Saying that WANG Chen is a digital artist is hugely understating the amount of physical effort and thought that goes into their work. In this immersive video installation, every blade of grass, every stone, and every character has been meticulously made in the real world before being transferred into the computer and becoming a layer in an intricate scene. Through hundreds of hand-drawn and filmed layers, viewers can recede deeply into the virtual space, encountering animated characters with distinct personalities. This juxtaposition of reality and imagination is exactly the point; even our escapist fantasies cannot escape what is happening in the real world.
In the Woods was largely created during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic. It reveals the artist’s concerns about the post-pandemic future in a world where the truth seems more tied to faith than fact. Here, the dark woods become a metaphor for the chaos of contemporary politics and its violent factions as well as an exploration into either utopia or dystopia, depending on one’s point of view. Wang’s previous work dealt more with issues of sexuality, race, and gender, but those themes remain as present in this work as they are in our global society.
The addition of ceramic work to the digital world of Wang’s creation poses further questions about the nature of reality. Video art is inherently light; it is a weightless image projected on a wall. However, clay becomes the perfect contrast. It is heavy, but retains its fluidity and ease of transformation. When these elements are paired, the video becomes weightier and more grounded, and its fantasies become a little more inescapable. Merging the virtual with the physical, reality with fantasy, and anxiety with beauty, Wang’s work reflects and clarifies the challenges we collectively face in the 2020s.
Roswell Artist-in-Residence WANG Chen (b. Hohhot, China) is a multidisciplinary artist who incorporates drawing, sculpture, costumed performance, fabrication, sound engineering, and 3D game design to create highly saturated fictional dreamscapes within video installation. For their exhibition at RMAC, they present a new body of work, In the Woods, which draws upon the artist’s concerns and anxiety to the (im)possibility of the future during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the dark woods as a metaphor to mimic the current chaotic present-day society, exploring both utopia and dystopia and examine issues such as power structures, politics, race and gender.
WANG Chen grew up in a small city in China. They received a BFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 and an MFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018. They have exhibited both national and international, including The Immigrant Artist Biennial and ZAZ 10 Times Square in NYC, Crosstown Art Center in Memphis, Fogotgrafiska Museum in Sweden, Stockholm, The Maracay International film&Video festival in Maracay, Venezuela, and Jiye Art Museum in Suzhou, China.