Artist Statement | On Chiyi Series - Chen Duxi

Translated by Felix Chen

Chen Duxi, Comtemplate #64, 70x50 cm, Ink on Silk, 2021


“The Rain Freshens”, Installation View, ©THE FQM, 2022


The study of movements is central to the Chiyi series. Water flows, diverges, and merges according to the different lays of land. Under light, it shows degrees of transparency and tonality; with wind, it ripples and forms wave patterns; it reveals different viscosities and volumes due to temperature changes; it emerges and conceals among various containers.


To capture the myriad states of water through drawings and paintings is analogous to expressing the movements of all fluid matters. In other words, the act of painting transcribes the cummative effects and properties of such moving entities. I train myself to mirror my hand motions to the flows of water: in doing so, I attempt to release the act of painting from the binary opposition between the subject (“painter”) and the object (“water”). This is not unlike the saying qian xiang miao de, proposed by the Eastern Jin dynasty painter Gu Kaizhi, which translates to “achieving wonder through moving associations.” The subject shall live within the object. This is not a fixed methodology per se, as methods also go through movements and changes. It is highly unlikely that we could ever observe the absolute stasis of water. This causes me to form a mobile vantage point when it comes to painting water. “Moving with the observed movements”––which stems from I-ching––is the basis of all of my observations and drawings.


Chen Duxi, Comtemplate #79, 70x50 cm, Ink on Silk, 2021 

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by all forms of movement. I was obsessed with sports that involved wheels and rotations: roller skating, skateboard, cycling, motorcyclin g, cars…I even treated grocery wagons as toys! I later realized that my joy stemmed from feeling a resonance between my own bodily rhythm and that of their movements. The rhythmic crossovers between the observer and the observed create harmonious perfections that bring tremendous joy. 

Let us now consider movements in terms of music: suppose a song begins with a 1/4 time signature and a steady melody. All of sudden, with the same melody, the song switches to a 1/16 time signature. The change in rhythm would excise a drastic psychological and emotional impact upon the listener. The variation of movements and pauses creates a highly rich listening experience. The performer also flows with the rhythm. Rhythm serves as an expression of movement. Our awareness of existence and time within music relies upon our ability to sense its rhythmic nodes. Without such nodes, our temporal and existential awareness would stretch  into infinitude. As such, rhythm is in fact an expression of the vital movements that sustain life.


Chen Duxi, Comtemplate #60, 70x50 cm, Ink on Silk, 2021


“The Rain Freshens”, Installation View, ©THE FQM, 2022

At the risk of making careless judgments, I do feel that the sense of movements within art intensifies as they are traced further back in time. I believe that this impression stems from our situated observational methods. As a civilization, we have witnessed hundreds and thousands of artistic expressions. When we look at them from today’s vantage point, what do we take note of? Their visual effect? Their underlying narratives? As an artist, I believe that the more important inquiry would be to understand how historical art cameto form. By that, I mean how artists and craftsmen converted the intentions of the observable world, and translated the consciousness of the world into painterly gestures. The inventive formats and adaptive sensibility initiated by artists are the keys to understanding any painting.


Chen Duxi, Comtemplate #77, 47x31 cm, Ink on Silk, 2021


Paintings condense time and space. In response, viewers use their examining gaze to process a silhouette of time-space. I find the reciprocal relationship between the paintings and the viewers to be immensely alluring. From its earliest formation to its mature state today, paintings, at their most fundamental core, consist of a human portraying an object. Such impressions solicit not only cerebral, but bodily participation from the viewers.


It seems as if the earliest cave paintings were done to preserve something against the oblivion of time. Well, have they really preserved anything? Perhaps the painting’s commemorative gesture preserves the human quest for eternity. Just like a prehistoric human, we too, live through a lifetime failing to preserve anything––against time. However, we do need some sort of form to persist. Or, shall we say, we simply would like a change of speed against the steadily moving time. Pictures degrade at a much slower rate than the human beings who painted them. Yet again, this reminds me of music: the tension of changed rhythms solicits intense emotions. And just like that, we are constantly being shaken by the movements of time.


“The Rain Freshens”, Installation View, ©THE FQM, 2022

August 18, 2022