In a late 2012 video portrait produced by Schoeni Art Gallery, Chinese artist Chen Yu delivers insight into his method of screen-printing.

Take a peek into the method behind Chen Yu’s exceptional screen-prints in this video profile from Schoeni Art Gallery and find out why Yu started using the medium, whom he attributes his artistic output to and how the interruption of monotony hints at a search for individuality.

Chen Yu, 'Untitled 2010', 2010, "Series No. 4", oil on canvas.

Chen Yu, ‘Untitled 2010’, 2010, “Series No. 4”, oil on canvas.

In 1992, when Hong Kong based Schoeni Art Gallery first offered up its walls to works by contemporary Chinese artists, its main aim was to forge a liaison between Western logic and Eastern sensibility. Last year marked the gallery’s twentieth anniversary and to celebrate the occasion, Schoeni wanted to demonstrate just how far they have come, as well as the role that they have played in China’s contemporary art scene as a kick-off platform for artists like Chen Yu.

Art Radar has covered other videos in this Schoeni Art Gallery interview series. Click here to view them all.

Born in 1969 in Guizhou Province, China, Yu started his career as a printmaker after graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, in 1993 and has been exhibiting his portraits in solo and group exhibitions around the world ever since. When asked in the video interview why he paints, he responds, “For many years I asked myself why I paint. Later I found out an answer: I don’t know how to do anything else. I only know how to paint.”

Watch the full video on Chinese artist Chen Yu below or on Schoeni Art Gallery’s YouTube channel.

Yu’s screen-printing technique allows him to produce rows of identical bodies, heads and faces that appear uniform at first glance, however a closer look always reveals a “mistake” or peculiarity in one of the clones; a peculiar facial expression or gesture breaks the monotony. Yu explains, “At first I studied screen-printing and was inspired by Andy Warhol. I realised this technique was an easier way to create artworks, so it suits my personal feelings. As it does not require brain work and you can produce many copies in a short period of time.”

In their introduction to the artist on their website, the gallery further discusses Yu’s use of the single, discordant figure.

The gestures or expression of the singled out character is most of the time hilarious. Sometimes picking one’s nose, water being poured on one’s bald head, looking at the spectator with a cigarette in one’s mouth … are examples of such attitudes the artist picks to make one person among his created crowds stand out.

Art Radar has covered other videos in this Schoeni Art Gallery interview series. Click here to view them all.

According to the introduction to the video by the gallery, Chen Yu’s work is reminiscent of Cynical Realism, an artistic movement in China in the 1990s where the lack of individuality and the repression of China’s society were often criticised by means of repetition and monotony. Nevertheless, Yu’s screen-prints can also be regarded as the search for himself within his rows of clones. As he says in the video,

I really like this kind of pattern as it does not require much thought. These artworks, when they are put together, is the way I feel. The feeling I want. … If I can create that many people through painting, then I believe one of them is me.


Related Topics: Chinese artists, printmaking, oil paintingart that explores social themes

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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