In May 2008, just months before the Beijing Olympics, a dev¬astating earthquake struck Sichuan Province, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Chen’s Floating series responds directly to that catastrophe, adding a distinctly personal tenor to an event many only learned about through the media. These floating human figures, sculpted in papier-mâché made primarily with paper scavenged from the detritus of the disaster, have the rough surfaces of industrial materials. At first glance, their texture, heft, and mass resemble that of concrete structures—a reference to the recent industrialization of the artist’s homeland. Yet as the forms sway gently in space, suspended by nearly invisible pieces of fishing line, their apparent heaviness gives way to an essential weightlessness. The sculptures’ movements likewise suggest multiple possible readings, alternately evoking the graceful postures of dance and traumatic visions of bodies falling in space. Personal history drives Chen’s practice, but in creating such plays between opposites, she asks viewers to bring their own histories to their encounters with her work.
Chen Qiulin was born in China in 1975 and now lives and works in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. She graduated from the printmaking department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2000. She has had solo exhibitions at the Today Art Museum, Beijing; University Art Museum, University of Albany; Max Protetch, New York; Long March Space, Beijing; Big Factory, Shanghai; and Internet Affairs, Chengdu. She has participated in numerous group shows in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Art, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago; the Seventh Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, Korea; China Power Station Part 2, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo; and The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art, Albright-Knox Gallery and University of Buffalo Art Galleries, Buffalo, New York. In 2007 she was awarded an Asian Cultural Council grant. Her work is in the collections of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; the Denver Art Museum; the Bohen Foundation, New York; and the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts.