Chinese artist Chen Wenling upsized his sculptures for more to enjoy

Artist Chen Wenling is giving a lecture tonight at Ode To Art in Raffles City Shopping Centre as part of the gallery's lecture series.
Artist Chen Wenling is giving a lecture tonight at Ode To Art in Raffles City Shopping Centre as part of the gallery's lecture series.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Chinese sculptor Chen Wenling, who joins Eastern and Western symbols in his latest works, believes art can bridge the gap between people

Standing at 10m tall and 20m long, one of Chen Wenling's newest stainless steel sculptures features a collection of symbols such as the Statue of Liberty, a panda and his signature thin red boy - this time in silver - joined together to form an arch or, to its sculptor, "a bridge".

Called Community, it is one of the large monumental pieces the Beijing-based sculptor has been preoccupied with in the last five years.

The 48-year-old had risen to fame with his sculptures of the "Red Memory" collection, which features a slim, red naked boy, usually in a jovial position.

Now, the red boy has been incorporated into the larger sculptures, but in other settings or with other objects.

They have been displayed in numerous Chinese cities, such as Chengdu, Xi'an and Shanghai, as well as at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

He hopes to bring one of these sculptures to Singapore in the near future.

His preference for these largerthan-life pieces stems from his belief that his message is universal and not just for the few who can afford to buy his work.

  • VIEW IT / ODE TO ART LECTURE SERIES: CHEN WENLING

    WHERE: Ode To Art, 01-36E Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road

    WHEN: Today, 7 to 8pm

    ADMISSION: Free

In Community, symbols representing Western and Eastern influences are joined to show a union of the two and the linking of the world.

It is made of stainless steel and took the artist four years and about three million yuan (S$618,000) to complete earlier this year.

Speaking to The Straits Times earlier this week, he explains in Mandarin: "In a world where everyone interacts with one another, there is bound to be conflicts and tensions. But there is still a need to maintain relations.

"(Countries have) to maintain good relationships with others and everyone has to practise tolerance so we may all progress together."

Chen, who is married and has three children aged 18, five and three, is here for a lecture he is giving tonight at Ode To Art in Raffles City Shopping Centre as part of the gallery's lecture series. This is his second time visiting Singapore for an art event. He has been here numerous times on holiday.

He will be speaking in Mandarin about his journey as an artist and sculptor and the inspirations behind his various works.

Some of these include world affairs, such as the nuclear threat and rising tensions between countries.

Chen cites an encounter in Seoul, while he was there for one of his exhibitions, with South Koreans who shared their fears regarding their northern neighbour's threats.

He believes that his art can make viewers reflect and rethink their priorities.

"More attention should be paid to the arts and humanities because these encourage more love and humanity. This curbs impulsiveness, especially in politics, and helps to bring more peace to the world.

"Philosophers, artists, linguists are so important because without them, the world will surely perish."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Using art to unite'. Print Edition | Subscribe