October 28, 2011

Chen Jiagang: Abandoned Fable. A retrospective exhibition at Han Art Gallery, Montreal, Québec

Chen Jiagang Retrospective: Abandoned Fable, Han Art Gallery, Montreal (Westmount), Québec, November 4 - December 3, 2011
CHEN JIAGANG was born in 1962 in Chongqing, Sichuan, China. The artist lives and works in Beijing. Han Art Gallery in Westmount (Québec) presents a retrospective exhibition featuring fifteen photographic works by Chen Jiagang. As one of today’s most renowned Chinese contemporary artists, Chen Jiagang is featured at the 12th Annual Toronto International Art Fair (TIAF 2011) through October 31, 2011 before his debut at Han Art Gallery.  Abandoned Fable opens on November 4th and concludes on December 3rd, 2011 

Photo: Chen Jiagang
CHEN JIAGANG, Bridges, 2008. Photograph from The Great Third Front series. Courtesy and ©2008 Chen Jiagang. Courtesy  Han Art Gallery, Montreal

Chen Jiagang is a distinctive contemporary artist who consistently weaves a phenomenal historical analogue into his imagery.  In allowing time itself to disappear from space, Chen Jiagang composes a visual language full of complexity and contradiction that adds to this historical contemporary fable - a spatial narratology and an art form that relies on the cultural inheritance. His works narrate the impact of power and politics on environment, human inhabitation, gender balance and family development - all social perspectives that are systematically disseminated into the peoples’ spiritual realm of senses.  The artist utilizes language between certainty and uncertainty to rebel against dogmatic mainstream perspectives in a society where images are becoming increasingly standardized, to discard with the trend of commercialization in art, and to obtain independence with direction.   

In the past few years, the artist made many trips to the factories, mines and small villages in the mountains and in the valleys of Yuanan, Guizhou and Sichuan.  These provinces in particular, which once served as a strategic epicenter of industry in the 1960s determined by Chinese national politics, now find themselves in a vastly different circumstance. 

Trained as an architectural designer, Chen Jiagang regards memories as the most authentic source in human life and believes that images act to preserve these memories.  Aside from bringing to attention intensely social and political issues, his works explore these issues from various perspectives, taking a distanced standpoint to explain history, enabling him to express his aesthetic need on the basis of an intensely personal experience.     

In regards to technique, Chen Jiagang often chooses to capture his images when the sun has just set, immediately after the clouds have emitted the last rays of light and warmth over the deserted and abandoned space.  It is common for him to portray a powerful contrast between subject and space, as demonstrated in his depiction of young women dwarfed by industrial ruins from the past. For example, in one of his works, a woman is portrayed pacing back and forth, seeming reluctant to leave the place she finds herself. Sinking into the darkness and disappearing into her surroundings, the woman is a subtle sign and yet a vibrant creature who breathes life into the remaining walls and majestic ruins filled with traces of the past. The corner store is now deserted, and the path leading towards the space serves only as a football field. These oft-frequented places of the past now remain abandoned and forlorn. Chen Jiagang uses this imagery to compose the bitter sound of a mournful elegy without emitting a single sound. A period which would otherwise be forgotten as history is captured in a moment where people and space observe one another silently with indignation. 

In a country that is presently experiencing one of the highest rates of development in the world, it is not surprising that the works of Chen Jiagang prompts the viewer to question the usefulness and absurdity of this mad race towards development that humanity has been pursuing for decades. His works are deeply entrenched in the new preoccupation of Contemporary Chinese artists, preoccupations that are social, political, and environmental.  As a successful architect and contemporary art collector from the start, Chen Jiagang now exhibits his most recent accomplishments - a monumental photographic product that is entrenched in a powerful aesthetic and conceptually loaded with meaning and inquiry. 

The works of Chen Jiagang have been exhibited in renowned museums and galleries across the globe—including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, and the Art Gallery of Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing.  His works have been consistently purchased by private collectors throughout his career.  Most recently, Chen Jiagang’s works were featured in the Red Flag exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal. A landmark exhibition, Red Flag served as the first show to bring Contemporary Chinese Art and Quebecois aesthetic together under one roof.  During this exhibition, Chen Jiagang’s works were featured alongside some of the most well-known Contemporary Chinese artists, including Gu Wenda, Ai Weiwei, Zhang Huan, Xu Bing, Wang Tiande and the Gao brothers.  

In this retrospective solo exhibition at the Han Art Gallery in Québec, fifteen major works have been selected to showcase the essential and integral value of Chen Jiagang’s creativity in the first several chapters of his career. 

Westmount, Québec, Canada  H3Z 1P6

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