FABLE OF CHEN WENLING
THE FIGHTING AND IMAGINATION IN CONSUMPTION SOCIETY
The cluster of immaterial images when China comes to a consumption society is represented in Chen Wenling’s sculptures. His sculptures adopt an allegorized visualize, which reveals the mental infiltration of the materialism in the 90s to a generation and the Chinese self-condition from that time, and also the common consciousness of post-ideology. The two main themes of Chen Wenling’s sculptures are the manifestations of extreme humanity and immaterial images in a consumption society. His self extreme condition begins from the series of "Red Boy". It is neither realism nor vanguard sculpture, but the self expression of Chen Wenling himself to the critical state of life. For example, dread, gladness, game and fancy are the basic main motivations of his sculpture. This series of the "Red Boy" conveys his experience in an autobiographic form. The sculpture trends in the 90s are mainly the absorption in the Concept Art and the Vanguard Art, which makes the contemporary sculpture to two main lines of realism and vanguard sculpture. But in fact, it’s hard to classify Chen Wenling’s sculptures to either of them. This series of "Red Boy" shows a singular self-condition, and transfer the universal humanistic experience to a kind of allegorized self-form. It has no complicated format and narrative theme, but using a styling color and exceedingly exaggerated body action to display the specific topic estate of humanity. Although the singularity in this form of self-representation doesn’t conclude the concept of vanguard sculpture and the reality of realism, it has a stroking visual glamour which arising from the extremity of the critical state. The series of "Red Boy" symbolized the formation of Chen Wenling’s expressing method. One is the allegorical sculpture forms and the other is the manifestations of extreme humanity. His sculptures show earthly values in extremity, and physically generalized various existence of human like extraordinary joy, isolation, hardship and so on. This expression of happy and pain is not a realistic perspective, but an ideal and ultimate manifestation. It emphasized the absolute self condition when he came to some point. Because of the partiality for extreme spirit, Chen Wenling actually has elevated this condition to a self view which had standard religion color, in order to present his self-condition thoroughly and decrease the elements of conception and narration to its minimum, which employ the soul to amore direct confession. The series of "Red Boy" expresses a kind of oneself and the common humanity; the language of his sculpture is mainly his own physique status, which is to show the self-theme, self-condition and self-expression. The series of "Happy Life" is an important transformation of Chen Wenling’s sculpture career. He changed his self-expression to manifestation of the society and the masses. This change delineates a colony of people’s existence in this consumption society, and the sculpture language is no longer the naive and self-imitational form, but absorbing the elements of folk sculpture, narration and irony style. In "Happy Life", Chen Wenling chooses lovely chubby pig and extremely happy person for his two images to make a fictitious daily life. For example, a couple embraced intimately; a flock of pigs doing handstands like acrobats; a gentleman or a housewife holding a plump pig, with a group of little pigs around; a couple riding on the pig, and the husband, holding a chopper and deeply believing that he was on a horse back facing a war; an extraordinary strong fellow grasping a gigantic pig’s head and fighting with it in mind air and a young hunter riding on the pig back viewing with an archaic long tube telescope are all Chen Wenling’s outstanding works. The people and pigs in Chen Wenling’s sculptures are in a terrific self-condition that they feel an excessive happiness or extremely baroque madness of themselves. In his works, the pigs not only in their actions but also in their self-conditions are highly personated. On the contrary, the persons keep human forms and actions, but their self- condition and mental world are in real pigs’ state. The people and pigs in this series have few differences of each other in posture and inner world. Pigs are close to human and men also to pigs. Actually, this method established a parable relation to the pigs and human beings and the allegory that human are like pigs. On this point, Chen Wenling initiated a symbolized way to express visual form. Loveliness and absolute happiness are the main characters of this series, which are also a chief feature and value orientation of contemporary spiritual states in the 90s when China comes to a consumption society. Although"Happy Life"continued the expression method of personal extreme state like the "Red Boy", it exceeded the self-condition and general humanity, transferring to the manifestation of personal socialized status and human nature of the time. In this series, the interpretation of "Happy Life" is in reality expressed as an extreme but entirely painless optimism. Each pig and person seems to live in a joyful state which has no past or future tone. They tried to make their daily life cute and non-suffering. In form, the series of "Happy Life" has more meaning and seemed more profound than "Red Boy", and it inclined to a social criticism in the theme, because it emphasized on the study of a group. Man and pig joint together. For example, pigs wear clothes like people, and their actions are also reminiscent of people, but people’s bodies are presented with pigs in physicality and materiality. This skill reveals a profound social living condition, behind which he criticizes the ideology in consumer society, like the parochial thought and fetishism in personality. From the middle of the 90s, contemporary sculptures are mainly focus on the characters in the consumption society. For example, Xu Yihui’s works about McDonald’s, box lunch and other commodities, Liu Liguo and Liu Jianhua’s exhibition of body appetite and flowery appearance; Li Zhanyang’s reflection of recreational ground and arrivistes’ life site and so on. The consumption social culture from its culture idea to its inner experience of downfall was regarded as the critical object of irony theme. But such disclosure is mainly limited to a level of the self’s existence and social ideology. On the point of revealing man’s dissimilation and shrink of personality, Chen Wenling’s "Happy Life" is more deepgoing, and truly posts the essence of a group’s spiritual states in this time. "Happy Life" not only exposed the personal essence of a group in this time, but in the language of sculpture also involved many practice both in concept and form. The various formats conclude allegory, narrative sculpture, visual irony, group images and on-location narration. Because he graduated from the Academy of Art and Design, in terms of artistic language, he insists on reforming the folk sculpture to academism, especially learn from the popular postures. Chen Wenling absorbs the comical features of folk figures: for example, fat women, idiotic facial expressions, and puckered lips, which are shown a state of joyous and optimistic in folk Spring Festival pictures and sculptures formerly. This joyous estate was used to show loveliness and painlessness, and in folk custom art, it was essentially an ideality of the bottom people, but in Chen Wenling’s subject, it displayed to an irony of a group’s emotional states. In terms of artistic language, Chen Wenling’s recent artworks are closer to a type of surrealistic legendary language structure, for instance, people are riding on pigs as if they were riding the pre-historic elephant or pre-historic mammals, they seems to be fighting against pigs just like the heroes struggling against dinosaurs. The recent series blurs the directness of the social metaphor, but is inclined to revealing the preposterous being of the self. Form experience is always a crucial part in Chen Wenling’s sculpture practice, so his recent works are more like an art experiment in artistic language. These series departure the sociality of sculpture and the direct criticism of post-ideology in "Happy Life". It seems that this brings Chen Wenling back to presenting the human realm of self –indulgence in a circuit. Compared to the universal humanity and the extremeness in "Red Boy", this time, what Chen Wenling wants to show is not an ideality or imagination which directs the humanity to perfect, but a pessimism and preposterous sense. That is, he attempts to insert a strong element of the self, causing this visual layout to appear still in the midst of a struggle. Chen Wenling’s sculptures focus on showcasing people in some state of enthusiasm or extreme extraordinary humanness. This became his early form of self-representative language in sculpture, and this self-representative theme was later brought into the context of social issues, where it became a satire directed toward people came to overlade loveliness and animal hedonism in the consumption society. However, irony and criticism seem not Chen Wenling’s single technique, he more wants to have an image of self-struggle and redemption in the level of pessimism.
Text by Zhu Qi