Chen Qiulin

Chen Qiulin was born in Yichang, Hubei Province in 1975 and now works and lives in Chengdu. Her works manifest in various mediums including video, photography, installation and sculpture. Her creation process is constantly in a state of continuous development and progress. With a unique sensitivity, Qiulin keeps introducing new viewpoints and perspectives into frequently discussed social issues.

All images Courtesy by the artist and A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, Chengdu, China

Chen Qiulin’s work, Garden (2007), explore the dialectal potentials in the post-demolition setting of Wanxian. The work presents dozens of peasant workers traversing the cityscape to deliver huge vases stuffed with gaudy plastic peonies. Through their repetitive walking and fruitless searching, the urban ruins, semi-demolished buildings, and new sterile constructions are overlapped into an expanded field of simultaneous reality. The futile task of delivery not only erases the differences of these spatial categories, but also ironically reveals the eerie resemblance between them. In a dialectic fashion of visualization, the artist renders the present as a circular movement between urban destruction, creation, and utopian imagination. It is this newly-acquired sense of circularity and interconnectedness that propels Chen Qiulin’s works beyond a singular reflection of social reality or personal anguish, and thus gains critical potentials as a visual allegory for contemporary China.

The project comes from the artist’s observation of women’s lives in remote mountainous areas in southeastern Guizhou province. “Another Day” is not an idea of 24 hours in a general sense; it’s meant to describe the state of repetition. In order to create “Another Day”, the artist goes deep into the villages of the Dong ethic group in southwestern China, where everything appears as something idyllic, almost isolated, in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. And the calm of the day after the day seemed to make the time frozen, and it is frightening. In China, women living in remote villages are not just far from modern urban life, their behaviors and even thoughts are also subject to local customs handed down from generation to generation. The most typical scenario is that they cannot enjoy equal status with men in family life. The “bed” is the only private and free space for women living in the mountains. Therefore, in “Another Day”, the bed appears in the installation, video and photography as the main subject matter to feature the local women, which have become the portrayal of indigenous women’s daily life.

Chen Qiulin puts her delicate observation and experience into her work. She discovered the women’s unsophisticated nature and awe for traditional norms on this land, and all these characteristics are endowed to them in the videos, which let the women like the orchids wandering in the streets. Qiulin uses the occult scenes to show the things that have been left by the modern civilization environment, also the old tradition that has been marginalized but hardly to be abandoned. Through the combination of video, photography, installation and other media, the exhibition presents the observation and reflection on the life of women from the Dong ethnic group — the enclosed environment formed women’s silent character. The monotonous life state is not destined, but has become a kind of inevitable fate.

“Fresh, clean, sunny and peppermint-like”, this belongs to the artist Chen Qiulin’s imagination and memory of the story about Martial Arts, about those people, about Wan Xian (Today’s Wanzhou district, Chongqing), and the unexpected reunion and return to the past. Chen Qiulin’s “Peppermint” returns to the “human being”: those memories of “them”, as well as their living now in the name of Martial Arts. It can be said that it belongs to Chen Qiulin’s memory and persistence, about herself in the childhood learning Martial Arts, as well as the teachers and friends who also have always carried this memory. Compared with those vague memories, the strangeness and joy, hesitation and doubt after the reunion are revealed in the images and objects. It guides the audience to explore deeply to Chen Qiulin’s world. For Qiulin, this is only a small part of exhibition works, just like her usual style: the gray tone of base and the combination of reality and memories running throughout the entire clue. The story itself is not important, and what is more important is to disclose the epitome of each ordinary individual under the rapid urban changes.

Since 2003, Chen Qiulin used Tofu to create a series of works, all of them were weak, easy to be out of shape and go bad, and even cause the audiences upset.
Tofu, with a history of over 2,000 years, is an important part in Chinese cooking culture. It is a magical process that soybeans change into Tofu in an ambiguous taste. Similarly, as an important element of individual identity., family name is also an essential element in Chinese culture and links the individual to the family, race and nation. Chinese summarize numerous ancient family names as “The Hundred Surnames”. The artist, referring to calligraphic fonts, creates 100 Chinese family names made of Tofu, hence making the two ancient civilization’s elements compatible in the most simplified way. As an echo of culture and tradition, Tofu will suffer from the smell, seeping and sluggish decomposition in the exhibition.

The video of Peach Blossom and related photographs was took between 2008 and 2009, at the moment soon after Wenchuan Earthquake. They were shot in the city and a ruined factory of Wenchuan, the centre of the earthquake (a city in Sichuan where nereby Chengdu). The length of the video is 16 minutes and 37 seconds. On one hand, I hope this work can bring more concerns to the disaster areas and make people to help those who need helps. On the other hand, the earthquake is just a background of the work, not the theme. This work is still related to my former works which focus on the changing environment and the relationships of people’s lives.

In the ruins of a rapidly industrializing urban-rural area, Chen Qiu Lin sets up a dressing table on the ruins, where a ladylike young woman in a long white dress concentrates on her makeup in public view, while a man in a suit keeps throwing cream cakes at her body for 25 minutes. The “sweet hurt” is the fragile, powerless and vulnerable feeling of survival of this generation of young people, who are considered as the darlings of life by Chinese people, facing the ruined modern existence and cultural environment under the cover of pomp and circumstance.

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