“I never try to show Zen in my art, but somehow you can see it anyway; it has become part of me.

Born 1973, Putian, Fujian. Lives and works in Hangzhou

Chen Yufan’s minimalist abstract paintings hover between visual art and literature—or at least the appearance of literature. The diptych Double Standard (2010) presents his personal “encoding” of the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), a compendium of Daoist philosophy. The artist’s code is made up of tiny holes poked into thick acrylic paint with a soldering iron that he made himself “so the dots are perfect”. The close spacing of the holes, the regularity of the lines, and the size of the pure white “pages” suggest an important communication, but its content is literally empty. For Black Screen (2011-2012), the artist created a similar effect in black by impressing dots and lines into wet acrylic paint; the two “pages” are separated by a long “fence” of shallow vertical ridges. Wu-wei, translated as both not-doing and purposeless wandering, is a key concept in Daoism. The artist, who describes himself as a Daoist and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist, says the rhythmic process of making his works becomes intuitive, almost automatic. There is a reason behind the titles, however. “You can see a double standard in culture, politics and the acts of individuals,” the artist says. This lack of integrity, he suggests, is turning philosophy into an unreadable book, a screen that blacks out the truth.

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