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“Creamy Strawberry” 2008, oil on canvas, 130 x 93 cm

陈卉 Chen Hui 奶油草莓 Creamy Strawberry 《奶油草莓》2008, 布面油画, 130 x 93 cm

Some reflections on looking at Chen Hui’s works by Li Xianting

“Strange Fashion” is a term I blindly coined in an attempt to verbalise my feelings towards my own life circumstances. More than ten years ago, while I was still frequently travelling abroad, I was particularly struck by youngsters, and especially by youth from their teens upwards to twenty. Their bizarre mode of attire flabbergasted me. Friends told me then of the English word “trendy,” which means “alternative fashion.” At that time, I recalled the early 1980s, when bell-bottoms were all the thing and a resulting controversy convulsed the media – although I say controversy, the majority roundly condemned the very notion of wearing bell-bottoms. And although I was already in my 30s, I was still into the 20-odds’ groove of wearing bell-bottoms, so I went out and bought an exaggerated pair of my own. Then I thought of those years stretching from the 1950s to the 1970s: those three full decades in which, for virtually all Chinese, if their duds weren’t blue, then they were grey. Styles took the form of either a Lenin suit, a military uniform, or what almost everyone wore: the Sun Yat-sen suit (which foreigners call a Mao suit!). But a new age was looming and breakthroughs were coming, initially in such spheres of humdrum life as attire, with the movement headed by sensitive youth dissatisfied with the sartorial status quo. In practical terms, a movement with tendencies of frightening proportions was smashing the icons and usurping the lead role in macro-social engineering (even if mere over-compensation, this was eminently understandable). So, naturally enough, girls and boys blazed the way, decking themselves out in bell-bottoms and thus crashing through the barriers of confining and staid clothing styles. Afterwards, when touring abroad, I got to know where to go to see the youth gathering together in New York and London, though the names of those streets I can never remember. The duds those kids wore are still fresh in my mind and – especially in those streets around Tokyo’s Harajuku district – imparted a singularly vivid impression, with entire lanes full of spontaneously-organized troupes of singers and dancers coming in continuous waves. After buying a miscellany of brightly-hued gadgets in the shops, I went and thronged together with the young boulevardiers, all flamboyantly garbed; I thought: “Almost all of them have come here just to flaunt and strut their stuff.” I am not an expert fashion researcher; I don’t even dare to talk about fashion, but to my eye this was not on the same level as fashion. So-called fashion is tip-to-toe, top-to-bottom fashion; its background is the entire panoply thereof, consisting of every stratum of expertise supported by a gargantuan financing machine: a unified, mature operating model of consumer society that sucks in the mainstream of societal consumption, but at the same time is a covert, colossal, monolithic, impenetrable modern device bent solely on generating money by any means! But when I say “strange fashion,” this indicates a spontaneous, popular, not-for-profit, beholden-to-itself-alone, self-propagating, self-entertaining venting of one’s feelings. This process can naturally derive from various sorts of emblems of popular images, which may relate to such things as fashion, popular film, TV and drama – their apparel, attire, human images – which “strange fashion” appropriates. In Chen Hui’s paintings, I find that she uses her own eyes to view and express her own take on “strange fashion.” These paintings transcend things like human images, figures, hairstyles and attire to express and craft her “strange fashion.” Among these images, one of surpassing excellence is an anti-fashion image. In media swamped with pictures of spellbinding beauties, her form is a tad eccentric: the image of a rebel, eyes with single eyelids, small eyes set far apart – an indicator of low IQ, they say. However, these small eyes Chen Hui draws are very determined little orbs: bounding with confidence, yet brimming with suspicion, even expressing fear. I particularly like the “Xiao Q” image, with its small, fleshless visage, its cheekbones high but solid and the short, pointy chin which highlights the minute face and lips of this woman, lips so thin it seems the words issuing from her mouth are so caustic and sarcastic as to strip away your own face. And especially those unutterably dubious, glaring expressions in her two eyes – resolute yet confident – harbouring that kind of gimlet power capable of boring into the heart and mind of every viewer. In “Xiao Q,” Chen Hui portrays on the face of this “ugly girl,” born with an unsightly physiognomy and with such unusual features, such anti-fashion beauty and such untraditionally auspicious features with specific differences, yet with a clear suggestion of “strange fashion.” Although perhaps not done as brilliantly as in “Xiao Q,” in forming her other images, Chen Hui nevertheless expresses a very distinct meaning, and especially the manner in which the eyes are wrought is extraordinary. While a number of years ago the international fashion catwalk began to parade some alternative “ugly models,” that flaunting of elegance on the catwalk is, after all, still all about apparel, not people. Therefore, Chen Hui’s works, with respect to their human expressions, depict by contrast the “strange fashion” of a unique and irreplaceable person. Now, aside from those models playing on the catwalk who are the incarnation of some alternative brand of weirdness, models are models after all, and in choosing their figures there are clearly-demarcated bounds beyond which one dares not stray. By comparison, in this series of works by Chen Hui,

