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Pink Sugar

Thoughts on "Step Back"

Basic Info

<Step Back> is curated by Cui Cancan includes the Chinese contemporary painter Chen Danqing's artworks from 1968-2019. The exhibition has two main spaces looking at each other across a narrow street, both of them divided into several rooms. One room in the first space collected the most recent paintings from Chen when he was in New York. Moving on, in the next room, with two self-portraits on the sidewalls, plays his documentary "Local Perspective." The other space separates into three rooms, for Human Figures, Early Practices, "Xizang groups," respectively. This exhibition acts as a thick scroll, displays all the works and lives of Chen Danqing, and helps people get to know the real him, the boy from the Chinese countryside.

source from sohu

Chen Danqing, Chinese Painter

As a professional painter, Chen Danqing shows his deliberate painting skills through all the artworks, on contrast, these works revealed his discovery and learning progress to the public. His styles have changed all the time, along with his models and objects. Most of his recent realistic artworks depict different kinds of people, from college girls, couples, actresses, to workers, officers, without any conspicuous background or additions, only to deliver the pure beauty of figures themselves. Yet some other paintings, like the early works he copied from famous Russian artists, create a sense of harmony among characters and their environments and indicate more gentleness by applying warmer colors and drawing adorable creatures like little girls, pets, nature, etc. His flexibility in creating works from different genres enables him to touch broader things and absorb more from others. From his painting, especially those in his early ages, people can receive a strong sense of freedom and aliveness. Take an example of his "Xizang Groups," due to geological factors, ethnics there have an extreme red cheek and darker skin, this makes them look unadorned and particular real. Chen Danqing captures these evident traits draws them down in his way and eventually offers the audience a genuine feeling of Xizang and its people.

Unsurprisingly, this work made an enormous success, some critiques even point out that this is Chen's forever peak of his painting career. He said this in the preface, " step back is indeed moving forward," which corresponds with what he has been doing and thinking---Chen didn't get proud nor get down by these multiple comments and still stuck himself to improving his art skills.

About Curation

Cui Cancan, the overall curator of <Step Back>, choose to set up this exhibition in a relative conservational way, he well displays Chen's works in an order showing his " step forward" and "step back," by putting all the attention on demonstrating pure artworks without much decoration and additions around them. Cui wants audiences to feel the paintings to the full extend and get as closer as possible. He follows Chen's idea, which stresses the importance of leaving blanks for audiences to imagine, and decides to act as a narrator of Chen's paintings during 1968-2019. In the whole exhibition, Cui uses separate rooms to discuss the definition of contemporary art and Chen's art. What can be called fashion art? What is the meaning of moving forward or stepping back? Instead of judging Chen's works, he preferred today's art students to deeply reflect on these questions and examine themselves about freedom in temporary society and the art field. Though Cui agrees with the more straightforward exhibition style, he still does a little creative with it, like the changeable appearances of each room. The cold cement wall in the first space matches Chen's latest artworks for international models, while in the small room playing his "local perspective," the wall changed to a wooden quality.

Stepping into the second space, people can feel the exchange of the total environment that is more old-fashioned and academic fitting with his copying works from European Medieval classic artists. When entering the last room presented his early practices, the background is brighter with a massive white, beige, light grey. By "doing subtract" to Chen and his works, Cui tries hard to present the original Chen Danqing to the people---having fewer comments and more descriptions is his ultimate design for curating this exhibition.


<Step Back> exhibition has a unique curating style, meantime reflecting Chen's path of finding his art style during decades, an artist who never stops being unusual and following his heart. We see that Chen has both conversational and pioneering paintings, his constant transition between styles makes him think about the meaning of "step back" and "move forward," Cui gets Chen's discussion point and puts this question on the open table for everyone coming to this exhibition, and that makes this particular huge painting exhibition explicit and clear. And finally, make a huge success.

Here are some works from the exhibition.

"60" Chen Danqing oil on canvas, 138 × 92.5 cm, 2014

"Old Farmer in Shanxi" oil on canvas 2011

"Into the City (1)" (replica), oil on paper, 1980

"Leather Shoes" oil on canvas 1990

"The Booklet Jungle No. 2" oil on canvas 2015

"Sichuan Migrant Workers at Tangren Gallery" oil on canvas 2019

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