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Chen Dongfan: Long Past Dawn, Pirates and Poets Whistle in the Dark

Date(s) - 17/10/2020 - 19/12/2020
11:00 am - 6:00 pm

Fou Gallery

Location Address 410 Jefferson Ave #1, Brooklyn

City New York

Country/State New York

Categories No Categories

Chen Dongfan: Long Past, Dawn Pirates and Poets Whistle in the Dark – Poster design: Ziyan Luo

Oct. 17, 2020–Dec. 19, 2020

Open House: October 17–18, 11 am–6 pm, RSVP
Curator: Lynn Hai
Location: Fou Gallery, 410 Jefferson Ave #1, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11221

Related articles: interview with Chen Dongfan

NEW YORK – Fou Gallery is delighted to announce that the new exhibition Chen Dongfan: Long Past Dawn, Pirates and Poets Whistle in the Dark, will be held from October 17th to December 19th, 2020. Two of Chen’s new oil painting series Poster and Story created during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the latest large oil painting Rise From The Ashes will be shown to the public. The title of the exhibition is a combination of the titles of three works in Chen’s Story series. Chen incorporates mythic elements in his abstract-impacted expressionistic oil paintings and discovers their new meanings in contemporary life in response to current events and topical opinions. A two-day open house with the artist’s presence will be hosted on the first weekend of the exhibition, registered by appointment only to maintain social distance.

Chen Dongfan, Stay Home 02, 2020. Oil on paper, 27.5 x 18 inches. ©Chen Dongfan, courtesy Fou Gallery.

As the pandemic swept across the world, Chen Dongfan had to reduce his contact with the outside world. Being unable to commute between his studio and apartment in New York City, Chen decided to focus on small-size paintings that he could finish on his desk at home. Since the pandemic and self-quarantine began, his access to the abundant outside information has been considerably diminished due to the reduction of communication. As a result, he has turned to online resources and allocated more time to read literature. In this process, the formation of myths, stories, and fiction has attracted Chen’s attention. He became interested in how stories and visuals were formulated through time, which therefore influenced his thinking process in generating these new works.

Chen Dongfan, The Blazing World, 2020. Oil on paper, 27 x 19 inches. ©Chen Dongfan, courtesy Fou Gallery.

In the Story series, each work is drawn on Chinese rice paper whose size is similar to an opened book. Chen presents his drawings in a form that is closed to a diptych: on the left side, there is a line of a literary text in the middle of the paper; on the right side, Chen abstractly captures his impressions in the fantasy realm and visualizes them on the paper. Based on the text, Chen frees his imagination, searching for mythic elements, and begins to create characters and plots in his mind. Then he allows the imaginary images to flow from his brain onto the pieces of paper through his brushes. To finish, he turns back to the first piece of paper with the text and continues his painting over the text. This gives his visual fiction an ending that echoes the beginning. Thus, his Story series implies a timeline of narration, presenting not as a frozen moment of the climax of a tale, but rather the whole process of how a story develops and transforms.

The Poster series are direct records of Chen Dongfan’s struggles and confusions while quarantined at home. On Chinese rice paper and plastic packaging paper, Chen uses intense colors to draw distorted figures, making manifestos about suffering, and adapting to this traumatic and bewildering time. Experiencing the loneliness and overwhelming uncertainty in his vivid images, the audience will feel linked with Chen’s emotional experiences during the pandemic. In the exhibition, the Poster series will be presented alongside the Story series, jointly constructing the spiritual world of Chen Dongfan during the uncertain time for the audience.

Chen Dongfan, Rise From The Ashes, 2020. Charcoal, oil on paper, 74 x 50 inches. ©Chen Dongfan, courtesy Fou Gallery.