with respect to the human figures she moulds, and in contrast to the figures of models, the women have no complementary convex/concave curves and her men also lack the sought-after inverted v-shape – all have small breasts, large bellies and swollen forms, or are otherwise unsightly persons of a cast not calculated to elicit the plaudits of fashion. Moreover, their movements are exaggerated, and thus project a comic and jocular air about them. Clothing – here we must say apparel – is also one of Chen Hui’s signature features. Whether the hairstyles are “blown up,” “rat’s nest,” “lion’s mane” or “firework perm,” or dyed yellow, purple or red and orange, only the truly weird and unusual shows “strange fashion.” Although misappropriation of fashion clothing is a bit of a factor, this seems cheap and weird, brightlycoloured and garish. What is particularly special about apparel is the confusion between everyday wear and performance attire. This seems to be because there is no distinction drawn between them, or one might rather say that here this sort of garb is in itself “strange fashion;” its focus is self-enticing, self-amusing and both stylish and consumptive of its own consumption and it incorporates the Internet-driven, modern youth fashion attitude and the fiction between human comedy and everyday life. This is a new sense of realism – a nagging feeling of helplessness amid contemporary society’s games.

《小Q》2005, 布面油画, 50 x 40.3 cm “Xiao Q” 2005, oil on canvas, 50 x 40.3 cm

Realistically depicted art is a hallmark of Chen Hui’s works; her brushstrokes are both exquisite and serene in form, particularly with regard to facial parts and bare torsos, which incline towards an exacting technique. But this is not realism in the classical sense: Chen Hui intentionally recoils from a technique of creating human figures in a classical ambience and often paints people into the backgrounds in graduated shades, or these people are set into the background as part of a scene similar to those in famous paintings, or simply wedged into a cubicle. All human figures she models she deliberately extracts from their true habitats and then inserts them into a fictional, dramatized space, with the aim of providing a foil to the ideal human figure wrought in the image of the youth of today. We intuit from Chen Hui’s works that the human figures in her works are bursting with sincere, wistful love, because she is herself youthful or perhaps styling herself that way in her imagination, and we also have a hunch that the people inhabiting her works are frolicking and cavorting together with her in this latter age.

