Chinese calligrapher, Chen Guangwu’s delicate ink on rice paper paintings are a complex and, upon first glance, a complicated entanglement of traditional forms, calligraphic mastery and absolutely contemporary sensibility. Rejecting the label ‘abstract’, Chen proclaims an irrefutable root in traditional Chinese calligraphy that transcends beyond his art and into his lifestyle. Repetition, a fundamental rule in the training of a master, requires patience, discipline, endurance and meditation. Chen’s painted works are an extension of this artistic philosophy, which he practises daily. Beginning with a single sheet of xuan paper, Chen’s experiential process consists of layering selected Chinese characters with fine brush strokes, which increasingly becomes dense and visually opaque. On one hand, while this visual convolution reiterates the traditional understanding of Chinese script as ‘visual poetry’, it simultaneously questions the value of linguistic meaning beyond semantics: a springboard to launch imaginative wanderings, or an obstruction of language?
Chen was born in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province, China in 1967. His work has been exhibited in galleries, institutions and museums around the world including Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China; Berlin State Museum, Germany; Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, Netherlands; Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Today Art Museum, Beijing, China and University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USA. Chen’s work has been collected by the National Museum of China, Beijing; Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea; Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, Netherlands, Sammlung Rosenkranz, Berlin, Germany; Sigg Collection, Switzerland and Leister Collection, Switzerland among others. The artist currently lives and works in Beijing, China.