Chen Wei: Jamais Vu

Ota Fine Arts Singapore is delighted to present Jamais Vu, a solo exhibition by Chinese artist Chen Wei. This presentation will feature a series of photography works as well as an LED light sculpture by the artist. By adopting the term ‘jamais vu’ as the exhibition title, the artist hopes to highlight the emotional reaction whereby one feels as though they are experiencing something for the first time, despite having already experienced it before. This exhibition guides viewers to ponder on how we perceive the surrounding world which continues to change ceaselessly.

Chen’s work New Station (2020) depicts an empty bus stop. There are no vehicles or passengers to be seen. Only objects such as suitcases, different kinds of boxes and the bus stop’s structure with its empty signboard seem to play the role of the storyteller in this work. In Beijing where Chen is based, he noticed that sometimes a newly-built bus stop is left unused for a long time. But he does not document such sceneries as is, rather, during the process of making this work, he started to ponder on the meaning of what a bus stop represents. It symbolizes the movement of people of various backgrounds: leaving home for school, work, or meeting someone. It could be a daily commute or a long journey without any plans to return. The artist described this work with the phrase “lonely performance” – there are no human figures acting on the stage, but instead the objects positioned around the bus stop sit silently, implying meanings and provoking emotions.

Another work by the artist, Pink Bobble (2021), presents a more abstract image whereby pastel pink tennis balls are placed on and around a steel structure, against a green background. How people in China have a longing for a better life is also one of the main underlying themes in Chen’s work. As people’s lifestyles have become more diversified in China over the last few decades, finding something new to do during one’s leisure time has also become important in building a new lifestyle. Tennis is one of the options, as the artist observed. In the same manner as New Station, human figures are removed from the image. Only the objects — and also the light, specifically in this work — are employed to convey a certain feeling of expectation, and probably confusion and disappointment experienced from new changes as well. In this respect, tennis is not just a mode of sport, but also a new step towards a better life.

Chen’s thoughts behind the works are insightful to all of us who live in the contemporary world. Changes in our society are no longer so simple nor linear. Old things keep appearing in front of our eyes with a new appearance, while we face new things assuming that we already know them well. It is almost impossible to differentiate old and new, especially in a cosmopolitan society where we experience enormous volumes of information, and also where consumption is constantly encouraged. How do we determine where we are headed next, or even grasp the flow of time, in this complexity? It seems that Chen’s works are providing us with the opportunity to reflect on these questions.

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