Artist Photo -  Chen Xi.JPG

CHEN Xi 陳熹


Chen XI has been continuously working on his ”perfect-in-form” ink-pen drawing for almost a decade. The abstract forms are drawn with pen and ink and radiate perfection and elegance. The technique of plume drawing is based on the traditional Chinese art.

Chen XI grew up in Shanghai; in the 90s he moved to Vienna where he still lives and works today. He was educated at the Art Academy of Shanghai, a then and now very privileged institution whose classes accomodate only five students. The main focus of the training was on traditional art techniques such as ink painting and pen drawing, as well as realistic painting. A high degree of precision is required to perfectly master the technique and in order to corresponded to the ideal it demands.

Every single line in Chen XI’s drawings is painted free-handed; to this day the artist remains true to this fundamental ideal. The abstraction is made in the tradition of European art history. The conclusion of his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 2005, allowed Chen a deeper engagement with the theory and tradition of abstract art. In his current work Chen XI combines the elements of the Asian and European art traditions.

Chen’s series of drawings that have a homogeneity in style, while each is in fact unique in itself. Chen XI works without sketches. The dispositive is always white paper on which the lines drawn layer by layer form a kind of grid. Around six to eight layers of lines form the basic grid on which each drawing is based. The contouring is temporally prior to the internal modeling of the three-dimensional shapes. The curved or folded positions in the interior of the shape only occur later during the drawing process. It seems as if the shape already existed in the core of the paper and Chen XI purely helps it to develop.

Chen XI is driven by the ongoing quest and completion of the perfect shape. Precision, patience and a keen eye are essential for the success of the drawing. The beauty of a shape which nothing can be added nor substracted of, allows the viewer's gaze to rest. Generally the use of colors is very reduced. The drawings are mostly black, in isolated cases red or copper-colored.

Not every drawing is purely abstract, many are reminiscent of a knot on a piece of fabric, a delicate bend, a plume or a budding tulip. The entire work group of pen and ink drawings is subject to a certain rootlessness.

When viewing the paintings by CHEN Xi, terms like explosive, eruptive, natural, breathing, tossing, bursting and concentrated, cross the observer’s mind. CHEN mainly works with paper and mixed media, often entirely in black. Indian ink, acrylic, oil… with everything that produces this special effect desired by intuition. The pictures are a spontaneous montage of extremely thin and painted paper on canvas. This black we are confronted with as the exclusive colour. Only sometimes interrupted by sepia or natural tones, simultaneously creates the impression of condensing as well as of widening.

Chen Xi seems to be looking for an element, an original matter, the original cause of being. The Tao? Searching Laotse, the founder of Taoism. We find the term “Tao” paraphrased but not exactly defined, the actual meaning being left obscure. Tao does not represent as a personal god and is translated as path, original cause, origin, ratio, logos. The Tao creates the one from which the two develops, which creates three from which all things emerge.

Chen Xi’s pictures lead observers into a partly ear-splitting – and eye bewitching universe, into which they are drawn, in which they may quickly feel dizzy and where they easily may lose track of things, not knowing in which cosmos they are situated. And as soon as they have freed themselves from this frenzy of perception, they may take with them a hint of an idea or even knowledge about the origin of their being from this journey.

The artist (b.1966) lives and works in Vienna.