Chen Yu was born in Anshun in 1963. Having originally trained in engraving, Chen graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and then worked in the publishing industry. Chen’s decision to become a painter was made as he had a desire to create a world of his own and be allowed to work by himself surrounded by his own works. Influenced by the art of printmaking, Chen differentiates himself with the monotony of his subjects, which are cloned as if they are reproduced by the printing press. Rows of duplicated human heads are constant symbolic feature in his paintings. Their repetition questions the place given to individuality and its expression.
Chen’s work is very distinctive. Using a screen-printing technique, Chen creates the duplicated human heads in the artworks but always has one on them showing an individuality from the others, the only one who would have their eyes open. The repetition of the heads questions the place given to individuality and its expression, which is reminiscent of the Cynical Realism movement in China in the 1990’s. the movement criticized the lack of individuality and repression of society in China at the time.
Chen’s sense of humor can be seen in the actions he uses to create the individual in the painting. The individual may be picking their nose, having water poured on their head or looking at the onlooker with a cigarette in their mouth. Alternatively, there may be another object in the image which draws the attention away from the human subjects within the picture, breaking the monotony of the scene.
Chen’s style and technique has matured with time. The aesthetics have become more realistic. The images remain distinct, but the rendering shows more skill. The range of colours Chen uses has also become subtler.
In recent works, Chen has been exploring individuality in different ways. The individual in the image is shown by a differing gender, outfit or facial expression. The people appear to be more related and less isolated from each other. Where Chen has chosen to distinguish an individual, the others now show more interaction with them, their eyes are now open.
2017 Art Stage Singapore, Wellington Gallery, Singapore
2016 Art Stage Singapore, Singapore
2015 Riverside Art Museum, Beijing, China, Return
Proje4L Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, Turkey, Young Collection
2014 YCL Gallery, Beijing, China, Day Dreamer
YCL, Gallery, Beijing, China, The Chen Family
2013 Snow Mountain Arts Festival, Lijiang, CHINA
2012 Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong, Latitude/Attitude: 20th Anniversary Exhibition