Allegory | Chen Wenling's Solo Exhibition

The Storytelling of Chen Wenling

July 30 - September 21, 2021
MON - FRI 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
SAT 11 AM - 6:00 PM


Surrounded by stainless steel - the substance that symbolizes the great success of the Industrial Revolution - a skinny boy stands out with a dazzling red color and a simple, innocent smile. He climbs on rocks, juggles with balls on his head, does handstands... These simple games are full of fun in the eyes’ of a child, making him forget about the hunger and cold that permeated every slit of his life. This thin boy is the epitome of Chen Wenling's childhood. Despite the poverty and lack of material goods, the Red Boy is always curious and optimistic about the difficult life. Chen discusses materialism, expanding desires and environmental issues led by rapid development with metaphors and symbolic images. Through the appropriation of Chinese folktales and allegories, he creates an attentive and alluring narrative that conveys the philosophy of symbiosis. He employs figures, such as pig, bull and mushroom, as the objectification of greediness, desires for wealth and longevity. The skinny boy then becomes the representation of our inner child, simple, happy and fearless, guarding our aspirations for peace, symbiosis and harmony.

In late 2001, Wenling Chen unveiled his ‘Red Memories’ exhibition in Pearl Bay, Xiamen, as a part of the ‘Red Boy’ series. The exhibition was an explosive success in the art world, and ‘Red Memories’ became one of China’s most symbolic sculptural works almost overnight. A number of pieces were acquired by major institutions, and have been showcasing to audiences around the world.

The “Red Boy” can be read as Wenling’s “role-playing of different characters”. With dates of creation spanning more than 20 years, these works can be seen collectively as a sort of autobiography by Wenling. The frail, scrawny silhouettes of the Little Red Men nevertheless exude an unstoppably positive spirit, as if to say that despite hunger and hardship, every last one of them harboured thoughts of a world filled with joy and wonder. Through these hopeful and even childlike emotions, Wenling etched into his work China’s century of simultaneous material impoverishment and spiritual richness. In this way, these Little Red Men have earned themselves a perennial place among collectors and art historians, forever to remain a unique landmark in the annals of Chinese art history.

Curated by Viahsta Yuan

Advisory Committee: Vancouver Biennale, Michael Suh 

Photo courtesy to Roy Hoh Photography.

For media release, please click here >>

Online Panel Talk: Public Art - Cases and Experiences

Panelists: Zheng Shengtian, Chen Wenling
Moderator: Viahsta Yuan

Time: Aug 12, 2021 06:00 ~ 7:00 PM Vancouver
ZOOM Meeting ID: 953 6743 5796
Passcode: 323455

Language: Mandarin (English transcript will be available after the talk)


在象征着工业革命巨大成功的物质——不锈钢的包围中,一个瘦削无辜的男孩以耀眼的红色和率真的微笑脱颖而出。他在山石上攀爬,头顶圆球杂耍,挑战着倒立...… 这些简单的游戏在孩子眼中充满了乐趣,让他甚至忘记了饥饿和寒冷。这个瘦小的男孩是陈文令童年的缩影,尽管物质极度贫乏,却总能乐观面对艰难的生活。陈文令以隐喻和象征意象来讨论快速发展带来的物质主义、扩张的欲望和环境问题。通过对中国民间故事和寓言的挪用,他创造了一个细心而诱人的叙事,传达了共生的哲思。他用猪、牛、蘑菇等物像作为贪婪的象征,以及人类对财富和长寿的渴望。瘦小的男孩成为我们内心小孩的代表,简单、快乐和无所畏惧,守护着我们对和平、共生与和谐的渴望。

2001年底,陈文令在厦门珍珠湾海滩举办「红色记忆」小红人系列展览,在艺术界一炮而红,成为中国最具标志性的雕塑作品之一。 多件作品被重要机构收藏,像全世界的观众展示着。

小红人,是艺术家陈文令“扮演出的不同角色”。二十年来,系列中的各种作品成为艺术家陈文令别具一格的”自传“。四肢纤瘦但精神饱满的小红人是那个时代中国的缩影,在饥饿的状态下,每个人却憧憬着美好。陈文令正是用这种乐观童真和充满希望的方式来记录着物质的贫乏而精神的富足。在当代雕塑界与收藏界,小红人是一枚独特的标签, 其传奇性与时代感,最终将被永恒地铭记。 


born in 1969, Fujian Province, China. Chen is recognized as one of the most significant artists in the history of Chinese contemporary art. He has held over 115 exhibitions nationally and internationally, and presented at the Venice Biennale and Chicago’s Millennium Park. His works are collected by major museums and art institutions around the world. To name a few, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, Denver Art Museum and White Rabbit Gallery.

>> Artist Page