Chen Wei – Slumber Song – Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery

While in London I stumbled across this fascinating exhibition of Chinese contemporary photography Chen Wei. Different from the ‘New Wave’ predecessors of Chinese art who placed politics at the center of their work the new generation of artists, who Chen Wei is a part of consider the individuals place among modern China.

The Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery is a new venue for me, never been before but have since learnt a little about it, the owner, Ben Brown worked with Sotherbys for a decade before branching out on his own to found this fine arts gallery that caters for the collector.

Immediately you get a sense of Chen Wei’s work, visually stunning the elaborate scenes and technically ability are brilliant.  These impressive still life photographs are amazing examples of an exact approach and mindset when constructing a scene. For example in his 2008 image, ‘The Raven Zoar’ the scene is a meticulous collection of items and their placement creates a somewhat spooky feeling of being trapped in a cage.

I especially like his 2012 image ‘Coins #3’ this subtle and delicate photograph of coins on the bottom of a wishing well shows the capture of the light refracting through the water. The beautiful highlights that get picked out cause the eye to dart around the frame while his control of the light has really improved the image with the lack of blacks in the image really gives the image a very impressive tonal range.

Chen Wei’s 2009 photograph ‘Method of Slumber’ is an interesting and disturbing photograph that to me speaks about education in China. The metronome atop of the books and the school desk and chair style give the impression of harsh study regime that has in this case has caused the death of someone, represented by the black bird on the seat.

I found this an interesting and eye opening insight into a Chinese photographer who I had not heard of before, but then again I don’t think I know any Chinese photographers. His work has opened me up creatively with the use of sets and scenes to produce meaningful narratives in a still life environment.


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