September 16, 2008 Translator: Ben Armour

“异尚”—看陈卉作品一点感想 文:栗宪庭

“异尚”是我瞎造的一个词,是想表达我自己对这类生活状态的感觉,前十多年,还是我常常到国外去的时候,印象特别深的是年轻人,尤其是十几岁到 二十岁之间的年轻人, “怪异”的打扮常常令我惊奇,那时朋友告诉我一个英文词叫TRENDY,说是有点另类和怪异时髦的意思。那时候我就想起八十年 代初,中国曾经流行过喇叭裤,媒体上还曾经争论过一阵子,虽然说争论,可贬斥穿喇叭裤的意见还是居多。那时我虽然三十多岁了,但还是喜欢二十啷 当岁的年轻人穿喇叭裤的样子,自己还买了一条喇叭不太夸张的裤子来穿呢。我想从五十年代到七十年代整整三十年,中国人衣服的色彩几乎除了蓝就 是灰,样式除了列宁装、军装几乎就是中山装了(外国人管中山装叫毛装)!一个新时代的到来,首先从服装等日常生活领域开始突破,首先从敏感而不满 现状的年轻人开始,用实际—乃至搞怪的行动突破既有的模式,为大规模的社会变革充当了先锋的角色,即使矫枉过正也是可以理解的。所以年轻人 率先穿起喇叭裤,突破死板单调的服装模式,自然而然。后来,我在国外旅游,就有意识地到年轻人的聚集区去看,纽约、伦敦那些街的名字我都记不起 来了,可那些年轻人的装束,至今依然历历在目,其中,东京的原宿那几条街给我印象尤其深,满大街自组乐队演唱的,跳舞的,此起彼伏,店铺里买的各 种小玩意儿五光十色不说,就连来逛街的孩子们,都打扮得千奇百怪的,我想,几乎每一个人都是来秀个性和秀奇异的。 我不是研究时尚的专家,不敢妄说时尚,但在我的眼里,这和时尚不一样,所谓时尚FASHION,是自上而下的时尚,它的背后是一整套各个层面的专家和 巨大金钱支撑的机制,是现代消费社会一整套成熟的运作模式,它引领着社会的消费潮流,它同时也是一个隐形的、巨大的、无孔不入的钱如何成倍地 生钱的“现代机器”!而我说的“异尚”,指的是一种年轻人自发的、民间的、没有利益目的的、自下而下的,自己哄着自己玩地发泄着自己的情感,这个过 程会自然形成某种“流行形象的标识”,这种流行标识,会与时尚、流行影视剧中的某种因素—服装、打扮、人物形象等等发生一种挪用、滑稽模仿、恶 搞等关系,乃至各种文化符号—只要合情适时地出现在年轻人的视野里,都可能会被好玩地挪用。 陈卉的画,我感觉就是用自己眼睛看到并表达着自己的“异尚”感觉,或者说她作为年轻人同时也在自己的作品里创造着“异尚”。这些画通过人的形象、 体型、发型、装束等方面表达和创造了她的“异尚”。其中形象的创造尤其出色,一反时尚媒体充斥的大美人形象,塑造出一种带点怪异的反叛形象:大多 数单眼皮小眼睛,两眼的距离偏远—相学说两眼距离远智商低,但这些小眼睛的眼神都被陈卉画得极有特点—极具定力的眼神充满自信、怀疑、无 所畏惧。我尤其喜欢那幅《小Q》的形象,脸型小而无肉,颧骨高而坚实,下巴短而尖尖,突出了那张小且薄的嘴,仿佛她的话一出口就尖酸刻薄得让你没 有面子。尤其那双充满怀疑和逼视的目光,坚定而自信,有着能看透每一个观者心思的那种犀利。陈卉在《小Q》这个“丑丫头”的“薄命面相”上,配以如 此不同寻常的五官,让反时尚美人和反福相传统有了明确的“异尚”内涵。陈卉在其他形象的塑造上,尽管不如《小Q》精彩,但意向很明确,尤其眼睛的 塑造不同凡响。当然在国际时尚T形台上,前若干年也开始启用有点另类的“丑模特”,但那毕竟是T形台走秀—突出的依然是“衣服”而不是“人”。所 以,陈卉作品对表情的刻画,就成为不可替代“人”的“异尚”。尤其是,不管T形台上模特有多另类多怪异,但模特还是模特,在身材的选择上,不可能走 太远。相比,陈卉在这批作品中对于人物体型的塑造上,一反时尚的模特体型—女人们既无凹凸有致的曲线,男人也没有倒三角形的伟岸,都是些小乳 房大肚腩的臃肿体型,或者为时尚所不推崇的有点丑的体型。而且动作多突出其夸张、搞笑和诙谐的感觉。 服装—在这里应该说是装束,也是陈卉这些作品的重头戏。发型—不管是“爆炸式”、 “乱草式”,还是“狮子头”和“烟花烫”;不管是染成黄色、紫 色,还是红色和桔黄色;唯怪异和不同寻常才尽显“异尚”的取向。服装虽挪用时尚的一些因素,但显得廉价和怪异,色彩艳俗且花里胡哨。尤其服装的特 别之处,是对日常服装和演出服装的混淆和似是而非的处理,或者说,这种装束本身就是“异尚”的重点—自己哄着自己玩,既消费时尚又消费自己, 表现出网络时代青年人的那种游移于现实和虚拟之间,游移于人生的戏剧化和日常生活之间的感觉,这是一种新的现实感—对现代社会的既游戏其 中又无可奈何的生存感觉。 写实的技艺是陈卉作品的主要特征,笔触细腻且冷静,造型尤其脸部和裸露身体部分的造型倾向严谨的方式。但这不是经典意义上的写实主义,陈卉 有意避开典型环境中的典型人物的创作方法,常常把人物的背景画成一种倾向的颜色,或者把人物背景画成类似布景类似某名画中的风景,或者干脆把 人物装进类似盒子的空间里,都是她有意地把她塑造的人物从人物的现实环境中抽离出来,放到一个虚拟和戏剧化的空间里,目标是烘托她创造的人 物—她心中这个年代的青年人形象。从陈卉作品中,我们可以感觉到她对她作品中的人物充满了带点诙谐的爱意和真诚,因为她也年轻,她或许在想 象中打扮着自己,并且和她的画中人一起在这个年代里嬉戏。


