Wang: In your most recent works, apart from seeing a sort of underlying continuity from your previous works, one can also perceive subtle changes, could you talk a bit about the thinking behind your most recent work?
Chen: The creative process from the start has its own inner reasoning. Artistic creation is the process of an artist’s attempts to objectify ideas. In this process, if nothing exciting exists, if you lack conviction that inspiration will come to you, it is difficult to sustain the creative impetus. A work's consistency and also its variability is something the artist decides through his own will, it is at the same time a very naturally occurring, uncontrolled process, a change like that of flowing water, stepping foot into an unplanned for yet familiar world.
Wang: Looking back from today over all your previous works, one can see a very regulated development. Though this might only be seen as an exterior change in the superficial characteristics of the works, some elements, almost like similar 'genes' often concealed in your paintings, separated and then reconnected in a new interpretation, generate a variety of intrinsic conceptual elaborations. Can you expand on this a little?
Chen: An artist's creative life is like a river, it begins at the fountainhead with a single source, but as it moves along it is constantly fed by its tributaries, and if it is not dammed, is not hindered or dries up, it will continue on like this, following a gravitational pull unobstructed on its way to the seas and oceans. The core of the 'genes' in an artist’s life is a desire for enlightenment and wisdom. These 'genes' here are all to do with life, concealing moments waiting to be revealed. In other words, a painter is merely utilizing a different artistic language at different periods of creation in an attempt to make these intrinsic moments reveal themselves. But this sort of revelation distinctly makes demands on the viewer's spiritual and emotional experience and allowing the work to appeal to these emotions.
Wang: In your artworks, there are frequently only two basic colors whose interaction gives birth to a particular sensory result. Clearly the two colors in your paintings are not rigidly fixed in their appearance, but contain subtle variations and shading, belying the existence of an interactive relationship. Is this related to your experiences with ink painting? In other words, is this not an extension, a transposition of your ideas on the relationship between black and white in ink painting? Also, you often mention that in taking two basic colors as a base and form shows that the painting still holds the possibility of expansion, please could you speak a bit more on your ideas on this.
Chen: If classified only by the exterior presentation, my works make one conclude that they belong in the realm of minimalist abstract color paintings. The utilization of two basic color fields is a conscious and limiting painting element. This resolute choice determines the form of the work. However, I do not think that the nucleus of Chinese traditional ink painting lies with black and white. The core of Chinese painting is based on calligraphy and line. The initial birth of these lines is in the traces and shades left by the water in the ink paintings, which itself is a result of conscious choices and restrictions. The restrictions symbolize abandonment, but are also simultaneously an embodiment of strength. The simplest forms are indeed the simplest, but within this arch-simplicity the most elemental, formidable and profound meaning is nurtured. The images and forms that have appeared throughout the long river that is the history of human civilization are of course incalculable. But as long as the spring of artistic ideas doesn't dry up, inspiration can come to one at any time and appear in all its radiance.
Wang: There is obviously a feeling for light and space in your works, despite the lack of any material form or image, maybe because of this, a formless awareness only then becomes conspicuous. However, speaking of just your painting, these formless perceptions ultimately must be conveyed through a visible entity. In your works, these 'entities' are often geometric forms; do these express a certain abstraction of the material world? Or is it something else entirely?
Chen: The images in the painting are certainly emblematic of the spiritual and the material world. Geometric drawings, apart from having 'form' also have 'character'. 'Forms' with 'character' can breathe, have the power of life. They are gentle and calm symbols of positive energy. On the flat surface of the canvas, 'forms' with 'character' represent the abstraction of the material world. At the same time it is a concretization, it is emblematic of the spiritual world.
Wang: Your artworks are endowed with a very strong feeling for form, but are also absolutely not purely formalist works. The spiritual nature behind the forms is the center of all you wish to express. Within this concretization, how do you see the relationship between these two, how do you achieve the effectiveness of a conceptual notion?
Chen: Form is the support for the spirit. Form, by means of an immaterial conversion process and sublimation can embody the spirit. This being the case, 'meaning' is the key that must exist before the first brushstroke. There must first be 'meaning' in order for there to be 'form' and 'color'. Only 'form and color' that has been endowed with spiritual life can dazzle the eyes.
Wang: You have mentioned before that whether a work is abstract or not is not something you focus on, a good painting, whether realistic or abstract must correspond to a defined formal pattern and standard. Could you be more precise about your ideas on pattern and standard existing within painting?
Chen: The colors, shapes and space in a painting all exist in a state of interaction with another, in comparison with each other and serve as mutual foils to each other to create a unity.
Wang: If one were to say that cultural genes exist in each one of our thoughts and ideas, these must influence an artist's creations as well. In your personal elaborations you have alluded to this idea a few times. So can it be said that the spirit of your work is Eastern in its core? And what would you consider to be the hallmarks of the concept of the East?
Chen: The Eastern spirit at my core has been there since birth, there is no way to deny it. Although my works are very minimal, sometimes could even be considered elemental, they are by no means mathematical geometric forms. There is always the more unpredictable element on the canvas, always imagination.
Wang: Today when discussing the art of Western and Eastern cultures, it seems as if less and less we see the relationship between them as a duality. You obviously touch upon this issue of East and West, but in reality it seems as if the two melt together in your works, one could almost say that your works reflect all the universality that you have ever perceived in these two areas. Could you tell us lastly about your artistic creation and your ideas on this universality?
Chen: The universality you mentioned that I focus on is the universality in the beginnings of mankind, before there was any developed civilization, the spark of the spirit from the source. Looking at it from this perspective, the beginning of human culture is a similar source. Focusing on creation, everything from the choice of formal elements to the imagination as it appears in an image, is but an attempt to question the origins of the source of the human spirit.