's paintings are made from the studio floor, with layers of paint applied progressively to the surface of large canvases from top to bottom, building up colour gradually using vertical motions.

Spiritual Practice

Through the process of 'stroke-layering', Chen replicates the stream of consciousness associated with meditation, as in the 'Untitled' series, which exudes the artist's state of mind with acrylics on canvas of varying somber hues.

Discrete horizontal lines are left over on the surface, hinting at the location the brushstroke began. The rigorous process creates meticulous tonal paintings from resonant hues, while reflecting the artist's disciplined approach to his painting practice.

Exhibitions

Shen Chen has exhibited widely across Asia, Europe, and the United-States.

Select solo exhibitions have been held at Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong (2021); Canvas International Art, Amsterdam (2016, 2013); Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie., Essen (2014); Elisabeth de Brabant Art Center, Shanghai (2012); Sanshang Museum of Contemporary Art, Zhejiang (2010); Today Art Museum, Beijing (2008); Gallery 456, New York (2006); and National Art Museum of China, Beijing (1988).

Shen Chen has been included in group exhibitions at Eli Klein Gallery, New York (2020); Tokyo Gallery, Beijing (2016); Epoch Art Museum, Wenzhou (2016); Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie., Essem (2015, 2013); Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai (2015); Museum Hurrle, Durbach (2014); Yuan Art Museum, Beijing (2012, 2010); and Museum of Chinese in America, New York (2010).

Galleries

On Ocula, Shen Chen is represented by Axel Vervoordt Gallery in Hong Kong and Antwerp.


1 https://fuqiumeng.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Shen-Chen-Greymatters-pressrelease-1.pdf (pp1)

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021

Exhibition view: Shen Chen, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong (16 October–25 December 2021). Courtesy © Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Shen Chen Featured Artworks

View All (17)
Untitled No.10109-19 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.10109-19, 2019Acrylic on canvas
170 x 120 cm
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled No.10111-09 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.10111-09Acrylic on canvas
173 x 122 cm
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled No.11122-11 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.11122-11, 2011Acrylic on canvas
173 x 122 cm
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled No.41140-20 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.41140-20, 2020Acrylic on canvas
122 x 138 cm
Eli Klein Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled No.91212-18 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.91212-18, 2018Acrylic on canvas
102 x 82 cm
Eli Klein Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled No. 11023-07 (diptych), by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No. 11023-07 (diptych),, 2007Acrylic on canvas
157.5 x 284.5 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Contact Gallery
Untitled No. 71314-12 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No. 71314-12, 2012Acrylic on canvas
137 x 112 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Contact Gallery
Untitled No.77243-12 by Shen Chen contemporary artwork painting
Shen ChenUntitled No.77243-12, 2012Acrylic on canvas
162.5 x 112 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Contact Gallery

Shen Chen Current & Recent Exhibitions

Shen Chen Represented By

Axel Vervoordt Gallery contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Axel Vervoordt Gallery Antwerp, Hong Kong
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