Artworks by Chang Lei

Animal Farm by Chang Lei

50 x 113 cm
C-Print Photography

Color on Silk by Chang Lei

78 x 58 cm
Oil on Silk

Magpie by Chang Lei

47 x 32 cm
Oil on Silk

Color on Silk by Chang Lei

49 x 34 cm
Oil on Silk

Color on Silk by Chang Lei

78 x 58 cm
Oil on Silk

Color on Silk by Chang Lei

34 x 49 cm
Oil on Silk

Civilization Series- Blue & White by Chang Lei

160 x 120 cm
Oil on Canvas

 

 

Civilization Series- Yuji by Chang Lei

Oil on Canvas
175 x 140 cm

Chang Lei

常磊
Art is a magical game in nature. However, it does not present beauty only, nor does its expression end in the truth. Art ccated to describe in words. It mixes the condiments of reality with the jam of artistic tricks to simultaneously fulfill the task of release and expression. Through a mixer of different forms, art transforms the thinking that hides in feelings and logic into viewable images. It transforms the ugliness of reality into artistic beauty, the cruelty of reality into artistic absurdity, and guttural fear into the joy of experiencing.

Elephants are leading characters in Chang’s recent works. According to Ci Yuan (a book of Chinese etymology), the elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal—so big that nobody can see an elephant in its entirely with just one glance. This character for elephant can also mean the origin of all things, and can be used to symbolize the united world of the feudal emperors. Therefore the animal attributes of an elephant can evolve into a symbol for the centralization of state power. The Chinese character for elephant is of great importance in Chinese culture. There is a saying that literally means Big Elephant has No Shape (daxiangwuxing), an exclamation that highlights the complexity inherent to many issues. The character for elephant is also used in many phrases describing images, scenes, weather, or other phenomena. There are numerous proverbs that use the character for elephant in them. The most popular of them literally means “the blind man feels the elephant” (wangrenmoxiang). In the fable behind this proverb, four blind men touch an elephant to find out what it is like. The man who touches the elephant’s ear believes an elephant is like a fan. The one who grasps his trunk says the elephant is like a snake. Since all of the men are blind and touch only one part of the elephant, none of them can figure out what the elephant is like as a whole. Despite this truth, people choose to believe what they touch with their own hands.

To criticize this phenomena, Chang created a series of paintings called The Blind Men and the Elephant. With satire and rend rendering so as to arrange the naked Chang in various positions on the canvas. You can see him with the elephant, standing, leaning against it, holding its leg, grasping its tail, touching its trunk, or even crouching under its belly. “He”is at a loss. Through these paintings, Chang serves as an elementary school teacher trying to thoroughly explain the fable behind the proverb. He drags the elephant to the Temple of Heaven, the Temple of Earth, and then the Imperial Palace. The blind men and the elephant are either repeating the brainwashing language of the autocrats or have official logos labeling them. He makes symbols confront symbols, and through imaging causes symbols to activate or deactivate other symbols. Viewers see the lamentable and laughable blind men touching the elephant. Chang’s paintings revive a fable that was already forgotten or taken for granted.

The elephants painted by Chang can be largely categorized into two types. One type includes digitally processed photographthe system logos are directly represented on canvas. The photographs are mainly intended to discuss the current meanings of the old proverbs such as the blind men and the elephant. The oil paintings are about the conflict between the images and language derived from those proverbs. In his works of art, an artist is more like a child lost among images and words. He does not care about the wording conflicts. He simply incorporates the ever touching images with elephant background and leaves space for understanding and interpretation to viewers. However, since the shapes chosen are commonly seen, people with similar life experience can readily understand what the author intends to express. Through the repetitive variation of the same subject matter, Chang revitalizes old fables and establishes his personal art vocabulary and methodology. He then has the ambitious idea of creating a large-scale photograph called Animal Farm, adopted from the dystopian allegorical novella by George Orwell.
In contrast to George Orwell’s political allegorical novella, Chang’s fable is purely visualized. He directly utilizes the postmodern montage to implant numerous animals including elephants onto Tian’anmen Square—China’s most famous center for political myths. Chang creates a splendid scene where birds are flying over sunset clouds and elephants meet together with animals. In this seemingly harmonious gathering, those policemen with whom Chang used to get perplexed and worried, silently disguise themselves and disappear into the crowd of peaceful animals. Those who claim that all animal are equal and believe only that some animals are more equal still keep the same face standing all along in one line on the building hidden in the boundless sea of animals.

In fact, humans are not that different from animals in a society where humans can only maintain their dignity with difficulty. It is the same to study and describe animal and human behavior. Human living conditions are the same as those of animals. As far scale and language are concerned, Animal Farm is the highest level of representative art Chang has achieved so far.