Rise From The Ashes is one of the first large oil paintings after Chen attempted to move back to his studio, in order to resume working in his most familiar environment. It was when the pressure of the pandemic began to be slowly alleviated in New York. In terms of the style and the subject, Rise From The Ashes is consistent with the Poster and Story series. Yet the more gestural strokes and the dramatic contrast of colors somehow reveal Chen’s ecstasy of seeing the dawn of returning to normal life. Although the future situation of the pandemic is still uncertain, Chen’s first large-size practice after him being restricted by a small desk for a long reflects his unyielding invigoration and optimism.

Chen Dongfan, Ace of Spades, 2020. Oil on paper, 11.3 x 14.9 inches. ©Chen Dongfan, courtesy Fou Gallery.

Compared to Chen’s earlier works his two most recent series both turned from abstract strokes to more figural images. Influenced by the literature he read in the past months, Chen’s visual language reveals a great extent of poetry and literariness. Even though Chen has absorbed and adopted many mythological elements, he never uses any image of known mythic characters in his recent paintings. What he is truly looking for is the meaning beyond the dramatic storylines, which is the awareness of critical thinking or a state of spiritual understanding of the world.

Chen Dongfan, Burning of Babylon and the Mourning Kings and Merchants, 2020. Oil on paper, 11.3 x 14.9 inches. ©Chen Dongfan, courtesy Fou Gallery.

Artist – CHEN
DONGFAN (b.1982, Shandong Province, China)
Chen obtained his B.F.A. from the Total Art Studio of China Academy of Art, Hangzhou in 2008. Since 2014 he has lived and worked in New York and Hangzhou. Chen Dongfan has actively participated in various public art projects and has created large scale paintings around the globe, including “Sun Yat-sen Road in Color” (New York, 2020); “The Song of Dragon and Flowers” (New York, 2018); “Live Before You Die” (Greece, 2016); “Where Has Happiness Gone” (Hangzhou, 2011); “Uncertain” (Hangzhou, 2010). The artist received special acclaim from American National and New York’s House of Representatives for his exceptional contribution to the area and its community. His recent exhibitions include Chen Dongfan: Long Past Dawn, Pirates and Poets Whistle in the Dark, Fou Gallery, New York (2020); Chen Dongfan: Forgotten Letters 2020, Platform China, Beijing (2020); Chen Dongfan: Sanctuary, The Yeh Art Gallery, New York (2020); Chen Dongfan: Heated Bloom, Inna Art Space, Hangzhou (2017).

Chen Dongfan in his studio Photo by Inna Xu ©Chen Dongfan

Curator – LYNN (LIANG) HAI
After graduating from the Architectural Association (London), Hai gained her Master’s in Design Studies from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University (Boston). She is active as a curator and art writer in New York, also a partner and the Art Director of Fou Gallery. Her curation and design include Wendy Letven: Lines Falling Together in Time (Fou Gallery, 2020); Michael Eade: Past is Present is Future (Fou Gallery, 2019); Harvard Club Dwelling At the Present Interior Design Exhibition and Forum (Harvard Club, New York, 2019); Flow Fields – Confluence in Urban Picnic (Matedero, Madrid, 2013) and Flow Fields – Dilution in 2013 Lisbon Triennale (Sinel de Cordes Palace, Lisbon, 2013) et al. Her writings are published on art periodicals including ArtChina, CAFA Artinfo, Tussle Magazine, and ArtPulse et al.

Lynn Hai at Fou Gallery, Photo by Echo He ©Lynn Hai

FOU GALLERY is an innovative, organic art community located in a historic 1905 New York brownstone. Fundamentally believing that art is a way of life, Fou Gallery is dedicated to promoting the creative talents and projects of our time. Fou began with a basic recognition that contemporary art and culture must address critical real-life challenges faced by our society through holistic, sustainable, and spiritual practices. Fou represents an alternative to the commercial model of mainstream galleries and serves as a habitat that nurtures a harmonious relationship between the earth and ourselves.

Chinese information, please refer to:
Press inquiries: Ziyan Luo,
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