Order in Chaos: Jenny Chen Solo Exhibition
Exhibition Dates│ 08.06.2022–10.22.2022
Venue │ Tina Keng Gallery (1F, No. 15, Ln. 548, Ruiguang Rd., Neihu Dist., Taipei, Taiwan 11492)
Art making is a process of constant dialogue and grapple between the artist and her work. It is in this way that the artist is able to find equilibrium in the company of her work. Such process seems to never end. To sublimate yearslong vicissitudes into honest works of art becomes a nuanced decision. Jenny Chen’s work resides in perpetual flux. If art making is a journey from 0 to 1, what she attempts to capture is the vagaries along the way. What we finally witness is merely the sum of the process.
Passionate and stalwart, Chen leaves a strong first impression. Surprises lurk between her and the works she makes: These large-scale paintings, animated by unrestrained splashes of color, turn out to be conjured through the graceful hands of this slender lady. With a BA degree in Western language and literature, she dabbled in art after she was married, and slowly gravitated toward the manual act of splashing and smearing paint. She was admitted to the Pratt Institute at the age of 40, and with her family’s blessing, went alone to study for her MFA degree in New York. It was during her time in New York that she absorbed the artistic energy and pluralistic milieu that the city had to offer. The eclectic cultural influences blended and shaped her interiority, as the artist came to form her visual language. Despite the Western techniques and concepts she has imbibed, she maintains an essence and sense of philosophy that is particular to the East. In addition to her native culture, dance, music, and literature serve as her inspiration, infusing her work with a rhythmic buoyancy that suggests a singular vision.
Emanating from Chen’s work is a certain verve, cadence, temporality, lyricism. The work, for her, parallels the artist’s inner world; it mirrors what the artist sees, says, and thinks. Every experience percolates through her practice into her work. Painting becomes her creative palimpsest: “My practice revolves around a sense of freedom that is absolutely personal and uncurbed. I don’t have any preconceived notions before I begin. Instead, I allow the paint to flow and form a terrain of its own. I believe in the paint’s ability to express what I want to convey. Of course there is a primary concern for life and nature in my work. I believe that art cannot be separated from life, because artistic creation is the reflection of everything. I also believe that art comes from instinct; instinct does not change, nor does it fall within the confines of time and space. I want my feelings to echo the outside world. Artistic creation is, after all, the manifestation of the artist’s psyche, an ultimate response to life itself.”
Past principles or perspectives no longer concern the artist. She is more interested in the liberation of composition, in the synergy between the body and the canvas: how the movement of the body translates her strength and emotion, embodied in the organic flow of line and color. The first solo exhibition of the artist since her return from the U.S. in 2020, Order in Chaos crystallizes the changes and differences she has experienced during the past two years. Her personal feelings run unbridled in the layering of pigments, the fusion of hues and shades, enfolding the viewer in a lingering sense of chromatic exuberance. The exhibition title is inspired by Chen’s observation of New York: a city pregnant with cultural heterogeneity, despite the noise, tumult, and clamor, is just the perfect environment for contemporary art to thrive and nurture a sense of order in chaos. Echoing this harmony amidst turmoil, the artist’s abstract shapes and colors coalesce into spontaneous landscapes filtered through her mind’s eye. At times fast, at times slow, a palpable sense of speed reigns in her work: compositions converge or sprawl, dictated by the flow of paint. The use of only primary colors heightens the visual force of her abstraction; the texture of the canvas formed by collaged paint fragments and the preexisting painted layer leavens the surface with an elemental tactility.
By splashing paint and allowing it to meander across the canvas, Chen captures a spatial dimension in her physical movement. Dried paint fragments found during the art-making process are collaged back onto the canvas, attesting to a temporal dimension encapsulated in her endeavor to conjoin what was once lost and what has been conceived. This approach lends a three-dimensionality to the canvas, intuitively layered and textured, light and shadow engaged in a painterly pas de deux. Dwelling in between stillness and dynamism, plane and dimension, time and space is the artist’s sense of the world.
The vicissitudes of Chen’s life challenge her equanimity, but she has managed to still her mind through the ebb and flow. Art, for her, is a way to adjust the frame of mind, and appease her physical discomfort. All the rituals that could stimulate the cranial nerves and ripples of the mind have allowed her to distill her experiences into metaphysical musing, and this, for her, is how art resonates with her. Order in Chaos invites the viewer to experience her works up close, a culmination of her decades-long practice. In addition to 43 paintings, a site-specific installation is also on view. Comprising three of the artist’s works with paint fragments and unstretched painted canvases mounted on metal stands, this installation provides a glimpse into the artist’s studio and her peregrination between dimensions. For Jenny Chen, the times we inhabit are debilitatingly tempestuous, but there is always a way to find balance and order in chaos. As she opens herself during the course of painting, she feels each work reverberate with space, with her spirit. The flowing, layering, settling, blending of paint evoke in varying ways her resilience and ease.
About the artist
Born in 1944 in Chongqing, Chinam, Jenny Chen has a BA degree in Western language and literature from the National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan, and a MFA degree from the Pratt Institute, New York, U.S. She has exhibited internationally since 1987, including the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan; Asia University Museum of Modern Art, Taichung, Taiwan; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, U.S.; and Grand Palais, Paris, France, among others. Her work is housed in the collections of the Pratt Institute, Shanghai Art Museum, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.