- Melissa Chiu
(b Shanghai, 1955; d Paris, Dec 13, 2000).
Chinese installation artist, active also in France. Chen studied at Shanghai Fine Arts and Craft School until 1973 and the Shanghai Drama Institute until 1978, where he majored in stage design. Following his graduation, he became a professor at both art schools. Chen’s most representative works from this period are a series of large, grey oil paintings entitled The Flow of Qi (Qi You Tu) (1985). These works endeavoured to represent the movement of qi, or spirit, a core element of life and the cosmos in Chinese philosophy. Although not radical in form, the work with its references to ancient and traditional Chinese philosophy was a provocative political gesture given that these ideas had been suppressed during the Cultural Revolution.
When Chen moved to Paris in 1986, he enrolled at the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques, graduating in 1989. His installations throughout the 1990s, when he came to international prominence, nearly without exception included references to his Chinese heritage, including Daoist philosophy, Chinese domestic objects (chamber pots, furniture such as chairs and tables, Buddha statues, abaci), and traditional medicine. These references demonstrate a residual effect of his Chinese upbringing—he lived in China until he was 31—as well as a sense of displacement as an immigrant in France and an attempt to come to grips with being a contemporary artist living and working in the West, but not sharing that region’s culture, history and traditions. For Chen, the incorporation of Chinese references in his work were essential as a matter of defining who he was as an artist, while at the same time articulating the uniqueness of his experience....