Chen Dongfan: Enveloped emotions

Text:Wang Wei

Image courtesy:Fusion Art Center

Chen Dongfan:Forgotten Letters 2020

dRoom / Beijing


798 Art: Apparently, the “letters” in this exhibition at dRoom were the works you created in New York during the COVID outbreak, can you first talk about your thoughts and state when you made these works?


Chen Dongfan: "Letters" were the works while I temporarily stayed in the city. Over three months, I painted about 80 letters, approximately one per day, as resistance to my helplessness and a way of release my emotions as a useless person. If we'd consider these letters as containers, then the inside is solid and void and comprises many things while holding nothing. Those who learn about the Letter (heart) depends on the one reading it. 


798 Art: These works are oil paint on Chinese style notepaper, other than the symbolism of letters, what other thoughts have you put into adopting this medium?


Chen Dongfan: I painted letters for the first time in 2015, mostly as “letters to my family.” This year's abrupt isolation from the viral outbreak, I dug out these painting materials at home. Once I rediscovered the attributes of these Chinese style letter papers, I was inspired by its lattice structure and margins. It may be pretentious to say that these inspired me, maybe it was more about taking on challenges out of defiance, despite the isolation, I still had to express to the fullest. It is in the details one sees heaven and earth, and the subtleties differentiate the worlds. This is how I began to work on these letters during self-isolation.  


798 Art:  Your use of color is exceptionally memorable, not only in terms of its range and spectrum but also the way you apply and balance primary colors. Moreover, the composition of your image is largely done through colors. Can you elaborate on some thoughts about color?  


Chen Dongfan: The study of color has been a focus of my practice over the years, and using color to configure and compose has been one of my essential approaches to painting. The application of colors in art is a technical necessity, it's not the focus of my exploration, but the relationship between color and one's psyche requires ongoing practice. Different colors embody different meanings, as much as cultural differences may vary what they represent. Still, there is a general consensus on what red, blue, yellow, green, and other primary colors mean to most of humanity, so it's sufficient to apply them. For example, when I studied works on music, colors would translate into musical notes, and I would imagine myself as the conductor, and yellow would blossom. At the same time, blue could be the steady rhythm, and white as fluidity, green as a calm atmosphere, red disrupts the harmony and creates agitation, and black sets the frame… these sensible yet scientific studies, of course, before one practices the application of colors, aims for emotional and experiential resonance; otherwise, the colors would be soulless.


左:《新型冠状肺炎》 28.5×19cm 纸本油画 2020

右:《陷入沼泽》28.5×19cm 纸本油画 2020

《你会没事的》纸本油画 28.5×19cm 2020

《帮助我们的陌生人》(局部)纸本油画 28.5×19cm 2020

《愤怒的人》纸本油画 28.5×19cm 2020