“I’m interested in the surfaces of things.”
Born 1969, Chongqing, Sichuan
In the new China, mass-produced objects are everywhere. Turned out by the million, they are not made to be looked at twice, let alone admired. Chen Wenbo makes such objects the focus of his art. On huge canvases, he reproduces in neon-bright colours and photorealistic detail washbasins, commodes, dice, car keys, matches, bathroom tiles, candelabras. Zoomed in on like actors in close-up and glinting with light, these mundane objects acquire both a Hollywood glamour and an aura of spirituality. The artist gave up painting people years ago. For him, common objects have true star power. Yet because they are made to be used by people, they also serve as metaphors for human absence—or emptiness. Chen Wenbo both loves their “artificial beauty” and deplores the “false, manmade version of nature” that China’s economic boom is promoting. Surfaces, for him, run deep.