A leading contemporary pioneer of Chinese abstract and experimental ink painting, Shen Chen was born in 1955 in Shanghai, China. During the artist’s formative years, Shen was intrigued by the brushwork of two legendary Buddhist monks, Liang Kai and Bada Shanren. Shen was captivated by the energy between ink and white space in traditional Chinese ink paintings, which created an abstraction between fullness and nothingness. In the 1980s, he experimented with abstract ink painting through practicing Chinese calligraphy by deconstructing each character’s structure into brushstrokes.
Throughout his career, Shen emphasises the artistic process and materials in his practice. In recent years, he mainly applies the Western medium of acrylic paint in a way that is reabsorbed through his training and knowledge of the qualities of ink. Painting with the canvas on the floor, he adopts a physical and introspective gesture of layering brushstrokes onto the canvas. Incorporating the flow of his qi (breath movement and energy), Shen paints each brushstroke vertically and by doing so, forms a horizontal marking of where the brushes end and begin again. What emerges from the canvas is a transformative, ever-changing, and endless space. With subtle tonal gradation and nuances, Shen’s works bear stylistic influences of paintings from the Color Field movement of the 1940s and 50s in New York. Yet, his practice is rooted in an innate philosophical mode of thought from his training in traditional Chinese ink painting.
In a disciplined act of repetition, Shen adds depth to the canvas with layers of paint, completing each work only when he feels his qi has left and when he has reached emptiness into the void. His works are temporal, where reciprocating layers of dialogue emerge in each brushstroke between opacity and translucence. Shen currently lives and works in New York and Shanghai.
Artists: Shen Chen