《火了》2009, 布面油画, 80 x 100 cm “On Fire” 2009, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm

《拾穗者》2008, 布面油画, 162.5 x 130 cm “Gleaners” 2008, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 130 cm

《iPhone》2008, 布面油画, 80 x 60 cm “iPhone” 2008, oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm

《开心》2008, 布面油画, 130 x 180 cm “Delighted” 2008, oil on canvas, 130 x 180 cm

Chen Hui 1974 born in Jiangxi Province, China lives and works in Beijing

Solo Exhibitions 2009 “Creamy Strawberry”, Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne, Beijing, China 2007 “Whatever”, Courtyard Gallery, Beijing, China 1998 “Chen Hui’s Paintings”, Communication University of China, Beijing, China

Selected Group Exhibitions 2007 “Live in Songzhuang”, Songzhuang Art Museum, Beijing, China

“Contemporary Chinese Art · Situation of Difference – The First Show Of Can Art Center / 798”, Can Art Center, Beijing, China

“The First Today’s Documents 2007 – Energy: Spirit · Body · Material”, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China

2006 “Fantasy in Spring - Jie Fu Gallery Opening Exhibition”, Jie Fu Gallery, Beijing, China

[“Chun Zhi Chang Xiang - Jie Fu Hualang Kaimu Zhan”]

“Eminent Chinese Contemporary Painters Invitational Exhibition”, Boyi Gallery, Beijing, China

[“Zhongguo Dangdai Youhua Mingjia Zuopin Yaoqing Zhan”]

1998 “MEDIAWAVE Art Festival”, Györ, Hungary

Design Projects 2008 Costume design for the drama “Ming”, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China

《X.Y.Z》2007, 布面油画, 130 x 97 cm “X.Y.Z” 2007, oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm

《璐璐先生》2007, 布面油画, 60 x 50 cm “Mr. Lulu” 2007, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

《MSN》2007, 布面油画, 110 x 170 cm “MSN” 2007, oil on canvas, 110 x 170 cm

出版:麦勒画廊 北京- 卢森为陈卉个展“奶油草莓”而出版 展出于中国北京麦勒画廊 北京 - 卢森 2009 年 5月9日至 7月 12日 编辑:麦勒画廊 北京 - 卢森 文章:栗宪庭 翻译:Ben Armour (英文) 设计:李建辉 摄影:孙建伟, 宇光

© 2009 麦勒画廊 北京- 卢森, 陈卉 印刷:中国,北京 Publisher: Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne on the occasion of Chen Hui’s solo exhibition “Creamy Strawberry” at Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing, China, from May 9 to July 12, 2009 Editor: Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne Text: Li Xianting Translator: Ben Armour (English) Designer: Li Jianhui Photographers: Sun Jianwei, Yu Guang © 2009 Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne, Chen Hui All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including but not limited to photocopying, transcribing or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Printed in China 麦勒画廊,北京市朝阳区草场地104号,邮编 100015,电话 + 86 10 643 333 93 Galerie Urs Meile, no.104, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District, PRC -100015 Beijing,T+ 86 10 643 333 93 Galerie Urs Meile, Rosenberghöhe 4, 6004 Lucerne, Switzerland, T+ 41 41 420 33 18, Partner Gallery: China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW)

Chen Hui "Creamy Strawberry"