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Young artist finds imagination makes impression

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-30 09:08
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Chen Yanran's sculpture, Dragon. CHINA DAILY

A plastic bag, a chip bag and a girl's face — the three elements were combined to create a bizarre and unique sculpture named Fantasy Plastic Bag, which is reminiscent of the feeling of reading Franz Kafka's The Castle.

The sculpture was created by the young Chinese artist Chen Yanran, who is also known as Chloe Chen, as a showcase of her imagination as she delves into the depths of consciousness and manifests it in tangible form, amplifying the sensory potential of art.

In the bustling aftermath of her triumphant show at ComplexCon Hong Kong 2024 in March, the art world is once more abuzz with her work.

In April, enthusiasts were afforded an encore as Chen's solo exhibition took center stage at Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama, Tokyo. Renowned as filmmaker Takeshi Kitano's bookstore of choice and dubbed the "Cultural Forest", this iconic venue hosted her work from April 8 to 21.

In Tokyo, the 19-year-old artist unveiled her latest artworks and sculptures, each a vivid exploration of the dynamic interplay between Eastern and Western cultures in an age marked by rapid technological growth and the overload of information.

"During the major three-day exhibition in Hong Kong, I was somewhat nervous because of the large crowds. However, the atmosphere at the Tokyo bookstore exhibition was quieter, making me feel more at ease," Chen says. She has more than 233,000 followers on Instagram, many of whom have expressed eagerness to see her work in person.

The 19-year-old artist from Beijing CHINA DAILY

Besides Fantasy Plastic Bag, Chen also presented the sculpture Dragon. The aesthetics of the traditional Chinese zodiac are a source of creative inspiration to the Generation Z artist, and the piece has been featured on the cover of the magazine, Wonderland.

In addition to sculptures, Chen also presented multiple prints at the exhibition. The postapocalyptic surrealist aesthetic of Me and My Friend shows a girl navigating the desolate wastelands with a strong sense of unease, as she contemplates the ruined world.

Chen studied drawing in Tokyo at 16 and was deeply influenced by urban culture and manga art. This was her second time to hold a solo exhibition in Tokyo. Last year, her debut solo exhibition Nowhere garnered widespread attention and recognition in the Asian art world.

According to Pei Lifan, a seasoned art agent, Chen's artwork started gaining attention from galleries when she was just 13.

She is also a favorite of major international brands such as the Italian notebook line Moleskine and the French luxury label Balenciaga for her artistic creations.

At her solo exhibition in Tokyo last year, most of her pieces were bought by collectors, Pei says.

"Whether in Tokyo or Hong Kong, her work has been widely appreciated, especially the sculptures with a cyberpunk style. Many people have asked if they could be mass-produced or turned into collectible figures," Pei says.

Pei says that Chen's work all has a dreamy feel, with her self-expression at the core.

"She's a perfectionist. Her paintings are very detailed and complex. She keeps revising the details of her paintings," Pei says.

Chen says that when she paints, she likes to have background noise, often choosing to work to anime like Detective Conan or Crayon Shin-chan.

"I enjoy watching Japanese animation aimed at women, and I also like Japanese and European movies, especially horror films," she says.

Outside of painting, she enjoys visiting museums and antique toy shops. "I'm fascinated by toys and faces. Most of my inspiration comes from things I've seen and the toys I collect."

Chen mentions that sometimes she has surreal dreams, elements of which she incorporates in her art to visualize her dreams and share her dreamscapes with others.

Two other sculptures, Spinning Girl and Memory Box. CHINA DAILY

Girls are often the focus of her work. "The depiction of girls probably comes from a deep reflection on the self. Characters created at different times, more or less, reflect my own struggles or exploration of issues in the real world," she explains.

"Some of them visually represent my artistic personality, but they don't completely represent me," she adds.

In 2023, Chen founded her art studio — Accro Studio, the Chinese name of which means "endless" — which symbolizes her limitless exploration of the world of art.

Recently, Chen has received an offer from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has applied to start her studies after wrapping up her exhibition. "I feel there's always room to improve in my painting," Chen says, adding that she is looking forward to university life.

Apart from expanding into sculpture from painting, she also hopes to explore animation and try her hand at creating moving installations, as well as developing her own toys.


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