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Artist: Chen Guangwu  

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Artist: Chen Guangwu  

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Mat./Technique: Ink on paper

The Artist

Born in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province in 1967, Chen Guangwu currently lives and works in Beijing. Trained as a traditional calligrapher, Chen has broken the classical calligraphy and created his own highly personal visual language during the 1990s.

Interested in Daoism and Buddhism, the artist has been inspired by the ancient Chinese private education system, in which children practice calligraphy by writing one part of a character repeatedly as a way to learn the component brushstrokes. Chen Guangwu's delicate ink on rice paper paintings are a complex and, upon first glance, a complicated entanglement of traditional forms, calligraphic mastery and absolutely contemporary sensibility. Rejecting the label 'abstract', Chen proclaims an irrefutable root in traditional Chinese calligraphy that transcends beyond his art and into his lifestyle.
Repetition, a fundamental rule in the training of a master, requires patience, discipline, endurance and meditation. Chen’s painted works are an extension of this artistic philosophy, which he practices daily.

Chen’s work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, institutions and museums around the world including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China; the Berlin State Museum, Germany and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum. His work is present in various collections in China, South Korea, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.   

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Many of Chen’s calligraphic works are composed of a small range of gestural traces, built up by meticulously repeated strokes. The act of repeating strokes and forms is integral to mastering the art. His works are executed in the most traditional sense as he writes the characters, close together on rice paper, layer upon layer. The starting point for each work is a selection of a pleasing range of characters. One character-form, or even one basic constituent of a character, may be reiterated as a whole work; or he may place characters very closely to the next, or one top of another. With this radical in mind, Chen Guangwu makes a selection of characters in which it features in the same position. Then, upon a full-size sheet of xuan paper, he starts writing. When the first layer is complete, he returns to the starting point and begins the second character. In this way, he builds each composition. With time, the fine brush strokes increasingly becomes dense and visually opaque. 

The Novartis Art Collection includes several of Guangwu’s artworks that can be admired in several offices around the world.