The Simplicity of Truth
Chen Jianhui's contemporary use of ink is both daring and beautiful. There is ample mood and feeling in his work and the contrast between light and dark offers an inspiring effect. Chen is able to produce profound insight from the simplest of lines. His somber colour palate of black, grey and white combined with spots, fragmented lines and brushstrokes weave together mysterious landscapes and abstract non-realities. He is an artist and a philosopher, and his work opens a world of interpretation. As though his expression derives from his pure subconscious, Chen's paintings possess a deeply meditative quality.
Originally a classical Chinese ink painter, Chen Jianhui’s new abstract work contains an exploration of spirit and a soothing gentleness. The artist’s painting techniques evoke movement and a rhythmic flow similar to water. Or one can imagine that the painted lines are bending in the wind, like long leaves in a field. In Chen’s paintings, a simple, singular line can speak volumes and can be more powerful than a huge mass of colours. Chen's composition is remarkable and the negative space is just as meaningful as the playful swirls and lines of heavy ink. In a way, the paintings have an Eastern philosophical approach, which some may can “Zen”; this is appropriate, as the artist himself often reads Buddhist manuscripts, not because he is religious but because he is fascinated by the concepts. Chen Jianhui’s paintings range from pure, simple lines to complex shading, with an infinite-seeming number of lines, which look almost like an intricate spider-web of patterns. Within many of his paintings, Chen also includes small bubbly-looking patterns, which he indicates are “snails”. The tiny snails exist within the artist’s abstract landscapes, among the simple single leaves or the spider webs, as we humans exist within the vast expanse of the land and the world. It is as though the snails are witnessing Chen’s abstract world within the work, similar to how we are witnessing the paintings from the outside. Chen Jianhui’s work is graceful and bold with modern elements in which he reaches another realm of Chinese ink painting. The thoughtful placement and arrangement conveys an intelligent language in adaptation to tradition.
Chen honours traditional Chinese motifs but his execution is uniquely refreshing, and there is wonderful depth to his juxtapositions. In this way, he is a visionary poet. One might think that his work is experimental but it is much more than attempting a contemporary approach to a traditional medium. Chen's work is deeply reflective and meticulous. He pays keen attention to detail and it is clear that his academic background has greatly influenced his art. He is highly skilled at traditional Chinese ink painting methods but he also has developed his own, more modern techniques. Many of his subjects are without embellishment or interpretation. Much credit is deserved for Chen in the way that he is able to balance these methods with such refinement. Although deeply complex, his work seems quite effortless. In this way, perhaps Chen is trying to highlight the simplicity of truth.
By Ellen Manning