1988 Central Academy of Fine Arts, CHINA,
1981 Guizhou Art Institute, Guizhou, CHINA
There are two interesting features about the work of Yu Chen. First, she abandons the richness and meticulousness that are typical of female painters and the regular topics of still life and familial scenes. Second, she is not obsessed with painting technique.
In “Red Babies” series, Yu uses a coarse canvas surface and applies her colors in thin layers. She complements unusual color tones by sticking ornaments on the cap or the uniform lapels of her figures. The artist stated through the image of the infant, she could make discoveries about herself; put her life into perspective and discover the various roles she plays in this life.
Yu’s baby motif overtly frank, in keeping with the unabashed nature of childhood. Through various techniques and symbolism with her palette of bright brash reds, her work depicts a raw emotional quality. Although, her subject matter puts forth an innocence, that is infused with an ironical overtone through her use of military uniform and her babies physical likenesses to Chairman Mao; sometimes they are playfully portrayed with sweeties and ice-creams in their chubby hands; other times they are satirically portrayed as an irked enfant terrible.
Her work is full of obvious references to popular culture: a red five-pointed star, a octagonal hat, a Mao look-alike face etc. These are easily identified symbols in contemporary Chinese art. While looking at those innocent baby faces in the paintings, their expression and their clothing are a surprising contrast to what viewers used to seeing. In that sense, Yu is trying to convey the immense contrast between the configuration of personal identity and the reality of life. The paintings do not pretend to deliver one universal truth. The answers remain open and vary according to each viewer’s social background and life experience. So the truth is present as a state of perpetual change: never graspable and always fleeing.